Peacekeeping: August 24, 2002


The UN announced on 21 August that South Africa has been asked to send a battalion of 1,500 peacekeeping troops to the Bunia area in the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, with the ongoing deployment in Burundi many analysts believe the South African army would be quite stretched. There are issues regarding the sustainability of both the Burundi and DRC missions.

The plan was to have one battalion deployed, with two in reserve and unit rotation every four months. This plan may lead to problems, since four months is hardly enough time for a unit to get familiar with it's surroundings. Due to the southeastern DRC's typography, air support would be a major focus of the mission, which implies heavy reliance on C-130 transports and Rooivalk helicopter gunships.

Jakkie Cilliers of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told the UN's press service that the age profile of the South African soldiers would be a problem. He claimed that for such a mission, one ideally wanted soldiers between 20 and 25 years of age and not 30 (as was the case with South Africa's ageing army). That seems to be opposite the US' operational experience, where the Pentagon has found that the older soldiers in National Guard units are more at ease with civilians and ultimately make better Peacekeepers. - Adam Geibel


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