S.Africa has ‘no plans’ to send troops to Mali
South Africa was not planning to send soldiers to help Mali's government battle Islamist rebels that have occupied the north of the country, the foreign affairs spokesman said Sunday.
“I’m not aware of such plans. If there’s such a decision there will be an announcement,” the foreign ministry’s Clayson Monyela told AFP.
President Jacob Zuma said last September his country could send troops to the embattled West African nation if the UN approved a West African military mission.
Senior officers from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were expected in Bamako on Sunday to prepare for the arrival of the first troops to help the Mali government reclaim control of the north.
The UN Security Council in December approved a 3,300-strong African force to help Mali defeat the rebels, but it had not been expected to deploy before September.
Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Togo all pledged around 500 troops this weekend while Benin has said it will send 300 soldiers.
Backed by French air power, Malian troops on Friday unleashed an offensive against Islamist rebels who they said were threatening to push south.
French forces on Sunday carried out airstrikes for a third straight day and extended their bombing campaign to the northern strongholds of the Islamists.
Tuareg rebels, other separatists and Al-Qaeda linked groups took advantage of a coup in Mali in March last year to seize a vast chunk of territory where the militants have imposed a brutal form of Islamic law.
South Africa, a major continental military power, sent 200 troops to the Central African Republic early January as rebels advanced on the capital Bangui.
Pretoria insisted the deployment followed the renewal of a 2007 capacity-building agreement with the government.