June 18,2004

South Africa - Congo agreement

South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have signed a military co-operation agreement in which South Africa agreed to help train the new DRC army once all the country's existing forces had been combined into one. The deal was signed by South Africa's Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and his DRC counterpart Jean Pierre Ondekane. "This agreement will regulate defence co-operation between our countries. It will further strengthen mutual co-operation in the field of defence with the aim of maintaining lasting peace and security between our countries," South Africa's Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said. The two countries have undertaken to formulate procedures for military co-operation between their armed forces, promote co-operation in the training of military personnel and to conduct combined military exercises especially for peacekeeping. According to Lekota, the exchange of military personnel at all levels would also be encouraged. The agreement has come shortly after renewed fighting in the eastern parts of the DRC indirectly claimed the lives of two South African National Defence Force soldiers who formed part of the United Nations peace keeping force in the DRC (Monuc). South Africa's new military role will fall outside the ambit of Monuc, as it was the result of a bilateral agreement between the two countries, Lekota said. Ondekane explained that the size of the new DRC defence force still had to be determined but said that once it was well trained, the Congolese army would work toward the development of the DRC. Both ministers believed the agreement, which would include the sale of military equipment to the DRC by South Africa, would hasten the peace process and bring stability to the Great Lakes Region. (News24, South Africa)

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