South African counter-attack against Central African Republic rebels would be ‘complete madness’

Opposition is rising against South African intervention as more deaths are feared

South Africa has been warned against a fresh intervention in the chaotic Central African Republic after sending troops to neighbouring Uganda. Two hundred soldiers were reported to be preparing to “hit back” at rebels in CAR who overran the capital on Sunday, forcing the president to flee and killing at least 13 South African soldiers.

David Maynier, the defence spokesman for South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, said it would be “complete madness” to launch a counter-attack against rebels who are in de facto control of the mineral-rich CAR. “More soldiers would be put at risk and there’d be more body bags which the public doesn’t want,” said Mr Maynier.

South Africa’s defence ministry has refused to comment on a deployment of troops at Entebbe air base in Uganda. It is unclear whether the 200-strong force includes soldiers evacuated from CAR after Sunday’s fighting.

The decision to prop up the controversial regime of Francois Bozize at the cost of South African lives has sparked widespread condemnation of President Jacob Zuma. Commercial links between members of the ousted CAR president’s regime and South Africa’s ruling ANC have been established and the opposition has demanded a parliamentary inquiry. Some commentators have even called for Mr Zuma to be impeached.

The former French colony – which has remained among Africa’s poorest countries despite its wealth of diamonds – has endured continual coups and a bloody era ruled over by a self-declared emperor. The regime of President Bozize, who is now staying in Cameroon, took power through a military coup in 2003 and has been accused rigging subsequent elections.

While other countries were reluctant to intervene in CAR to protect Mr Bozize, notably France which refused requests for military help, South Africa responded to rebel advances in January by sending troops. A group of fewer than 30 military trainers from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was beefed up to 200 and barracked next to the presidential palace in Bangui.

The Seleka rebels led by a former ally of Mr Bozize, Michel Djotodia, struck a peace deal that made him the new minister of defence but the terms of that agreement were not honoured. The deal has unravelled in recent weeks and while other foreign troops – including French troops who control the airport – were not targeted by rebels, South African soldiers were attacked at their base.

The SANDF troops have been branded as “mercenaries” by many in CAR, where they are widely believed to be protecting business interests shared between the elites in Bangui and Pretoria.

Mr Zuma’s defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the 13 soldiers that died had “fought protecting South African interests and were not protecting any business”.

However, questions have been asked about the role of controverisal businessman Didier Pereira. Mr Pereira, who acts as a “special advisor” to ousted President Bozize, has a partnership with ANC security supremo and fundraiser, Paul Langa, and former spy chief Billy Masetlha. Last October Mr Pereira organised meetings between Mr Zuma and Mr Bozize’s son Francis, formerly the defence minister of CAR, to discuss a weapons deal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?