South African soldiers have been deployed to yet another hotspot on the continent as government furthers its foreign relations policy of peace and stability in Africa.
The movement of about 400 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers to the troubled Central African Republic (CAR) was authorised by President Jacob Zuma, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, on January 3.
South Africa has had a military presence in CAR since 2007 in terms of a bilateral co-operation agreement between the two countries. Indications currently are that South African soldiers are only tasked with protection of South African manpower and materiel assets.
A statement issued by the Presidency said the SANDF deployment would also “assist with capacity building” of the CAR Defence Force as well as the planning and implementation of the disarmament and re-integration processes in the strife-torn country ruled by President Francois Bozize.
The deployment instruction issued by Zuma is in force until March 31, 2018.
SANDF military personnel in CAR prior to the latest deployment are based at the South African training facility near the capital of Bangui. A defence source said the newly arrived soldiers would be responsible for protection duties at this facility.
The CAR deployment brings to three the number of SANDF continental peacekeeping, peace support and peace maintenance operations currently underway with a fourth looming ever larger on the horizon in Mali.
The 400 soldiers now in CAR bring to over 2 400 the number of SANDF personnel doing continental duty. The single largest SANDF contingent is in the DRC (more than 1 200) with close to 800 in Sudan.
Questions aimed at obtaining more detailed information about the CAR deployment from SANDF Corporate Communications went unanswered.