Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SA fighting M23: What’s at stake?

No fear No Favour no loss of SA lives.........

 KHADIJA PATEL      south africa     23 april 2013  01:36

The Congolese rebel group has continued to warn of dire consequences if they are attacked by the newly-assembled United Nations intervention brigade. And if South African troops are indeed part of such an attack on M23, there could be hell to pay. By KHADIJA PATEL.

On Sunday, Congolese rebel group M23 announced that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had set up base in Muningi, some 5km from the eastern city of Goma and a trifling 100m from M23 positions. “Any time something bad can happen,” the group warned on Twitter, adding that they would re-invade Goma within two hours of a SANDF attack on their positions.
While some point out that when the group took Goma last November, purportedly with the full backing of Rwanda and Uganda, they never paused to tweet threats. They just went along and occupied Goma without too much bother, issuing a warning to the Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa and the rest of the region as well.
Ten days after occupying the city, M23 withdrew from Goma on December 1 2012, with little explanation, leaving behind a trail of destruction and woe. The Congolese Red Cross counted at least 90 bodies in and around Goma and the Rutshuru territory, to the city’s north, after the withdrawal was completed.
After the rebels left, the Congolese government asserted a semblance of control over the city, while M23 lurk on the outskirts, mulling their options in negotiations with the Congolese government in Uganda.
A few months later, M23's Bosco Ntganda is at The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. But no one has claimed responsibility, or offered compensation to those caught in middle of the conflict. The focus of diplomatic efforts has been on stamping out the threat of M23 on Joseph Kabila’s government.
The talks have been fraught with breakdowns as both sides refuse to compromise their positions.
On 28 March, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2098, which authorises three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special Forces Company to be headquartered in Goma. The resolution “strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of Goma and its attempts to establish an illegitimate parallel administration in North Kivu.”
But it’s not M23 alone that the UN resolution has named.
The text of the resolution targets the “increased activity of other armed groups, including the Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu, the Mayi-Mayi Gedeon and the Mayi-Mayi Kata-katanga in Katanga Province, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Orientale Province”.
The eastern region of the DRC has long been the site of an unseemly tug-of-war between the state and rebel militia.
So while M23 is the most immediate target of the UN intervention brigade, combat in the region may prove to be more complex than a simple fight for territory between the UN and one group of rebels. There are at least a dozen rebel groups operating in the eastern DRC, all of whom could come into play in some way against the intervention brigade.
Indifference met the announcement in January of South Africa’s readiness to contribute troops to the United Nations brigade to combat rebel groups in the DRC. Certainly at the time it appeared to be the newest extension of an ambitious foreign policy with little impact on life at home. For all the championing of African solutions for African problems, the troubles of the rest of the region, never mind the continent, are often too far removed from the South African everyday to inspire more than a passing interest in the latest episode of an old conflict.
The events in CAR last month reminded South Africans that the deployment of South African troops risks the lives of South African troops – and the minister of defence has said that casualties suffered by the SANDF in combat are the collective responsibility of the South African population.
“We as a country fully take responsibility for the death of your children. But we don’t regret sending them,” Mapisa-Nqakula said last month to the bereaved families of soldiers who had died in Bangui. “Painful as it may be, know that your children died fighting. I say this in all sincerity, without any arrogance.”
She stressed then that the losses incurred by the SANDF in CAR would not be a deterrent to future deployments.
And despite warnings of a massacre from M23, the SANDF has not been cowed from its deployment to the DRC.
“The SANDF and its members are not going to be scared by anything. We vowed and took oaths to serve the country even if there’s a need for us to die. Whatever task the government gives us will be taken with high morale and high spirits,” SANDF spokesperson Xolani Mabanga said last week.
As with CAR, however, South Africa’s willingness to offer military help in the DRC has prompted speculation of a more dubious intent behind the SANDF’s latest mission in the eastern Congo. 
Suspicion surrounding South Africa’s involvement in the DRC is not new. It is, after all, through its peace-brokering efforts that South Africa was able to brand itself as an African peacemaker. South Africa invested heavily in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue held at Sun City in February 2002, but this mediation effort was suspected to have been coloured by self-interest. South Africa has contributed peacekeeping troops, committed to the development of the DRC’s public sector, and invested millions of rands and years of diplomacy to bring stability to the DRC - the R126 million spent to assist the DRC with its election in 2011 is one such example.
This particular interest in the DRC has long been suspected of being a guise for securing lucrative opportunities for South African businesses. 
In 2010, President Kabila set off a legal dispute between a leading European oil firm and Khulubuse Zuma, after he awarded two exploration blocks to companies owned by President Jacob Zuma’s nephew. Kabila’s government had previously allocated exploration rights to Irish oil major Tullow and South Africa's Divine Inspiration Group.
While Khulubuse has shrugged off suggestions Zuma was personally involved in the “smash and grab”, South African diplomacy in the DRC does certainly aid such deals.
A core tenet of South Africa’s foreign policy is to open African markets for South African goods and services. In the DRC, South Africa has fared very well in this regard. Two-way trade between South Africa and the DRC was R7.8 billion in 2011, up from R6.2 billion in 2010 and R4.8 billion in 2009. 
Those numbers, however, may stand for nothing in the coming months when South African troops face off rebels in the eastern Congo. And a South African-steered attack on the rebels may be especially costly.  DM
Read more:
  • South African troops fighting M23: It’s not all about us in Daily Maverick
Photo: M23 rebel fighters guard the venue of a news conference in Bunagana in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo January 3, 2013. REUTERS/James Akena.


