SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, has cleared the air around a possible South African military return to the Central African Republic (CAR) saying it would only happen under the AU banner.
“As the SA Army we will naturally support and respond to the call to intervene in conflict areas, regardless of where they may be on the vast African continent, with the CAR not an exception.
“Should we be needed by the AU to provide assistance in conflict resolution in Africa, we will oblige,” he told a media briefing at the Army College in Thaba Tshwane adding South Africa has wound up its mission in that country and was “no longer there”.
On what would have happened had South Africa forces remained in the CAR, Masondo said: “History would attest that their (the SA National Defence Force) being there made a difference as a stabiliser and a force that contributed to keeping belligerents in that conflict ridden country at bay”.
He added the lessons learnt during the ill-fated Battle for Bangui in March last year have been taken to heart by particularly the landward arm of the SANDF and applied in the first and second deployments to the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC. Those lessons now form part of all SA Army training.
That those have been applied to good purpose is evidenced by the high regard South African soldiers are held in by senior members of the UN force command in the troubled central African country.
“The high regard our soldiers in the FIB enjoy will be commemorated in South Africa on August 28 when the Freedom of the City of Grahamstown is awarded to 6 SA Infantry Battalion. This the unit earned in no small measure for the heroics in battles and skirmishes that cut off the M23 rebel group,” Masondo said.
On the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), he said South Africa had committed to the transitional AU force that will help save lives in African hot spots until such time as the fully-fledged African Standby Force (ASF) is ready “to continue that function”.
South Africa’s commitment to the interim AU force will come into sharper focus next month when Exercise Seboka takes place at the Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape.
“Seboka this year will be part of preparation for ACIRC to which South Africa has committed a motorised battalion,” Masondo said.
The exercise starts on September 1 and will see all the battalion elements from motorised infantry through to armour, artillery and air defence along with air support practice preparedness for the AU interim force.