by Staff Writers
Johannesburg (AFP) March 31, 2013
South African soldiers who survived last week's rebel takeover of the Central African Republic are traumatised after discovering later that some of the rebels killed were child soldiers, local Sunday newspapers reported.
In what has turned out to be South Africa's heaviest military loss since apartheid, 13 soldiers were killed last weekend in Bangui in clashes with Seleka rebels who toppled president Francois Bozize.
Around 200 South African troops fought against some 3,000 rebels during the battle for the Central African capital that lasted several hours.
Some of survivors who have returned home recounted to local newspapers that they only discovered after the battle that they had been fighting against some teenage rebel soldiers.
"It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids. We did not come here for this... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help... calling for (their) moms," a paratrooper told the Sunday Times.
South African President Jacob Zuma in January had approved the deployment of 400 soldiers to the Central African Republic to help local troops. as part of a bilateral pact with the administration of now deposed Bozize. In the end about 200 soldiers were sent.
Some of the Central African rebels were "teenagers who should be in school," the soldier told the paper.
In the City Press a soldier was quoted as saying many of the rebels were "only children".
The two papers also quoted the soldiers saying the South African troops were running out of ammunition.
South Africa's government now faces increasing calls at home for a probe into why troops were sent to the Central African Republic.
Zuma is due to attend an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on Wednesday to be hosted by the Chadian leader Idriss Deby Itno.
DR Congo hails UN approval of 'offensive' peacekeeprs
"The DRC welcomes this vote, which marks a decisive turning point for re-establishing peace and security in the Kivu" regions, Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo said in a statement.
He was referring to the North and South Kivu provinces in the resource-rich east of the country, which has been gripped by conflict for more than two decades.
The launching of the brigade "is the beginning of the end of armed groups and sends a very clear signal to those supporting them," Ponyo said.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a brigade of more than 2,500 troops with orders to "neutralise" and "disarm" armed groups in eastern DR Congo.
The intervention brigade and surveillance drones to monitor the DR Congo's borders with neighbours accused of backing the rebels will be operating by July, according to UN officials.
The force will launch UN peacekeeping operations into a new era, said diplomats who negotiated its preparation.
The resolution's mandate to conduct "targeted offensive operations" has never been given to a peacekeeping mission before, diplomats said.
The brigade and drones are part of a new UN campaign to end conflict in DR Congo's border regions with Rwanda and Uganda. Eleven African nations signed a UN-brokered accord last month pledging not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours.
Rwanda, a temporary African member of the Security Council, joined the other 14 members in voting for the resolution.
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|