The deployment of the South African National Defence Force prevented a spill-over effect of genocide from Rwanda to Burundi. It also helped to secure the first democratic elections in that country’s history, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says.
She made the statement in a lengthy answer to a question by African National Congress Member of Parliament RSJ Njikelana who asked her how effective the operations of the SANDF had been in establishing peace in areas of conflict on the African continent.
Sisulu answered that “South Africa is internationally acclaimed for its peace-keeping efforts on the continent. In essence, the presence of our armed forces on the Continent makes us one of the major role players in regional and continental relations and politics in peace-keeping. Our peace missions reflect our commitment to the notion of collective security though multinational bilateral agreements in our quest to advance human security and the creation of a peaceful and better Africa. Our beliefs in compassion and the values of ubuntu are intricately woven in the objectives of our peace keeping missions.
“One of the highlights of our success in peace keeping has been the outcome of the Burundi peace process. Overall, our military deployments on the continent have been critical in ensuring peaceful democratic political transitions such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006. The SANDF continues to provide logistical support for electoral process throughout Southern Africa. Further, our military experts continue to provide training support as well as capacity to reform fractured military establishments. Our armed forces have saved lives, prevented humanitarian disasters and degeneration into total anarchy in some areas of deployment by restoring state authority. Peace and stability of the African continent is in our best interest economically, politically, morally and socially. Our military deployments will continue, not only because they project our foreign policy objectives, but also because peace is the critical catalyst for enhance regional, economic and political integration,” Sisulu said.
The minister added that to date SANDF personnel have served in Burundi, the DRC, the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Comoros, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
“On the military diplomatic front, militaries of the world continue to test their skills against those of the SANDF through joint and multinational military exercises. Recently the SANDF was involved in Exercise Good Hope, an annual joint and multinational exercise conducted between the navies and air forces of South Africa and Germany. This is the largest German exercise outside of the NATO countries. The aim of this exercise was to enhance and maintain comprehensive capabilities within the SANDF. During September 2010 the SANDF formed part of Exercise IBSAMAR- a joint and multinational exercise involving the navies of India, Brazil and South Africa. The aim of this exercise is to ensure interoperability, collective training and mutual understanding between the involved navies.
“We have recently returned from Argentina after a month long Exercise ATLASUR which brings together the countries of the South, namely Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and South Africa. This brings to the fore the South – South Co-operation as envisaged by our foreign policy. These exchanges have put South African in the forefront of maritime nations of the world and in particular those of the developing world.
“In addition, the SANDF operations have saved lives in Mozambique during floods. Ugandan Armed Forces were assisted by the SANDF’s EODT [explosive ordnance disposal team] for bomb disposal. The SANDF assisted by airlifting Tanzanian contingent that deployed in Burundi. The SANDF provided air transport to Lesotho government during elections in Lesotho.”
Addressing the SANDF deployment to the DRC, Sisulu wrote the South African military became the “vanguard of a seventeen thousand strong United Nations Peacekeeping Force that ensured smooth deployment of the entire UN Force Peace Contingent in the DRC under operation dubbed MONUC [sic]. Further, the SANDF has been instrumental in protection of civilians and provision of assistance to the Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC). As part of the Multinational Force deployed in the DRC, SANDF helped to secure the first democratic elections in the DRC IN 2006 and on a bilateral basis it is providing peace capacity building for sustainable development in the country to date. The SANDF helped to integrate militia groups to the FARDC and renovated centres for integration. The SANDF continues to advice the FARDC regarding restructuring, reorganization and training so that the FARDC becomes a professional and credible force capable of defending and protecting the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Commenting on the Comoros, Sisulu said the SANDF “deployed in the Union of Comoros in support of the African Union Mission to secure elections in Comoros. Free and fair elections were held and the first democratic Union President was inaugurated. The operation of the SANDF taught the security forces of Comoros the importance of impartiality by the security forces and the role of security forces in protecting democracy as security organs of the state.”
In the Central African Republic, Sisulu noted, the SANDF, was in terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) capacitating the Armed Forces of Central African Republic (FACA) to be able to defend and protect the sovereignty and territory of the Central African Republic. “Based on the signed MoU the SANDF deployed a contingent to train FACA on VIP Protection, Sub Units and Junior Leader Group. The deployment of the SANDF contingent is a beacon of hope for peace, security and stability in the Central African Republic.”