DR Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi announced on Thursday his intention to sign a security agreement with South Africa amidst the continued presence of militias in the troubled eastern region of Congo.
During a joint news conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi revealed that the agreement could potentially take the form of a mutual-defense pact.
He pointed to the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) mutual defense pact as a potential model, without providing further details.
Tshisekedi stated that more information would be revealed in the coming days or weeks.
Both the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa are members of the 16-nation SADC.
Ramaphosa, in turn, pledged ongoing assistance to the DRC in combating insecurity and poverty.
He expressed willingness and readiness to support the DRC, as they have done in the past, and emphasized the intention to strengthen the relationship through a bilateral agreement on security and defense.
For the past three decades, armed groups have plagued much of eastern DRC, a consequence of regional conflicts that erupted in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Among these groups, the M23 rebel organization has gained control over significant territories and displaced approximately one million people since resurfacing in late 2021.
The DRC has consistently accused its neighboring country, Rwanda, of supporting the Tutsi-led M23, a claim that Kigali denies.
However, the United States, several Western nations, and independent UN experts agree with the DRC’s assessment.
During Thursday’s address, President Tshisekedi expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue to bring an end to the conflict but firmly refused to negotiate with what he referred to as “puppets” within the M23.