Monday, January 7, 2013

S. Africa sends troops to Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has struggled with maintaining control of its towns as rebels continue their assault [Reuters] SUNDAY, JAN 6, 2013 04:45 PM SAST S. Africa sends troops to Central African Republic BY ASSOCIATED PRESS more TOPICS: FROM THE WIRES, NEWS JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Jacob Zuma says his government is sending 400 army troops to the Central African Republic. Zuma’s office issued a statement Sunday saying that the deployment of the soldiers is part of South Africa’s international obligation to the Central African Republic. Zuma’s office said the South African National Defense Force troops will help build the capacity of the CAR army and will also assist with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of rebel groups. Zuma’s statement said that sending soldiers to Central African Republic is part of South Africa’s efforts “to bring about peace and stability in the region.” Associated Press South Africa to send 400 soldiers to CAR South Africa latest country to send troops to Central African Republic as threat of rebel advance on capital looms. Last Modified: 06 Jan 2013 21:36 The Central African Republic has struggled with maintaining control of its towns as rebels continue their assault [Reuters] Up to 400 armed South African soldiers have been deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) by President Jacob Zuma in a bid to help the country's army as it faces threats from rebel groups. Zuma's office issued a statement on Sunday saying the decision to send soldiers to the CAR is part of South Africa's efforts "to bring about peace and stability in the region". Several neighbouring countries have sent soldiers to prevent rebels from reaching Bangui, a city of 700,000. Chad has sent hundreds of forces who are fortifying the road to the capital, while Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo have already sent an estimated 120 troops each. Zuma's statement also said the South African National Defence Force troops would "assist with capacity building of the CAR Defence Force and will also assist CAR with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration processes" to deal with the country's rebels. The rebels had pledged to halt their advance pending peace talks in Gabon that are due to start Tuesday. However, residents say rebels seized two more towns over the weekend, though they are not en route to the capital. A dozen towns have come under rebel control since the rebel alliance calling itself Seleka began its offensive on December 10. Seleka, which comprises three rebel groups, accuses Bangui of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal under which fighters who laid down their weapons were supposed to be paid. Negotiations between the rebels and the Bozize government are set to begin in Gabon on Tuesday. Aljazeera UN decries use of child soldiers in CAR UNICEF urges rebels and pro-government groups to stop recruiting and using children in conflict. Last Modified: 05 Jan 2013 07:09 inShare The United Nation's children agency has called on rebels and pro-government groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) to stop recruiting children to fight in the country's conflict that has seen armed opposition groups seize key towns. "Reliable sources have informed us that children are newly being recruited among their ranks," Souleymane Diabate, a UNICEF spokesperson in CAR, said in a statement on Friday. UNICEF condemned the involvement of boys and girls "who may be forced to fight, carry supplies, perform other support roles and be abused as sex slaves by armed groups". It said that even before the current conflict erupted last month, about 2,500 children were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defence groups, in CAR. Shannon Strother, the UNICEF emergency coordinator in CAR, told Al Jazeera that the organisation fears that the country's new conflict has seen a rise in child soldiers. "What we have is a series of credible reports from multiple sites across the country that children are being armed forces, including in Bangui," she said. "Since 2007 we have been able to negotiate the release of 1,300 children, but we are concerned with this new conflict we will see a rise in children with armed groups." Widespread violence More than 300,000 children have been affected by the violence in the country and its consequences, including through recruitment, family separation, sexual violence, forced displacement and having no or limited access to education and health facilities, it said. "We are very concerned about children that might have possibly been displaced and separated from parents, but also we are concerned about children that are living on the streets and those that have been associated with those armed groups," Strother added. Meanwhile, the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) has also voiced serious concerns about the protection of civilians amid reports of widespread looting and violence. An estimated 316,000 people are living in the affected areas, and about 700,000 others in Bangui are at further risk of an escalation in fighting, it said in its latest situation report. The Seleka rebel coalition's lightning three-week advance from the north of the country to within striking distance of Bangui has raised fears of a spreading crisis and drawn regional calls for peace negotiations. Source: Al Jazeera and agencies - ANC Why are South Africans not worried about deployment of troops in a civil war? Jan 9th, 2013 by Pierre De Vos. No comments yet When should South African troops get involved in the internal disputes of another country? Should we ever send troops to protect the President of a foreign country and to train its army who is fighting a rebel insurgency? Would it be acceptable to send South African troops to Afghanistan to protect President Mohammed Karzai and to train his soldiers fighting the Taliban? If not, when would it be wise to send troops to a foreign country involved in a war? For some reasons most South Africans do not seem to care much about such vital questions. But they should. Earlier this week the Presidency announced the movement of about 400 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers