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SA considering sending soldiers back to CAR, says Cwele

Andisiwe Makinana

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has indicated that South Africa might consider sending its troops back to the Central African Republic.

Thirteen SANDF soldiers were killed in the Central African Republic earlier this year. (Reuters)

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele told journalists on Tuesday that the country was waiting for a security assessment – conducted by the African Union and assisted by the United Nations – on what needs to be done to restore security in the Central African Republic (CAR).

"Clearly as a country, we may not fold our arms when people are being raped ... targeted killings occurring in a sister country," said Cwele.

The current CAR government has been engaging South Africa on the restoration of bilateral relations. 

"We've been considering [dealing with the country's leaders] but our approach is to act through the African Union and the United Nations," the minister said.

"For those who have been there, it is not acceptable that child soldiers who were demobilised have now been recruited by the rebels; that certain religions are being target and destroyed [and] women are killed and raped.

"We cannot as a nation just fold our arms and say all is right. Of course, we will be guided by this study conducted by the AU," he said.

'We must restore security'
Cwele said they all agreed that all the soldiers in the CAR should be taken to the barracks, and screened before they could be integrated into that country's army.

Cwele said there were people in the army who were not even from the CAR and others who had conducted the gross violations of human rights and therefore couldn't be integrated into the army.

An agreement had been reached that UN agencies should identify those and they should be prosecuted.

"We are in contact with the CAR. We are monitoring the situation. We are on the ground. The focus is that we must restore security. If we don't, our intelligence services informed us that the CAR was just a stepping stone for a regional destabilisation, the next target was the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad."

Cwele said the regional services initially did not believe this information from the South African intelligence, but they have now confirmed it.

"We have seen an attempted coup in Chad and that's why it becomes important that we arrest that situation. We create conditions for political dialogue, we contain those who are armed and not allow them to continue to abuse the citizens."

Evolving instability
Cwele said the government was also concerned about the evolving instability in both the eastern DRC and the CAR.

He said leaders were particularly concerned by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the CAR and, in the government's view, it is critical as a nation of the world to assist in establishing security.

"We should involve the cantonment, confining soldiers to the barracks, screening them so that those who are qualified should be integrated to the national army.

"As you know, we didn't accept the government which installed itself after the coup. We set up with the region, a process that there should be an inclusive government. It's important to assist them because they have an enormous task of establishing the judiciary, Parliament and preparing for elections in 18 months, which is a very short time," said Cwele.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told Parliament last month that South Africa will not be sending its troops back to the CAR after 13 soldiers were killed during a coup in that country.

Terrorist groups
Meanwhile, more South Africans have linked themselves to terrorist groups than before.

Cwele said previously, the South African intelligence services used to be more focused on identifying those elements "who come to make South Africa a place of rest so they can move on to other countries".

"We never really faced the real threat of global terrorism, but the situation has somehow changed with the involvement of actual South Africans and being linked to some of those elements.

"The worrying trend now is that we are seeing more South Africans being linked to some, there are cases going on. It is in that respect that we are focusing on those South Africans, there are on-going operations to neutralise that threat."

He said previously, they had not found a large number of South Africans who had links to or were participating in terrorist activities, but there was a need for more monitoring.

"What was different from last year is that we have picked up information that some of South Africans are now linked to known terrorist groupings such as al-Shabab in Somalia," said Cwele.


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