South Africa only a limited contributor to African peacekeeping – International Peace Institute

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South Africa’s potential as a contributor to international peacekeeping is “limited” because defence spending has not kept pace with the growth in international deployments, the International Peace Institute (IPI) maintains in its latest overview “Providing for Peacekeeping”.

“Pretoria’s deployment of about 2 500 to 3 000 personnel on peacekeeping duties at any given time appears to be a ceiling,” the Institute’s dedicated peacekeeping website reports.
“While South Africa could deploy more personnel under special circumstances this could likely not be sustained for more than a year at a time.
“The most recent deployment of additional personnel to the Forward Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern DRC as part of MONUSCO will likely stretch South Africa’s peacekeeping capability to its limits. This is because of the limited capacity of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to deploy in multiple peacekeeping operations or theatres on the African continent simultaneously,” the independent, international, not-for-profit think tank headquartered in New York said.

As far as barriers to contributing to continental peacekeeping are concerned, the Institute notes South Africa has not always been able to recover costs associated with its deployments. It gives the DRC, pre FIB deployment, as an example saying “Pretoria was unable to obtain full reimbursement for its equipment that did not consistently meet UN standards”.

On institutional and structural constraints the IPI notes that since the mid-1990s the SANDF has had to live with “consistent budget cuts”. This has resulted in a reduction in personnel and the force’s ability to maintain its operational capability.
“Additionally, recent defence acquisitions have resulted in a mismatch between defence funding and the purchase of costly equipment vis-à-vis what was required or demanded from the SANDF in relation to its international deployments. To rectify this in 2012 South Africa considered giving greater priority to developing and maintaining a more balanced set of capabilities, which would need to be appropriate, affordable and adequately balanced with respect to the needs of the SANDF. South Africa’s ability to properly equip and support personnel deployed abroad for sustained periods of time will likely remain a major obstacle impeding further deployments in the near future. In particular, the country is in need of air lift capabilities to deploy and sustain its personnel to peacekeeping theatres across the continent.”

On peacekeeping challenges for South Africa, the IPI points out the “mismatch” between the country’s ambitions and the SANDF’s capabilities undermines Pretoria’s ability to undertake and sustain effective deployments.
“South Africa’s political readiness to deploy its forces into complex operating environments, such as the DRC or CAR should align more closely with resourcing considerations for the SANDF,” the IPI warns.
“This will ensure the SANDF has the operational capability to act on political decisions taken by the country’s leaders.”

The South African National Defence Force has approximately 2 000 soldiers deployed on peacekeeping and peace building initiatives, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

The SANDF has been involved in more than 15 peace support operations, involving the deployment of around 2 500 military personnel. Deployment areas for these operations have included the DRC, Burundi, Sudan, Côte d’Ivore, Liberia, Nepal, CAR, the Comoros, Mozambique and Lesotho.