South African President Jacob Zuma says his government is sending 400 army troops to the Central African Republic.
Zuma’s office issued a statement Sunday saying that the deployment of the soldiers is part of South Africa’s international obligation to the Central African Republic.
The South African National Defense Force troops will “assist with capacity building of the CAR Defense Force and will also assist CAR with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration processes” to deal with the country’s rebels, said Zuma’s statement.
The statement says the deployment, scheduled through March 31, is one of several efforts that South Africa is making “to bring about peace and stability in the region.”
Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday a military source said at least 200 South African soldiers have already arrived in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, to try to secure it from advancing rebels.
“This well-equipped South African contingent arrived in the middle of the week … its mission is to secure the Central African capital,” the source said.
The troops, based not far from the neighbourhood housing the residence of President Francois Bozize, “joins in Central Africa a South African military contingent already deployed as part of military cooperation”, the source added.
After the South African troops arrived, the coordinator of the Citizens Coalition Opposed to the Armed Rebels, Levy Yakite, appealed Sunday on national radio for his movement to lift the roadblocks set up to prevent any rebel infiltration attempts.
Central African Republic’s neighboring countries Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo already have sent about 120 troops each to help stabilize the country confronted by the rebellion.
Chad, a longtime ally of President Francois Bozize’s government, also has provided hundreds of forces who are fortifying the road to the capital, Bangui, to prevent rebels from reaching the seat of power, a city of 700,000.
CAR rebels are expected to begin peace talks with government officials and opposition leaders Tuesday in Libreville, Gabon.
On Friday the U.N. Security Council called on the rebels advancing on the Central African Republic’s capital to stop their campaign and join negotiations to find a political solution to the impoverished country’s problems.
The rebel coalition known as Seleka unites fighters from as many as four insurgent groups from the north that say the government went back on 2007 and 2008 peace accords that were supposed to pay rebels to disarm or integrate them into the national army. A dozen towns have come under rebel control since Seleka began its offensive on Dec. 10.
Bozize says he is willing to form a coalition government but will finish out his second elected term, which ends in 2016.