South Africa: SA Withdraws Troops From Darfur

Cape Town — Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says a decision has been taken to withdraw the South African defence forces from Darfur, in Sudan, due to difficult working conditions.

The Minster announced this when she tabled the department's Budget Vote in the National Assembly, on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after South Africa had deployed forces to the Darfur region as part of the United Nations (UN)/ African Union (AU) hybrid mission.

"The Sudanese government made it increasingly difficult for us to provide logistic support to our troops, and impossible for our forces to protect the women and children of that country," she said.

The UN/AU hybrid mission, which was established in 2007, was given a mandate to protect civilians and contribute to security for humanitarian assistance, monitoring and verifying implementation of agreements, assisting an inclusive political process and contributing to the promotion of human rights.

The Minister said as a result of unfavourable conditions, a decision was taken to withdraw the force with effect from 1 April.

"This force will not be replaced.

"A team of logistical experts will manage the withdrawal of remaining SA National Defence Force assets over a six months period," she said.

The Minister said, meanwhile, that the South African Navy continues to patrol the Mozambique Channel in conjunction with the Air Force.

She said since the deployment of Navy assets in the Mozambique Channel, no further incidences of piracy have been reported.

"Nevertheless, we are mindful of the developing challenges in the Gulf of Guinea and have thus entered into discussions with the Namibian and Angolan governments to pursue joint maritime patrols along the West Coast," she said.

SANDF increases its presence along the borders

The Minister said the department has increased its presence along the border.

Despite tight budgetary constraints, the Minister said she has increased the number of companies deployed to the country's borders from 13 to 15.

"This is still short of the 22 companies stipulated in the National Security Strategy.

"Despite this shortfall, the SANDF achieved major successes during the past financial year.

"Reserves are currently contributing more than 50% of forces deployed on our books," she said.

She said, meanwhile, that government continues to be part of the United Nations Peace support and enforcement missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Defence forces recruiting under-represented communities

The Minister said, meanwhile, that she has instructed the Chief of the SANDF and Service Chiefs to target the recruitment of those communities under-represented in the Defence Force.

She said this comes after she expressed a strong wish to have a defence force that reflects the demographics of the country.

"One hundred and three young white recruits are currently undergoing training as part of the 2016 Military Skills Development System (MSDS) intake.

"This constitutes approximately 6% of the current intake, compared to 4% in the last intake.

"Nonetheless, this remains an area of concern and more work needs to be done," she said.

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