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South African "bodyguards" to Bujumbura, Burundi

Date: 29 October 2001

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The first 240-strong contingent of South African tropps arrived in Burundi from AFB Waterkloof via an SAA Boeing 747SP today.

The 240 soldiers, most of them logistics and technical support specialists, are the first group of a total of 701 South Africa troops who will be deployed in Burundi by Thursday. Mandela, the chief mediator in the Burundi peace process, pressed hard for his country to commit to sending troops for the protection force so that the transitional government, a key ingredient in the peace accord designed to end eight years of civil war, could be installed on schedule. The first group's mission will be to set up the South African headquarters and a camp in Burundi, a South African military spokesman said. A second group of 240 South African soldiers is set to leave for Bujumbura on Tuesday, with 221 more heading out on Thursday. The second and third waves of South African troops will include soldiers directly involved in protecting Burundian exiles returning to take part in the transitional government.

The South African contingent is made up of elements from 43 SA Brigade headquarters, 1 Parachute Battalion, the SA Air Force (pilots, ground crew as well as VIP protection teams), the SA Military Health Service and logistics experts. Two utility helicopters and about a dozen Casspir armoured personnel carriers will be deployed to Burundi. Rooivalk attack helicopters are also being considered.


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