After 14 South African soldiers died on the streets of Bangui, South Africa's military commitment to the Central African Republic halted abruptly. This was a popular decision at home. But was it the right one? Is there anything we could have done to prevent the CAR's swift descent into chaos and humanitarian crisis? SIMON ALLISON looks for answers.
In March last year, South African troops were caught up in a firefight as rebels advanced on the Central African Republic capital Bangui. Fourteen of them died in the scuffle. South Africans were outraged: what were our soldiers doing there? Why weren't they better prepared?
Under huge public pressure, the South African National Defence Force withdrew its soldiers from the country. South Africa drew a line under an embarrassing incident, and attention promptly moved on to the next big scandal.
But in CAR, the situation rapidly deteriorated. The rebels have proved to be even worse governors than the administration they deposed, the rebel leader largely powerless to control his own militants, never mind the country. Fighting between militants and rag-tag self-defence groups have left a trail of dead and injured in their wake; and, as always, civilians have suffered the most from...