Jacob Zuma discusses war-torn Central African Republic at summit in Chad

CAR president claims Chadian ‘special forces’ led operation that ousted his regime

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma at the recent Brics Summit in Durban. Photograph: Rogan Ward/Reuters

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma at the recent Brics Summit in Durban. Photograph: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Thu, Apr 4, 2013, 05:00


South African president Jacob Zuma attended a regional summit in Chad yesterday tasked with restoring order in war-torn Central African Republic, amid allegations the hosts supported rebels who killed 13 South African troops last month.

Former CAR president François Bozizé told the BBC prior to the meeting that “Chadian special forces” led the rebel operation that ousted his regime, and attacked about 200 South African troops stationed in the capital, Bangui, to protect assets and train government forces.

The Chadian government has yet to respond to the allegation made by Mr Bozizé, but its one-time steadfast support for the former CAR leader has waned. Chadian president Idriss Déby did not invite Mr Bozizé to yesterday’s summit.

“On Saturday, March 23rd, we had destroyed [the rebel] Seleka forces but overnight into Sunday 24th, we knew that there had been support from an African country, which I inevitably believe was Chad,” Mr Bozizé said. “It was Chadian special forces that led the operation . . . and attacked the base of the South Africans.”

After a 13-hour battle, 13 South African troops were killed and a further 27 injured. Since then the South Africans have withdrawn most of their troops from CAR, but local newspapers claim they have begun to amass more soldiers, fighter jets and helicopters in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

The South African military has denied it is set to re-engage in CAR, saying the troop buildup was linked to its UN obligations in DRC. Mr Zuma also says his government will take its cue from the Central African region and the African Union on what to do next in CAR.

The accusation made by Mr Bozizé has increased the pressure on South Africa’s leader at a time when he is also facing growing opposition at home to his refusal to end his country’s involvement in CAR.

The African National Congress government has been accused by the media of supporting Mr Bozizé and his regime in return for mining concessions given to members of the ruling party.The presidency denies the accusation, maintaining the origin of the country’s presence in CAR is linked to peacekeeping efforts that began in the mid-2000s.