PRETORIA, South Africa and the Central African Republic have committed themselves to working together to enhance close political, economic and social cooperation for the mutual benefit of their people.
In this regard, the two countries have decided to establish a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) which will manage and coordinate bilateral cooperation.
This emerged when President Jacob Zuma hosted his CAR counterpart Faustin Archange Touadera, who is on a working visit, in Pretoria.
President Zuma and President Touadera have directed their respective Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation and Foreign Affairs and African Integration to work out the modalities of the JCC, which they believe will boost economic and trade relations between them.
“We need to strengthen our ties in the economy. They are very keen that investors from South Africa can come to CAR so that we can have economic interaction which can benefit both countries,” President Zuma told a joint media briefing after the official talks which lasted over five hours.
Relations between South Africa and CAR have in the past being monitored under the Framework Co-operation Agreement signed in 2006. It promoted political, economic, social, security, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation.
The two Presidents called on the relevant structures of their governments, as well as private sector to take advantage of the abundant opportunities for bilateral trade and investments in their respective countries.
A nation of more than four million, the CAR is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium and oil. But despite these resources, it remains one of the world’s poorest nations due to political instability and war.
The security situation in CAR was also top of the agenda.
CAR was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when Muslim rebels from the Seleka umbrella group seized power in the majority Christian country.
President Touadera, a former prime minister and maths professor, was declared the winner of a presidential election in February 2016. The President is seen as crucial to turning the page on years of sectarian violence.
Both Presidents Zuma and Touadera acknowledged that although the CAR has made significant strides in the past 16 months, with the adoption of the constitution, parliamentary and presidential elections and the formation of an inclusive government, the country nevertheless still faced significant challenges with socio-economic development, institution building, peace, security and stability.
The Presidents reaffirmed the urgent need for armed groups in the interior African country to lay down arms and take part in security sector reform and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) programme.
President Touadera has already initiated a dialogue towards peace, reconciliation and unity with one of the armed groups.
Monument to pay tribute to SANDF
Speaking through an interpreter, President Touadera used his address to announce that they will build a monument to pay tribute to SANDF members who lost their lives there.
About 15 SANDF members died during clashes with Seleka rebels in the outskirts Bangui in 2013.
Twenty-seven were wounded in the battle. Pretoria had deployed 200 soldiers to CAR in January 2013 to support the poorly trained, ill-equipped government troops following an offensive that had been launched by the Seleka rebels in December 2012.
The SANDF were sent to CAR under an agreement between South Africa and then CAR President Francois Bozize.
President Touadera said the monument is a gesture of strengthening solidarity between South Africa and CAR as Pretoria supported them in bring out peace and stability.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Zuma, the government of South Africa and the South African people who have supported us during the crisis that we experienced in our country. During that crisis there are some South African soldiers that shed their blood in our country.
“In this regard, we are going to build a memorial to honour the fallen soldiers. This gesture will help us in strengthening peace and solidarity between the two countries,” said President Touadera.
Pretoria welcomed the news of the monument with President Zuma saying: “We are very happy because that’s the very good, symbolic relationship that is between the two countries. Also it is to acknowledge that some of our soldiers fell there. So we are very happy.”
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told SAnews that the building of the monument is a very positive step.
“It is a very positive step to recognise, acknowledge and honour the soldiers who lost their lives on the line of duty. We hope that in that wall the names of the 15 South African soldiers will be written. For me that allows for us to close the chapter. It will allow for the families of these soldiers to go to the monument and honour their loved ones – a process that we will facilitate – and close the chapter.”
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK