The Sudanese government of president Omar al-Bashir literally held a gun to South Africa’s head to secure his safe return to Khartoum.
Netwerk24 can reveal that about 800 South African soldiers in Darfur were held “hostage” by Sudanese troops when the drama around Al-Bashir’s possible arrest in South Africa escalated.
According to military experts, this effectively means Sudan blackmailed South Africa and the soldiers’ lives served as a guarantee for Al-Bashir’s safe return.
Only after Al-Bashir safely touched down in Khartoum on Monday, were Sudanese troops withdrawn. President Jacob Zuma is the commander-in-chief of the defence force.
“We were so scared – we were surrounded by soldiers. We handed out extra ammunition to all our troops in case they needed it,” said one South African soldier in Sudan on Tuesday.
“I am so thankful that South Africa did not arrest Bashir. The battalion commander said after Bashir touched down safely in Khartoum, all the [Sudanese] troops were withdrawn. The calamity has returned to normal,” reads a message sent by a soldier in Darfur to his friends in South Africa.
About 1 400 South African soldiers are serving in Darfur as part of a combined African Union/United Nations peace mission (Unamid). The current group are from 8 SA Infantry Battalion in Upington.
“Our nerves were shot and we were very relieved when the militants withdrew on Monday evening. We knew we were sitting ducks,” said a South African soldier.
Unamid said it was unaware of the situation.