JOHANNESBURG/BANGUI: South Africa's opposition said yesterday it plans to lodge a parliamentary motion to force the government to immediately withdraw troops stationed in the Central African Republic after 13 soldiers died there in a rebel-led coup.
The deaths of the troops in battles with rebels who seized Bangui on March 24, South Africa's heaviest military loss since apartheid, has raised questions over why they were deployed in the troubled nation.
The official line has been that a small contingent was sent to train local forces under a 2007 deal between President Jacob Zuma and the now deposed Central African president Francois Bozize.
But local media reports suggested that the soldiers were sent to protect the business interests of certain South African politicians in the Central Africa Republic. The opposition Democratic Alliance said in a statement it would submit an urgent parliamentary resolution "to compel the president to bring our soldiers back home."
"Given the continued controversy surrounding the deployment, the lack of a clear mandate for our troops to remain in the CAR, the continued risk to the soldiers' safety and rumours that the (military) is considering a 'revenge' mission into the CAR, we believe the entire... presence should be withdrawn immediately," it said. Zuma is under pressure to explain why troops were sent to the Central African Republic and to give details on what happened during the deadly battle for Bangui.
Govt is formed in Central Africa
Meanwhile, the Central African Republic's prime minister has named mostly rebels and opposition figures to his new post-coup government, as reports emerged of child soldiers killed in the fight for the capital. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, who has been allowed to keep his post by new strongman Michel Djotodia, whose rebels seized the capital a week ago, named a 34-member cabinet Sunday that includes nine ministers from the Seleka rebel coalition.