SA govt considers CAR plea for more troops

Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in the fighting in the CAR. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in the fighting in the CAR. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The Sunday Times reported that President Jacob Zuma had received an impassioned plea for more military intervention in the troubled country from the leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas), at a recent summit in Chad.

The paper quoted spokesperson for the department of international relations and cooperation Clayson Monyela, as saying the government was considering the request.

Opposition parties have called for parliamentary scrutiny of the decision.

The Mail & Guardian reported in March that the ANC had business interests in the CAR, questioning the motive of the deployment of South African troops in the country. The assertion was strongly denied by government and the ANC.

The CAR was overthrown by Seleka rebels on March 24. Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Zuma reportedly told Parliament this week he would extend the deployment of South African troops to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo by another year.

2 000 troops
Regional leaders on Thursday said they would boost their military force in the CAR by 2 000 soldiers, in a bid to restore order as violence and looting plague the country.

After the Chad summit, Eccas said in a statement that the the additional troops would assist the transition government "with security as well as restructuring security forces".

No timetable was given for the deployment of troops.

The deployment would effectively quadruple African forces in the country, which currently has around 500 soldiers from Gabon, Cameroon, Congo and Chad – whose troops are renowned as the most hardy and best trained in the region – assisting with security.

Financial assistance was also crucial in helping the country through the post-coup crisis, Eccas said.

"The transition council in place does not have a cent to its name to be able to function," said summit host, Chad President Idriss Déby.

"Partners and allies must urgently bring their own financial contribution to the transitional authorities to help them fulfil their mission."

Deby said earlier on Thursday the current peacekeeping force Fomac was "insufficient to do the job".

"Armed bands loot, hold to ransom and racketeer the population," he added, stating that the Seleka rebel alliance which ousted president François Bozize "is an organisation that lacks unity and the initiative of a command [structure]".

Though absent from the summit, Central African Republic's new interim president and Seleka rebel leader Michel Djotodia deplored the lack of funds available to the already impoverished nation, which has never managed to turn its plentiful mineral resources into riches.

"We have just taken power and the difficulties are huge.
The state coffers are empty. The finance minister is currently fighting to try and pay civil servants at least a month's salary," Djotodia said, speaking from Bangui.

"We have nothing. Resources become wealth when they are exploited," said the new strongman, who called on Central Africans to fight for the country's development. "If we fail in this transition, we will go back at least a century," he warned.

A group comprised of Central African Republic's partners would meet on May 2 to 3 in Brazzaville to help oversee the transition, leaders at the summit said in a statement. - Sapa and Staff Reporter

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