SA stops Ban’s DRC plan

2013-01-28 20:43

South Africa has put a stop to a United Nations plan to expand the mandate of UN troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which would enable them to engage in combat if necessary.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon came to the AU summit, which is concluding today, to present a plan by which more troops would be committed to the DRC. According to Ban’s plan, the troops would not only be there for peacekeeping, but could also intervene in the fighting.

The DRC has been wracked by internal strife and last year rebels captured Goma, in the east of the country.

International players have been frustrated by the inability of the UN troops already in the DRC to intervene in the conflict.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has been at the summit with President Jacob Zuma and told reporters Ban’s plan was not canvassed with key role players beforehand.

South Africa is in favour of an interventionist force, but wants to ensure it is controlled by the region.

It is understood the DRC is not happy with the UN plan either, and South Africa is a known ally of the country.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the plan presented a “top down approach” but a bottom-up approach was better.

“People must not think the plan is being imposed on them.”

She added: “There should be flexibility so that when the forces are attacked they don’t need to wait for a command. The command should come from the region. We need the international community but we must take the lead.”

Ban had to cancel a media conference due to take place today to announce the new plan.

Meanwhile the member states of the African Union will be expected to cough up from their own funds to send troops to Mali.

The African-led support mission in Mali (Afisma) is supposed to join the French forces in Mali to defend the government from the rebels who have taken over some towns in the desert country.

Afisma will cost about $460 million (R4.2 billion) and member states, especially those who haven’t paid up their AU contributions, will have to pay.

A donor conference is planned for tomorrow and will include the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.

The AU was under pressure during its two-day summit to craft a comprehensive response to the crisis in Mali, because it was seen as an embarrassment to let France intervene because there were no African forces that could be called up in time.

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