Felix Tshisekedi, the Congolese president, said on Thursday that he plans to sign a security agreement with South Africa, as armed forces still occupy parts of the turbulent and violent eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Tshisekedi during a news conference with pres. Cyril Ramaphosa in the capital Kinshasa explained that this agreement could “take the form of a mutual defense treaty”.
The Congolese president highlighted the mutual defense treaty of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as a potential model, without discussing further details.
“We will know more in the next few days or weeks,” Tshisekedi said.
The DRC and South Africa are both members of SADC, which consists of 16 member states.
Ramaphosa, in turn, pledged to continue to help the DRC fight insecurity and poverty.
“We are willing, prepared and always ready to support the DRC as we have done in the past and we will continue to do so,” said Ramaphosa.
“We are also going to strengthen that relationship with a bilateral agreement on security and defence.”
Armed groups have plagued much of the mineral-rich eastern DRC for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared up in the 1990s and 2000s.
The M23 has conquered parts of the territory in North Kivu since taking up arms again in 2021 after years of inactivity.
The rebel campaign displaced more than one million people.
The DRC has repeatedly accused its smaller neighbor Rwanda of supporting the Tutsi-led M23, a charge the country denies.
However, the US and several other Western countries, as well as independent UN experts, agree with the DRC’s assessment.
Tshisekedi said on Thursday that he is not opposed to dialogue to end the conflict, but that he refuses to talk to the “puppets” in M23.