SA troops in Sudan feared the worst

2015-06-17 08:38
SANDF troops. (Picture: AFP)

SANDF troops. (Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pretoria - More than 800 terrified South African soldiers in Sudan feared the worst when their camp was surrounded by Sudanese troops.

"In order to save lives, we would have to have surrendered if they stormed us. One battalion of soldiers without proper weapons could not fight against an entire country's army," a South African soldier told Netwerk24.

Netwerk24 reported on Tuesday that South African peacekeepers in North Darfur were effectively held "hostage" by members of the Sudanese army while the drama around Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's possible arrest during the African Union summit in Johannesburg escalated. The High Court in Pretoria ordered that Al-Bashir be detained.

It is believed that Al-Bashir was possibly allowed to leave South Africa amid fears of violence against the South African peacekeepers.

"They [the South African troops] would have been overwhelmed. If South Africa had arrested Al-Bashir, they would have been prisoners of war," a friend of a soldier told Netwerk24.

Meanwhile, soldiers, family members and friends of the soldiers serving in Sudan have contradicted the military's "categorical denial" that there was a hostage situation, recounting stories of their loved ones' fears while in the war-torn country.

The army said the "increased military traffic" in Darfur was part of the Sudanese government's preparations for the Ramadan religious celebrations.

Head of joint operations, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, said the situation had "normalised" and the mobilisation of Sudanese soldiers near the South African base in Khartoum was not aimed at the base.

But a soldier said: "We were so scared - we were surrounded by soldiers. We handed out extra ammunition to everyone in case it was needed."

The deployment apparently began shortly before the weekend, when Al-Bashir left for the AU summit in South Africa.

A friend of a soldier at the base said that they were surrounded by about 500 heavily-armed Sudanese soldiers in Hilux bakkies at about 10:00 on Monday. Al-Bashir's jet took off from Waterkloof air force base at about midday on Monday.

While the court bid to have him arrested continued in Pretoria, the South African soldiers were surrounded. They were placed at Level 2 readiness, which means they had to be battle ready and fully armed.

"They were terrified and overwhelmed. They were basically kept as hostages for the afternoon.

"They could see an attack was imminent. The [Sudanese] soldiers were about 500 metres from their camp. According to their intelligence something would have happened if Al-Bashir was arrested," the source said.

One caller to Power FM said a relative who is serving in Sudan said her camp was "surrounded" by Sudanese soldiers. Another soldier confirmed that they were placed at Level 2 readiness when vehicles approached the base.

"I am so grateful South Africa did not arrest Al-Bashir. Our commander said after Al-Bashir arrived safely in the country, the soldiers withdrew," a message sent by a soldier in Darfur to his colleagues in South Africa read.

According to Netwerk24, approximately 800 South African soldiers are serving in Darfur as part of Unamid, a combined UN and AU peacekeeping force. The current group of soldiers are from 8 Infantry Battalion in Upington.

Meanwhile, the UN has denied that the South African soldiers were in a hostage situation, saying they were never in danger. And a Sudanese army official told Bloomberg that they are not in conflict with the South Africans.

Read more on:    au  |  unamid  |  sandf  |  omar al-bashir  |  sudan

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.