News / Africa

Some S. Africans Oppose Military Deployment in CAR

Fighters for the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 25, 2013.
Fighters for the Seleka rebel alliance stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, March 25, 2013.
Solenn Honorine
South Africa lost 13 soldiers during a fight against the Séléka rebels, staging a coup in the Central African Republic last month. This was the worst military loss in a foreign country since the fall of apartheid and it triggered a political backlash for President Jacob Zuma, who authorized the mission. Foreign policy specialists say the loss could influence South Africa to re-evaluate its foreign policy on the continent.

The deaths of its soldiers in what seems like a faraway country has triggered a backlash for Zuma:  the political opposition is seething, and the media is speculating on the existence of hidden economic interests for the South African political elite who seemed to have colluded to defend an embattled dictator in CAR.
 
But Alfredo Hengari, a researcher for the South Africa Institute for International Affairs, says Pretoria's sending of extra troops in January was in line with the 2007 bilateral agreement between both countries.
 
Hengari says Bozizé was still the legitimate president of CAR at the time. In his opinion he says South Africa's big mistake was a lack of preparation and ignorance of the complex political realities of the country.
 
Since coming to power in 1994, the ruling party African National Congress's foreign policy has promoted democracy on the continent and the search for “African solutions to African problems”.  So, in this respect, interventionism on the continent is consistent with long-stated goals.
 
Check Achu, a researcher for the Africa Institute of South Africa, says that Pretoria also believes that helping achieve greater stability on the continent is in South Africa’s interest.
 
“If one look[s] critically at the number of people that come down to South Africa when there is a problem in any part of the continent, it is alarming," noted Achu. "So South Africa, by engaging in the continent, it will try to resolve the problem before it actually started, before it escalates to the point where refugees will come down to South Africa. On the African continent, we need a powerful nation to drive the United States of Africa project. And South Africa has all the resources, the manpower, the military drive, to actually drive this particular project.”
 
South Africa is, by far, the main power on the continent:  its gross domestic product (GDP) is almost double Nigeria's, which is Africa's distant second richest country. In recent years it has shown a willingness to play a bigger role in continental affair.  It lobbied extensively to ensure the election of one of its nationals, Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma, as chairperson of the African Union.  As a member of the emerging powers grouping, the BRICS, it is also the voice of the continent in relations with China, Russia, Brazil and India.  
 
But Siphamandla Zondi, the director of the Institute for Global Dialogue, says, although South Africa is flexing its muscle on the world stage, it remains wary of being perceived as a bully.

“South Africa is an enthusiastic leader but is a reluctant hegemon. It is reluctant to become a policeman of the continent," Zondi said. "What we see is a South Africa who is enthusiastic to play a role but is very worried of the implications of doing it alone.”
 
According to Zondi, the deaths of the 13 South African soldiers could dampen Pretoria's enthusiasm in continental affairs.
 
“The issue of South Africa's involvement in the Central African Republic is a seriously contested issue within South Africa," noted Zondi. "But it's almost a non-issue on the continent. That's the biggest implication that we might see in the coming years: it might cause South Africa to be reticent, a little bit, in playing the role of a stabilizer, supporter of democratization, governance strengthening, in fear of a backlash back home.”
 
Zondi says that South Africa learnt a hard lesson from its experience in the Central African Republic, where it sent troops according to the terms of a bilateral agreement. Instead, Pretoria should be seeking multilateral agreements to shield itself from the fallouts at home, he says..

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid