We didn't bolt from CAR - Minister

2013-04-04 14:42
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - South African troops were not fleeing from the Central African Republic (CAR) in the wake of the coup, but a political decision had been made for them to withdraw, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Thursday.

She told journalists in Pretoria the troops were returning because there was no constitutional government in the CAR.

"South African troops will never serve in any unconstitutional government. We do not have an agreement with whoever is in the CAR’s leadership at the moment," she said.

"There was no bolting away. South Africa will always be there when called upon to serve our continent, informed by what our foreign policy says we should be doing," said Nkoana-Mashabane.

At the recent extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), held in Chad, leaders of the regional economic bloc were "almost pleading" with South Africa not to pull out of the embattled CAR.

"We explained to them that we are a constitutional democracy and this is how we do things. They fully appreciated that.

"They also wanted us to make a commitment that [when] called upon, will you be ready to help ECCAS in the future. Our answer was yes. We will participate in future missions of the AU [African Union]," said Nkoana-Mashabane.

The decision to pull out the troops was made solely by the South African government.

Nkoane-Mashabane said government would investigate international reports querying the death toll of South African soldiers in Bangui.

Reports of more soldiers killed

A French news agency reported that the rebels claim the number of South African soldiers killed in the Bangui battle was between 36 and 50.

The South African government put the death toll at 13.

Nkoane-Mashabane said official statements indicated the situation in the CAR was chaotic.

"What I can say is that what was confirmed by United Nations [UN] and African Union representatives based in the Central African Republic is that in a coup situation there will be chaos, loss of life, and other unforeseen circumstances.

"We will verify the facts and come back to you if there is such a situation. At the moment, we have not received such reports," she said.

Following the ECCAS meeting in Chad, President Jacob Zuma revealed on Wednesday that South African troops would be pulling out of the CAR.

African leaders at the summit agreed not to recognise the CAR's new self-proclaimed leader Michel Djotodia.

Djotodia grabbed power on 24 March after a rapid assault on the CAR capital Bangui.

Read more on:    au  |  eccas  |  un  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  michel djotodia  |  jacob zuma  |  central african republic  |  car uprisings

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