A South African soldier was killed and another wounded while providing security for a World Food Programme (WFP) humanitarian aid convoy in Sudan. SA National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said the South Africans, still part of the hybrid AU/UN peace mission in Sudan (UNAMID) until mid-April, were escorting the convoy to a specific point from where the Rwanda battalion, also part of UNAMID, would take over the duty.
“The convoy came under fire 25 km from the exchange point and the security detail took up defensive positions and was able to hold ground. A South African was unfortunately fatally wounded during the exchange of fire with heavily armed rebels. Another soldier was wounded in the firefight and he was evacuated to El Fashir for treatment and is now in a stable condition,” he said.
Unconfirmed reports have it the convoy was attacked by five “technicals” (utility vehicles with pintle-mounted machine guns on the load area). A quick response force was dispatched from the UNAMID base ay Kutum and support requested from the Rwanda battalion at Kabkabiya. This was not forthcoming due to nightfall, but the South African contingent is apparently safe.
The name of the dead soldier will be released once his next of kin have been informed.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Chief of the South African National Defence, General Solly Shoke and the Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Duma Mdutyana expressed their t condolences to the family and friends of the deceased member and wish the injured member a speedy and comprehensive recovery from his wounds.
South Africa’s commitment to UNAMID – Operation Cordite – ends on April 1 in terms of an agreement announced by the UN Department of Peacekeeping and South Africa’s permanent mission to the world body. South Africa has been part of UNAMID since January 2008 and was also a contributor to the mission’s forerunner – AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan).
The SANDF’s Operation Cordite started in July 2004 with the deployment of staff officers and observers to Darfur in Sudan in support of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Not too long afterwards South Africa was asked to deploy addition observers and staff officers to supplement then existing Sudan deployments but this ended when AMIS was terminated on December 31, 2007, to become the first hybrid AU/UN mission on January 1, 2008, called UNAMID. Early that year the UN requested South Africa to increase its contingent to a standard UN infantry battalion.
In November 2008 the SANDF component of UNAMID was increased to around the 800 mark, a figure that has remained constant since then.
Last year President Jacob Zuma, as commander-in-chief of the SANDF, extended the South African deployment in Darfur by 12 months. Keeping the 850 soldiers in Sudan until March 31 was estimated to cost R369,079,895 for the 12 months.
South African troops have seen several incidences of combat in Darfur, and have lost a number of soldiers in the process. On 27 September last year an 8 South African Infantry Battalion soldier was killed in an ambush in Darfur while escorting a UNAMID logistics convoy. The attack came just on a month after a similar attack by a rebel group on another UNAMID convoy in the same area.
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