South Africa has deployed 400 soldiers to the troubled Central African Republic, where a rebellion threatens to overthrow the elected government.
Following Central African Republic (CAR) president Francois Bozize's call to the US and especially the former colonial power, France, which were quickly rebuffed, CAR has turned to the African Union and regional political blocs for help.
The Seleka ("Alliance") rebels, a coalition of forces made up of three former rebel groups, was expected to arrive Monday in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, but lacks air transport.
Talks were pencilled in for Tuesday. The talks might be hampered by a rebel demand for President Bozizwe to step down, which he is not prepared to do.
The South African troops, along with Chadian soldiers, are expected to prevent the rebels from entering the capital, Bangui, and are also continuing to train CAR soldiers. The South African Defence Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, visited the CAR on January 31, to size up the situation. The mandate of the newly-deployed reinforced infantry company (about 200 soldiers) is to last up to five years. Chadian troops, and likely some of the South Africans, will deploy at the town of Damara, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Bangui.
Other African countries, including Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon have sent troops to CAR.
Unlike the US and France, the AU is primarily concerned with maintaining stability in African countries, and the rebellion in CAR is a carbon copy of that which recently happened in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by the M23 group, which captured the regional capital, Goma. However, South African peacekeepers held the airport, which never came under rebel control.
The rebels are using a very old African trick, which is used when a party or group loses an election: The group demands the formation of a "Government of National Unity", which means members of rebel groups or defeated parties get into the government, thus circumventing the democratic process.
Meanwhile, a UN report warns of a serious humanitarian crisis developing in rebel-held areas, so far affecting over 300,000 people. People have fled from the general direction of the rebel advance and the UN expressed concern that its relief teams could not reach the refugees.