South Africa is considering sending soldiers and warships to Somalia following an African Union (AU) request earlier this week. The mission, if accepted, is not without risk.
Minister of Defence and National Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu warned members of parliament in Cape Town the mission would be more difficult than peacekeeping missions to date:
"It is a very different kind of war. The South African public would need to understand that this is in another realm."
South African troops are deployed in Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but these are peacekeeping missions, with low casualties usually caused by accidents, whereas in Somalia it would be a peace enforcement mission, according to Times Live.
Sisulu said President Jacob Zuma was looking into the matter and would consult with relevant members of cabinet to weigh the financial and other implications of committing troops to the war-torn country. She said South Africa would not have to pay all of the costs of a Somali deployment:
"If we were ever to go to Somalia, it would be a shared responsibility."
Sisulu warned South Africa could become a target of the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab group which was responsible for the Uganda bombings in which more than 80 people were killed, according to a report on the AllAfrica website.
However, commentators have pointed out that South Africa has a duty as the African continent’s biggest economy and regional power to respond to the AU call. The European Union (EU) requested South Africa’s help earlier.
Military commanders have insisted the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is ready to operate throughout Africa as peacekeepers and the Navy told Digital Journal it was ready to tackle the piracy problem, but the decision to deploy was political.
The decision seems imminent.