The South African commitment to peacekeeping in Sudan is officially over with 8 SA Infantry Battalion due to start a gradual withdrawal next Friday (April 15).
There has been a South African military presence in the east African country since July 2004 under the Operation Cordite codename that started with the deployment of a handful of staff officers and observers to AMIS, the then African Union Mission in Sudan that was transformed into UNAMID, a hybrid African Union/United Nations mission.
When AMIS was terminated at the end of 2007 to become the first hybrid AU/UN peacekeeping mission on the continent, South Africa was aboard and responded to a request to increase its commitment to a standard UN infantry battalion.
Since then the South African military presence has been constant at around the 800 mark with various full-time force and Reserve Force units and regiments serving in the troubled east African country.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate Corporate Communications said this week, in response to a defenceWeb enquiry dated March 8, the withdrawal of South African military elements from Sudan was authorised by SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, as from April 1.
“The current South African unit serving in Sudan’s Darfur region is 8 SA Infantry Battalion. The battalion will remain in the mission areas until April 15 and will then commence with a gradual withdrawal,” the response read.
It also points out a project team has been “established” to ensure “a proper closing down” of SANDF structures in Sudan.
“The complete withdrawal of South African assets from Sudan involves the movement of personnel and equipment back to South Africa without compromising the safety and security of the SANDF,” the response read, adding “exact dates” for the withdrawal cannot be released.