Chief insists SANDF will be ready for DRC mission

2013-05-16 18:01
SANDF (File: AFP)

SANDF (File: AFP)

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Pretoria - South African Defence Force soldiers who are training for a United Nations military mission in Congo will be adequately prepared even though the army as a whole is overstretched and underfunded, the army chief said on Thursday.

Lieutenant General VR Masondo also told media at a briefing that the units bound for Congo are being helped in their training by troops who participated in a mission in Central African Republic, or CAR.

In March, rebels there killed 14 SANDF soldiers while seizing the capital, Bangui, and overthrowing president Francois Bozize.

"We have taken heed of the CAR incident and will incorporate the lessons learned from this in preparing for future operations," Masondo said without elaborating.

Analysts said the SANDF lacked air cover and there were questions about why they deployed under a bilateral deal rather than under UN or regional auspices.

The UN Security Council has authorised a new "intervention brigade" for Congo with a mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the eastern part of the vast, mineral-rich country, beset by fighting since the end of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

The Congolese army said 32 people were killed in fighting between Congolese soldiers and militiamen who attacked a town north of Goma on Wednesday.

Masondo said the army's budget of about More than R10bn is not enough to address its needs, which include the replacement of old equipment and dilapidated facilities, and tasks such as foreign missions, border patrols, securing hospitals during worker strikes, the documentation of immigrants and support for the police.

Funding challenges make it difficult "to do everything that we are required to do," Masondo said.

But he acknowledged there is a "dire need" for the South African government to direct resources to social and economic programs in a country with high unemployment and a widening gulf between rich and poor.

He said the troops heading to Congo are "preparing sufficientl", despite shortfalls in the military.

The UN said a contingent of about 100 Tanzanian troops arrived in eastern Congo on 11 May, a first step in assembling a new brigade.

The rest of the troops will arrive in stages, but no clear deadline has been given so far.

Malawi has also pledged troops, though some military experts question whether the envisioned force of several thousand is big enough to restore security.

- AP
Read more on:    sandf  |  drc  |  central africa  |  military
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