Tuesday, March 26, 2013

President Zuma Confirms 13 Dead Soldiers in Central African Republic Clashes

Zuma confirms 13 dead SA soldiers in CAR clashes

President Jacob Zuma says 13 South African National Defence Force members died during clashes with Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic.

25 Mar 2013 12:15 - Nickolaus Bauer

"It is a sad moment for our country. We are truly proud of our soldiers – about 200 of our men fought a force of more than 1 000 bandits for nine hours," Zuma told journalists in Pretoria on Monday.

The president added that one soldier still remained unaccounted for while a further 27 were injured in the weekend skirmish. The injured were flown to the 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.

"Our soldiers inflicted heavy casualties on the attacking bandit force. We commend them for their bravery and this will not deter us from going ahead with defending peace and democracy," he said.

The main clash occurred at an SANDF base on the outskirts Bangui and was coupled with other isolated incidents around the Central African Republic capital.

SANDF personnel were on the ground as a bi-lateral military agreement with the country, which signed in 2007 and renewed 2012.

In the agreement the South African army would contribute towards peace and stability in the region through the disarmament and reintegration of Seleka rebels, as well as provide the Central African Republic with military with training.

SA troops should not be in CAR, says defence force union

Jacob Zuma should have withdrawn South Africa's troops when the Central African Republic's leader failed to honour an agreement, says the SANDF union.

25 Mar 2013 09:56 - Sapa

"The president ... should have withdrawn our troops at the very moment [Central Africa Republic president Francois] Bozize dishonoured his obligations in this respect," South African National Defence Force Union national secretary Pikkie Greeff said in a statement on Monday. "His dishonouring of that agreement should have been the green light for the withdrawal of our troops from that country."

Greeff called on Zuma to withdraw "our troops with immediate effect, even if it entails launching a military offense to relieve our troops in distress".

On Sunday the South African National Defence Force said South African soldiers were killed and injured during the clashes in the CAR.

"Following the engagement that we had between the SANDF members and the CAR rebels there were some casualties from both sides," said Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga.

"We are at the moment still trying to assess the information from the people on the ground. We cannot therefore confirm any figures."

Some media reported that at least six South African soldiers died.

'Precautionary measures'

Mabanga said the situation in the CAR was calm by Sunday afternoon and there was no threat to the lives of South African soldiers.

"But we don't take anything lightly. We are taking all the precautionary measures."

He said the contact between SANDF members and CAR rebel forces took place on Saturday.

The clashes happened at an SANDF base on the outskirts of Bangui, the CAR capital, as well as other isolated incidents.

Meanwhile, the South Africa Security Forces Union (Sasfu) said on Monday South Africa had a responsibility to deploy its military to help enforce peace on the continent.

"The decision by the president to deploy SANDF troops to CAR as requested by the government of that country cannot have been a wrong decision," said Sasfu president Bheki Mvovo.

'Tough action'

Mvovo said the union would await the report on what support had been provided for South African soldiers on the ground.

"If anybody was ignorant in that regard, tough action should be taken."

Bozize fled the capital early on Sunday after hundreds of armed rebels threatening to overthrow him invaded the city, the Associated Press reported.

By midday on Sunday the rebels reportedly took control of Bangui.

A peace deal was signed on January 11 that allowed Bozize to finish his term that expires in 2016 but the rebels soon began accusing the president of failing to fulfil the promises that were made.

They demanded that Bozize send home South African forces who were helping bolster the country's military. They also sought to integrate about 2 000 rebel fighters into Central African Republic's armed forces.

– Sapa

No comments: