SA forces repel rebel attacks in DRC

Highly-trained South African soldiers deployed in the DRC decimated opposition forces belonging to rebel group ADF in a recent battle that left 23 dead.

FILE: An SANDF LMG gunner fires suppressing rounds during a live-fire training exercise before deploying to the DRC for peace-keeping mission. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - A week ago, members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) who were deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of peace-keeping operations came under fire.

Their attackers were part of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group operating in Uganda and the DRC.

The SANDF's quick reaction force (QRF) was activated when the ADF launched an attack on a base in Ngite, north of the Beni airport. The base belongs to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and falls under the SANDF's protection mandate.

Along the way, the QRF was ambushed by the ADF but managed to fight its way through to the Ngite base and joined the FARDC in their fight against the ADF. Under heavy attack from the QRF, the ADF forces suffered 23 fatalities.

John Stupart, director of African Defence Review, a state-of-conflict in Africa magazine, commented: “This is a great example of why our soldiers train so extensively before deployment to the DRC. Ambushes, and how to fight out of them in very trying circumstances, [are] a major feature of the kind of combat facing South African troops in the fight against ADF.”

Fighting in this terrain is especially difficult, and troops are often blinded by dense jungle and have to navigate a non-existent road infrastructure when operating, in this case, under fire. The enemy is difficult to identify and the fighting conditions more so because of the dense vegetation. During the fight, only one member of the SANDF sustained a wound to his right foot which was treated.

“The key aspect to this recent engagement seems to have been swift and decisive counter-attack by the South African QRF. The ability of officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) to quickly redirect fire against their ambushers and avoid soldiers freezing under fire is what saves lives. It does also help that these soldiers are near the end of their deployment and have months of operational experience under their belt. When they rotate back, they’ll be able to transfer those lessons learned to future deployments heading to the DRC,” says Stupart.

WATCH: The South African military prepares for combat