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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs