2000

UNITED DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT

MEDIA RELEASE


SOUTH AFRICAN PEACE KEEPING FORCE IN DRC

MEDIA STATEMENT ISSUED BY BANTU HOLOMISA, MP
 PRESIDENT: UNITED DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT

The UDM's criticism that Government and its Department of Foreign Affairs are partisan in the Great Lakes conflict has been vindicated by the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is only now belatedly trying to talk to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even then they want to discuss the composition of the peacekeeping force in which South Africa wants to participate. It becomes clear that South Africa's role in the DRC conflict continues to be suspect as evidenced by the DRC government's concern regarding a South African troop presence in a peacekeeping force. 

It is a reality that the people of the DRC do not want South African troops in their country because they identify them with the enemies who are invading their country. They know that the weapons with which the war is waged against them originate from South Africa and are operated by South Africans.

It would be fool-hardy for the government to force their hand and deploy troops in the DRC against local popular opposition, because that would expose our troops to reprisals from an enraged population.

We strongly advise that the peacekeeping process in the DRC is not a national priority. We must not be goaded into making it one by other external forces who want to use us in the process. We should divert the material resources meant for that purpose to address the crises created by the recent floods in South Africa.

We know that a delegation of Government ministers that visited the DRC where informed in no uncertain terms that the people of the Congo are strongly opposed to our presence in their country. In the light of this development, President Mbeki, who already has the tacit approval of Parliament to deploy troops in the envisaged peacekeeping force must as a matter of urgency apprise Parliament of the attitude of the Congolese people so that we revisit the whole role that we are playing in the Great Lakes region.

Any cessation of hostilities in the DRC that may be agreed to, must include in its terms, a commitment by the Ugandan and Rwandan presidents to pull out all South African weapons from the Congo. It is South Africa's responsibility to ensure that this is done. It would be tragic to deploy our troops there only for them to be killed or maimed by our weapons. The UDM believes that the withdrawal of South African military hardware from the Congo would be a far more meaningful contribution to the peace process than an unpopular troop presence in a hostile environment.

Enquiries:
Bantu Holomisa
UDM President

22 March 2000