No South African military assistance, including Special Forces, will be sent to Nigeria to assist in fighting Boko Haram.
This assurance comes from South Africa’s top soldier, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke.
He was responding to reports coming out of the West African powerhouse during President Jacob Zuma’s official visit there this week.
“I note with concern some media reports suggesting the SANDF is planning to send Special Forces to Nigeria in a combat support role to that country’s military against known militia group. These reports are reckless and unfortunate,” Shoke said in a statement.
He confirmed bilateral discussions took place between South African Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and her Nigerian counterpart, Mansur Dan Ali on Monday (March 7) in Abuja.
“Those discussions took place as part of Mapisa-Nqakula’s defence diplomacy initiatives with various countries in the region, the continent and the rest of the world. South Africa has military-to-military relations across the continent and beyond,” the statement said.
On Tuesday Nigerian media headlined that South Africa has declared war on Boko Haram and will be assisting the Nigerian government to fight the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
“South Africa’s Special Forces to fight Boko Haram” was the headline in The Punch while Premium Times wrote “Nigeria, South Africa to collaborate on war on terror” and Channels TV reported “South African to work with Nigerian military”.
The SANDF does not make public the number of Special Forces operators it has but insiders point to there being “about a hundred” qualified operators currently.
During his visit, Zuma emphasised that South Africa and Nigeria should unite in bringing about peace and stability in the continent, through providing maximum support to the peace and security efforts of the African Union.
“Our people need peace. They need development and they need to see their lives getting better every day. This state visit has given me great hope that Nigeria and South Africa are ready to work together more than ever before in the promotion of prosperity, good governance, peace and security and a better life for our peoples,” said the President.
South Africa and Nigeria conduct their bilateral relations through a structured Bi-National Commission (BNC) established in 1999 and have signed 34 bilateral agreements, including memoranda of understanding, SANews reports.
The BNC covers a broad range of areas including trade and investment, science and technology, immigration and consular matters, defence, agriculture, the environment, energy, as well as arts and culture. The two sides have decided to elevate the commission to Head of State level, which will be chaired by President Zuma and President Muhammadu Buhari.