Troops to avenge comrades?

2013-03-29 00:00

A SENIOR Ugandan officer claimed yesterday that South African troops had gathered in Uganda for a new mission in the Central African Republic to “avenge” their fallen comrades and topple the Seleka rebels.

Thirteeen South African soldiers were killed during clashes with the rebels at the weekend.

The officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters: “The intention of the South Africans is to reorganise themselves and then redeploy massively in CAR and topple these rebels.

“They were humiliated and they want to avenge,” the officer said, asking not to be named.

Spokespersons for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and defence ministry declined to comment. Reuters reports that South African soldiers have gathered at Kampala’s Entebbe air base with plans to hit back against the rebels.

It said it was unclear if the group included some of the soldiers evacuated from the CAR last week.

Meanwhile, SANDF handed over the bodies of the 13 soldiers to their families during a ceremony held at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the families that the government had no interest in the Central African Republic other than to train that country’s soldiers. Her denial follows reports that the soldiers were deployed to protect the business interests of individuals with close ties to the ANC, which the ruling party denied. Mapisa-Nqakula described the dead soldiers as “heroes” and “lions” who had died valiantly.

She repeated that the troops had been deployed to train the CAR army and to protect that country’s sovereignty. “I am raising that because people are raising [questions] about what business interests [there were] and others are saying the minister and the president differed about the deployment.

“There’s no truth to that,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula urged the families not to allow people to continue saying the soldiers had been sold out or been sent to their deaths.

“In all humility, without even a strip of arrogance, it’s my responsibility as the minister of defence and a mother [to say] ‘let us not allow our enemy to split us over the deployment of our children’,” she said. A SANDF spokesperson told the media that it was up to the families to decide whether the dead should be given private, semi-military or full military burials.

(Additional reporting by News24).

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