Defeated and humiliated by the Seleka rebels of the Central African Republic, who killed 13 of their colleagues and wounded 27, South African troops head for another war – this time in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 50 rebel groups lie in the bushes and ready to fight.
The South African troops will be part of the UN special brigade, and will fight alongside troops from Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi, among others.
It remains unclear whether the South Africans, who could not withstand the not-so-hot heat of Bangui, will be up to the task against much more motivated, well-equipped and well-trained rebel fighters, most of whom are trained and equipped by Rwanda and Uganda.
An M23 rebel leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, said last week that his force will not attack the UN special brigade, but warned that it will defend itself if attacked.
“The retaliation would be very catastrophic and apocalyptic,” Bisimwa told reporters in Bunagana, an M23 stronghold in North Kivu, 54 kilometres from the Ugandan border.
But the South African army said its troops were not afraid of Mé” or any other rebel groups.
“We are not scared to go to war. If they declare war against our troops, we are ready to tackle them,” army spokesperson Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga told Auckland Park-based SAfm radio station. SAfm is owned by the country’s public broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
“We, as the South African National Defence Force, will never be deterred by any circumstances to pursue or do what we are asked to do by the government of South Africa.”
South Africa already has 1 200 troops in DR Congo, as part of a 20 000-strong UN ‘ineffective’ peacekeeping force.
Only time will tell.
*Photo by Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images [Telegraph]. A DRC woman carries her belonging in her back, seeking refuge from the war.