Nkoana-Mashabane slams SA soldiers’ role in Nigeria

2015-01-27 15:57

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has expressed her “dismay” about South African ex-soldiers who have been contracted as experts to help the Nigerian army fight the Boko Haram scourge.

“We always discourage South Africans to enter the fray in a situation like that,” she told journalists today in Addis Ababa, ahead of the African Union summit there.

She said she is yet to receive confirmation from defence officials on the situation, and they were only due to arrive in Addis Ababa later this week.

“We’ve also read with dismay in the newspapers that there was such,” she said.

Beeld newspaper yesterday reported that a team of about 100 soldiers have gone to Nigeria – at that government’s request – to help train soldiers to hit back at the terrorist group which has claimed responsibility for attacks in which thousands of people have died over the past few years.

A member of the South African team said they weren’t mercenaries, but helped with training to skill Nigerian soldiers. The first goal would be to stop the terrorists’ bloody raids, and also to free the remainder of the 200 Chibok girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram last year.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) reportedly said it was unaware of the effort.

Nkoana-Mashabane did not want to talk about government or regional plans to intervene in the situation in Nigeria, but said these would be discussed during a meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council on Thursday.

The meeting is due to get feedback on the plans of the regional Economic Community of West African States and how the African Union is set to support these.

She did express concern that Boko Haram’s “tentacles” were also spreading to Nigeria’s neighbouring countries.

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