to the troubled Central African Republic (CAR). The deployment was apparently authorised by President Jacob Zuma, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, on January 3 to “assist with capacity building of the CAR Defence Force” and to assist CAR with the “planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration” of rebel troops and is authorised for a period of 5 years. Few South Africans would be aware that South Africa has had a military presence in CAR since 2007 in terms of a bilateral co-operation agreement between the two countries. South Africa and CAR signed a military cooperation agreement in 2007, which was renewed for a further five years in December 2012. That agreement is to provide CAR’s army with an array of military training, from infantry, artillery and Special Forces training to logistics and driving courses, as well as “refurbishment” of military infrastructure in Bouar and Bangui. South Africa’s military has also supported disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes, and it assisted in CAR’s 2011 elections. After the signing of the military cooperation agreement – and before the recent deployment – the numbers of SANDF personnel had fluctuated by between 20 and 46 soldiers. These soldiers served in CAR at the request of President Francois Bozize who came to power in a coup and won controversial re-election in 2011. The original deployment included a SANDF Special Forces unit, provided for “VIP protection to President Bozize.” This means South African troops have been protecting President Bozize (acting as a potentially lethal blue light brigade) for the past two years. Section 201 of the South African Constitution authorises the President to deploy the SANDF “in fulfilment of international obligations”. However, the section also requires the President to inform Parliament “promptly and in appropriate detail” of the reasons for the employment of the defence force; any place where the force is being employed; the number of people involved; and the period for which the force is expected to be employed. Section 18 of the Defence Act further requires the President to inform Parliament of the “expenditure incurred or expected to be incurred” by the deployment. When Parliament is not in sitting during the first seven days after the defence force is employed (as is currently the case), the President must provide the information required to the Portfolio Committee on Defence. This means that Zuma has until Thursday to inform the Portfolio Committee of the deployment as well as of the estimated cost of the deployment. If he fails to inform the Portfolio Committee as required, the deployment would become unconstitutional and unlawful. There are two important reasons for the requirement to inform the Parliament of the deployment. First, it prevents the President from deploying SANDF troops in secret, either inside or outside South Africa. In 1975 the apartheid regime invaded Angola, but this information was kept from the South African public. In Mark Behr’s novel, The Smell of Apples there is a scene in which the South African troops in Angola listened in astonishment as the South African government Ministers denied that South African troops were present in Angola. The apartheid regime saw nothing wrong with lying to the country about the Defence Force involvement in Angola. South Africans only received confirmation of this invasion when it was revealed in Parliament by Frederick van Zyl Slabbert. Slabbert had to reveal the information in Parliament where he was protected by Parliamentary privilege in order to evade the strict secrecy legislation in place at the time. Our Constitution now requires the President to inform Parliament promptly of a deployment to prevent the government from misleading the public again in such a flagrant manner. As the deployment of South African troops in a war situation is a radical step, and as the President is accountable to Parliament and to the voters for taking such a step, the President cannot deploy troops in secret to avoid accountability for his actions. Second, Parliament has the ultimate say over any deployment of troops, both inside South Africa and abroad. In terms of section 18 of the Defence Act, Parliament is authorised to confirm the deployment of troops; order the amendment of such authorisation; or order the termination of the employment of the Defence Force. This has to be done by a resolution “within seven days after receiving information” about the deployment from the President. This means that if Parliament is not happy with the deployment of South African troops to a foreign country it may recall the troops. Given the fact that the ANC has a large majority in Parliament and that its members will not second-guess the President, it is sadly unthinkable at present that Parliament would use its power to amend the deployment order (by limiting it to a period of 6 months, say) or to recall the troops already stationed in CAR. Section 20 of the Defence Act allows soldiers stationed in CAR to exercise powers and duties for the purpose of the successful execution of their employment. As the soldiers have been deployed to disarm rebels and to protect the President, this seems to authorise our soldiers to get involved in fighting in CAR. How else will one disarm rebels who are refusing to lay down their arms and how else will one protect President Bozize if he is being attacked by rebels. Let’s hope it does not get to that. But I guess that was also what many Americans said when they first heard of the deployment of their troops in Vietnam. ANC Constitutionally Speaking - - COMMENTS BY SONNY This picture looks more like a security company armed with SA assault rifles than a gang of Rebels. Now Zuma wants to send 400 SA troops (under the banner of the AU) to CAR to quell the insurgency? What is SA's interest in the troubles in CAR? Could it rather be an interest in their vast deposits of 'minerals' and possibly precious metals and diamonds? Or just an extension of the SA Arms Deal! The SANDF cannot defend our own borders, yet,400 troops get deployed to CAR to sort out an incursion there? Zuma has overplayed his hand of friendship. What are his ulterior motives for this "Military Aid & Troops?"

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