Congo-Kinshasa: Hand Grenade Explodes Near UN Mission Sleeping Quarters, Soldier Killed

A South African soldier, who was part of a United Nations peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, died on Monday, July 8, when a hand grenade exploded close to his sleeping quarters, South Africa’s military said.

The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) Tuesday in a statement that: “It is not clear what caused the hand grenade to explode, however, a SANDF board of inquiry including the United Nations officials will be convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

As reported, the SANDF was in the process of bringing the remains of the soldier to South Africa. South African Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Angie Motshekga sent condolence messages to the bereaved family.

This brings the number of South African soldiers killed in the eastern DR Congo conflict, since December 2023, to eight.

On June 25, two South African soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in eastern DR Congo, where SANDF – under a separate arrangement between Kinshasa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – is fighting alongside the Congolese army in the war with M23 rebel group. The soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on a SANDF base in Sake, a town in North Kivu Province.

Their death came barely one month after the SANDF mourned one soldier who was killed on May 31 during combat in Sake.

South African soldiers are part of a SADC regional force fighting alongside the Congolese army coalition.

The coalition also includes Burundian forces, and militias such as the FDLR, a terrorist group linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, as well as youth groups known as Wazalendo.

In December 2023, South Africa deployed 2,900 soldiers as part of the SADC force sent to DR Congo’s conflict-hit region to fight the M23 rebels.

South African opposition parties criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for approving the deployment of troops to the conflict-ridden eastern DR Congo, saying the SANDF had no capacity to fight the M23 rebels.

The South African government has also been criticised for deploying troops to fight alongside the Congolese government coalition, which includes the FDLR, a UN-sanctioned terrorist group founded by remnants of the perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The M23 rebels accuse the coalition of carrying out genocide against Congolese Tutsi communities. The SADC deployment raised fears that the eastern DR Congo conflict, which affected relations between Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi, could widen into a regional crisis.

Eastern DR Congo is home to more than 200 armed groups and has been volatile for three decades. Multiple interventions have failed to end the decades of violence.