An 8 South African Infantry Battalion soldier has been killed in an ambush in Darfur in Sudan. He was part of the South African contingent deployed to the hybrid African Union/United Nations mission (UNAMID).
The UN reports the peacekeepers were attacked near Mellit in North Darfur while escorting a UNAMID logistics convoy on 27 September. The attack came just on a month after a similar attack by a rebel group on another UNAMID convoy in the same area. An SANDF statement indicated the UNAMID escort was ambushed but this has not been confirmed.
Reports have it the peacekeepers fought their attackers for at least two hours with the loss of a South African life and another soldier, also from the Upington unit, seriously wounded. The injured soldier was taken to the UNAMID hospital at El Fasher.
A subsequent press release from the United Nations indicated that four soldiers were wounded after an exchange of gunfire near Mellit in North Darfur.
At the time of publication no specific group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, SANDF Defence Corporate Communications, said that the minister of defence; Chief of the South African National Defence Force; Chief of Joint Operations Division and Chief of the South African Army “convey their heartfelt condolences to the family, relatives, friends and comrades of the deceased and wish the injured member a speedy recovery.”
The members of the United Nations Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms the attack on UNAMID peacekeepers…They called on the Government of Sudan to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. he members of the Security Council reiterated their full support for UNAMID and called on all parties in Darfur to cooperate fully with the mission.”
Around 2 000 SANDF personnel are currently taking part in peacekeeping operations, as South Africa increases its role in regional conflict resolution and peacekeeping efforts. SANDF troops are deployed in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The SANDF has more than 800 troops deployed in Sudan with the African Union and United Nations. The SANDF has recorded several incidences in Sudan – for instance, on 11 April 2010, four South African UN Police personnel were attacked in South Darfur and abducted and two vehicles stolen. They were released sixteen days later. On 26 August 2010 the South African contingent had one assault rifle stolen.
An attack on a Unamid patrol in North Darfur on 12 November 2012 killed one South African; an attack on a Unamid patrol on 17 October 2012 killed one South African in North Darfur; and an attack on a South African Unamid patrol in North Darfur on 29 October 2014 injured three. The ambush was on a section dispatched from the South African battalion base to collect water.
Last month the SANDF announced that a platoon of soldiers from 8 South African Infantry Battalion would be cited for gallantry after being accosted by heavily armed militia in Darfur on 18 August. They were ambushed by rebels but refused to surrender their weapons and vehicles.
Earlier this year President Jacob Zuma, as commander-in-chief of the SANDF, extended the South African deployment in Darfur by another 12 months. Keeping the 850 soldiers in Sudan until March 31 next year will cost R369,079,895 for the 12 months.