President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday says he is “very happy” because the Central African Republic (CAR) will be erecting a monument in honour of 13 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who were killed outside the capital, Bangui, by rebel fighters in 2013.
“President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has informed us that they will be building a memorial to the place where our soldiers were fighting, and some of them were killed there,” Zuma said while addressing a joint media briefing alongside Touadéra in Pretoria.
“We are very happy because that’s the very good, symbolic relationship that is between the two countries. Also it is to acknowledge that some of our soldiers fell there. So we are very happy.”
Addressing media through a translator, Touadéra paid tribute to the Pretoria authorities, and the people of South Africa, for support during the period of turmoil around 2013.
“I will take this opportunity to thank President Zuma, the government of South Africa and the South African people who have supported us during the crisis that we experienced in our country. During that crisis there are some South African soldiers that shed their blood in our country,” says Touadéra.
“In this regard, we are going to build a memorial to honour the fallen soldiers. This gesture will help us in strengthening peace and solidarity between the two countries.”
South African soldiers were withdrawn from Bangui in April 2013 after 13 SA National Defence Force members were killed in a fierce battle with the Seleka rebels.
Twenty-seven were wounded in the battle.
Pretoria deployed 200 soldiers to CAR in January 2013 to support the poorly trained, ill-equipped government troops following an offensive that had been launched by the Seleka rebels in December 2012.
The SANDF were sent to CAR under an agreement between South Africa and then CAR President Francois Bozize.
A nation of more than four million, the CAR is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium and oil. Despite these resources, it remains one of the world’s poorest nations with political instability and war worsening the situation.
Touadéra, a former prime minister during Bozize’s leadership, rose to the presidency in early 2016.
Touadéra had quit before Bozize was overthrown by the Seleka rebels.
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– By ANA