Troops from the South African National Defence Force will support DRC in the fight against rebels. Photo: SANDF/X

South Africa will deploy 2,900 troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) force to fight armed groups, the president’s office announced.

The troops will be deployed until Dec.15, 2024 with a budget of around 2 billion rand ($105.6 million), according to a statement on Monday.

The deployment of troops is in fulfilment of ''South Africa’s international obligation towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to support the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),'' the statement added.

The obligation to contribute troops to the SADC mission in the DRC is borne by all SADC Member States, it stressed.

The budgeted expenditure to be incurred for the employment amounts to just over R2 billion. This expenditure will not impact provisions for the defense force’s regular maintenance and emergency repairs.

UN troops' withdrawal

The deployment ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa comes amid clashes between M23 rebels and the Congolese army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province.

Last month, the Congolese military announced the start of a joint offensive with troops from the SADC in the east of the country, with a mandate mainly targeting the M23 rebels.

The SADC force, which also includes troops from Malawi and Tanzania, was deployed as the government in Kinshasa pushes for the exit of UN peacekeepers who have been stationed in eastern DR Congo since 1999.

DRC has been fighting rebels for decades with the help of foreign troops. Photo: Reuters.

The 16-member state SADC approved the mission to eastern DR Congo in May last year.

In December, the UN Security Council voted to accede to Kinshasa's demand for a gradual pull-out by the MONUSCO mission.

Despite a volatile domestic situation, the government had for months been calling for an accelerated withdrawal of the peacekeepers.

Displaced people

Kinshasa considers the UN force to be ineffective in protecting civilians from the armed groups and militias that have plagued the eastern DRC for three decades.

Kinshasa has also ended the mandate of an East African regional force which it accused of failing to tackle violence by rebels.

The Southern African troops are expected to take over from the withdrawing forces to continue the long-running battle against multiple rebel groups.

More than six million people have been displaced by decades of violence in DRC with thousands in the two most conflict-affected eastern DR Congo provinces of North Kivu and Ituri now living in camps.

Click here to follow our WhatsApp channel for more stories.

TRT Afrika and agencies