The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) information minister says 850 peacekeeping troops from the national army, the FARDC, will be sent next week to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) to help with efforts to stabilize the security situation there.
Lambert Mende says the government in Kinshasa is providing assistance to about 50,000 CAR citizens who have so far crossed the border into the DRC to flee the unrest that has displaced tens of thousands.
He says the administration has told its citizens the decision to send the troops to the CAR is based on a request by the Southern African Development Community, (SADC) to contribute troops to help with peace keeping efforts in CAR, which he says will also benefit the DRC.
“We have been requested to send troops for peacekeeping mission in Central Africa and we did so by sending a battalion of 850 troops,” said Mende. “So we have to work for peace in the Central African Republic. Working for peace in Bangui is working for peace and security in Congo.”
Some civil society groups are objecting to the deployment saying the DRC faces security threats from several armed groups inside the country, who often attack civilians. But Mende says the DRC has received help from its own neighbors to deal with insurgencies inside its own borders.
“Our friends [from] SADC in terms of assistance sent troops to defeat the M23. So people are wise and they know that we not only receive, but we have also to give when Africa is in need. Since we received we must also give and the people understand this,” said Mende.
This is DRC’s first international peacekeeping effort since the country gained independence, according to Mende.
Some observers have said the gesture is a publicity stunt, saying the administration should concentrate on the DRC’s own security needs since its troops are needed to augment United Nations Mission (MONUSCO) peacekeepers in the DRC.
Mende says his government needs to take preemptive measures to ensure the security situation in neighboring CAR does not spill over into the DRC.
“This fire in the Central African Republic, if we don’t [take] care to have it finished it will absolutely land in our Equator Province and our Oriental Province,” said Mende. “So doing this we are taking care of our own security as the DRC. So people must before arguing, read a map of Congo.”
Mende says that it is in the interest of both the DRC and the entire region to ensure peace and stability in the CAR.