African plans for Mali’s future in trouble after Chad’s shock withdrawal

SIMON ALLISON      south africa    23 april 2013     12:23

Chad was supposed to be the backbone of the African-led force in Mali. And, until now, that’s exactly what it has been, providing the only African soldiers trained and trusted for combat operations in the tricky desert war against experienced Islamist militants. Chad’s shock decision to withdraw its troops is therefore a serious setback. By SIMON ALLISON.

It’s taken a long time for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma) to get off the ground. A very long time. The idea was first mooted in early 2012, as West African countries reacted to the sudden crisis in Mali; more than a year later, there may be some soldiers on the ground, but they are still receiving training from European Union specialists and few are trusted with combat operations.
There is an exception to this. The 2,000-strong contingent from Chad have won the respect of their highly-trained French counterparts with their conduct under fire, and plenty of praise from defence analysts who say that their experience fighting guerrilla rebels at home in similarly hot and difficult conditions make them the most dangerous fighters deployed by the international community in Mali.
Joining French troops after the initial French intervention which clawed back most major cities in the north from the Islamist rebels, Chadian soldiers were involved in the guerrilla campaign’s most significant battle to date, the battle of Isfoghas, where they took the fight to a rebel base in the Isfoghas mountains. Despite sustaining dozens of injuries and 23 deaths, Chad secured the area.
Chadian special forces have also been responsible for claiming the war’s most notable scalps: that of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a key commander of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the notorious militant thought to be responsible for the Algeria gas plant attack (Belmokhtar’s death has not been independently confirmed).
Chad is, in other words, holding up Africa’s end of the bargain when it comes to supporting the military intervention in Mali. But not for much longer.
In an unexpected announcement, Chad’s long-time President Idriss Deby told French reporters that his country would be recalling its contingent.
“Face-to-face fighting with the Islamists is over. The Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy, guerrilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali,” said Deby. “Our soldiers will return to Chad. They have accomplished their mission. We have already withdrawn a mechanised battalion.”
Deby is being somewhat disingenuous. His army may not have the skills to fight a guerrilla-style war in northern Mali, but then few armies in history have distinguished themselves against guerrilla campaigns anywhere. For recent examples, just think of the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fact is, Deby’s army is far more qualified than any of the other countries that are taking part in Afisma, including heavyweight Nigeria, which has a less than stellar record of dealing with militant groups at home (like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta or, currently, Boko Haram).
So what’s behind Deby’s decision to pull his troops? It’s hard to say, but a number of factors may come into play: domestic pressures, the situation in the Central African Republic (in which Chad is intimately involved), concern about the recent influx of 50,000 refugees from Darfur.
Whatever his motivation, the result is a big headache for Afisma, and an even bigger one for France which was hoping to pull out or at least withdraw from Mali in the near future. Without Chad’s 2,000 soldiers, this will be a lot more difficult to manage.
The decision also plays havoc with future plans for international involvement in Mali. The United Nations has been trying to come up with various ways of coordinating its longer-term response to the Malian situation, all of which fall broadly into two main options: sending a team to supplement and guide the Afisma operation, or evolving Afisma into a fully-fledged United Nations stabilisation mission along the lines of Monusco in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
All plans, however, revolve around Chad’s continued presence, says David Zounmenou, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies. “The UN plans to use Chad and the French as a backbone for any operations,” he told the Daily Maverick. Chad is also important politically, Zounmenou added, turning an essentially West African deployment into a continental one. “If we want to make this a West African problem we’re not going to resolve it, because it involves lots of countries that are around Mali in the Sahel – especially Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad, to a lesser extent. That’s why you see Chad deployed there; because they have combat forces that can take on this kind of challenge.”
Not any more – at least not for now. In his comments, President Deby did add that he would consider sending the troops in again once combat operations have wound down. While welcome, this falls far short of the kind of support Afisma and the United Nations were relying on, and means that all the international efforts aimed at fixing the Mali mess must go back to the drawing board. DM
Read more:
Photo: Chadian soldiers form a line with their armoured vehicles in the northeastern town of Kidal, Mali, February 7, 2013. Around 1,000 troops from Chad led by the president's son advanced towards the mountains of northeast Mali on Thursday to join French search-and-destroy operations hunting Islamist jihadists. REUTERS/Cheick Diouara

Daily Maverick   Simon Allison

comments by sonny

is the future of joseph kabila worth all this unnecessary slaughter of our sa troops?

will mali be zuma's third or fourth suicide mission into central africa?







  1. Charity begins at home. Sort out your problems here first.......rampant crime, unemployment,housing shortages, health, education etc, etc. Stop wasting our hard earned money. At this rate we are fast becoming a banana republic. Our defence force is in any case ill trained, undisciplined and ill equiped and will be overwhelmed by other forces!!!

  2. I also think that we should solve the problems like poverty, unemployment and lack of housing facilities in the Republic of South Africa to make ourselves able conquer our enemies.