Troops will not involve in combat operations, says Angolan military, adding it is “solely to supervise the process of disbanding, disarming and reintegrating the M23 forces.”
Angola’s parliament has approved a year-long deployment of up to 500 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] after a ceasefire Luanda brokered between M23 rebels and government troops foundered.
Deployment was approved on Friday by 178 lawmakers present in the 220-member parliament.
General Francisco Furtado, Minister of State and head of the military section in the Angolan presidency has said Luanda will send between 450 to 500 soldiers for 12 months.
“The Angolan armed forces’ mission will not involve combat” operations, Furtado said on public radio shortly after the vote.
He said it is “solely to supervise the process of disbanding, disarming and reintegrating the M23 forces,” referring to the rebels.
The deployment was first announced on Saturday.
The main objective will be to “secure the areas where the members of the M23 are stationed and to protect” ceasefire monitors, the president’s office said.
Kenya, Uganda and Burundi also deployed troops to eastern DRC last year as part of an East African regional force to help end militia violence.
After years of dormancy, the M23, which stands for March 23, kicked back into life in late 2021.
Last year it seized swathes of territory in the eastern DRC province of North Kivu and advanced on the city of Goma, triggering alarm bells around the region.
President Joao Lourenco has played a key mediation role in the conflict.
But the latest ceasefire he negotiated collapsed last week on the very day it was due to take effect.
M23 rebels ‘withdraw’ from DRC villages as regional troops deploy
Second Congo War memories
Luanda said the deployment decision was taken after consultations with Kinshasa and other regional leaders, and the United Nations had been informed.
According to the Angolan presidency, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi is expected in Luanda on Saturday.
The conflict has sparked a diplomatic crisis between DRC and neighbouring Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the rebels, including by sending its own troops into eastern DRC. Rwanda denies any involvement.
The UN, the US, and other western governments also support DRC claims.
Relations between the two neighbours have long been tense.
The M23, associated with the Tutsi ethnic group, says it is partly fighting to protect Tutsis from rival Hutu militant groups.
The M23 also claims the DRC government has reneged on a pledge to incorporate its fighters into the national army.
More than 120 militias and armed groups actively operate in the eastern provinces of DRC.
Angola’s looming deployment, which local media say could be within days, has stirred memories in the DRC of the Second Congo War of 1998-2002.
Nine African countries became embroiled in the conflict, and sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest nation was almost torn apart.
READ MORE: Burundi to deploy troops to DRC’s volatile east