SA group to work in Guinea

2009-10-19 00:00

A GROUP of up to 50 South Africans and foreigners has apparently been recruited to lend armed support to the military junta in control of Guinea in West Africa.

The first few members of the group left last week for that country, where soldiers of the junta, using live ammunition, opened fire on opposition protesters on September 28, killing at least 157 people and wounding another 1 200.

Informed sources said the military involvement of South Africans in yet another unstable African country could cause renewed damage to this country’s international reputation. A group of South Africans was involved in a failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in 2004.

What is more, the latest actions could cause the tensions in Guinea to degenerate into total anarchy, experts have said.

The security company concerned has offices in Dubai in the Arab Emirates and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was no reply at any of the telephone numbers in those offices last week.

The company’s contract with the junta apparently involves VIP protection in the presidential guard, training, intelligence training and armed escorts.

There was also apparently an undertaking that the group of “security specialists” will “facilitate” the shipment of weapons for the junta from the Ukraine. The weapons are believed to have been shipped to Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia, from where the South Africans will escort them to Guinea. The reason for this is to prevent the monitoring of any direct weapon deliveries to the junta.

The company’s name is similar to that of a South African security concern that also provides foreign security services.

From e-mails seen by Beeld it appears that three South Africans left for Guinea on Tuesday last week.

Their travel arrangements are cryptic and secretive: “Before you board the aeroplane you will receive a call from our senior executive officer on his cellphone. He will bring you up to speed — so ensure that you can take the call.”

The South Africans will receive SIM cards and laptops to use and will not be allowed to use their own cellphones or equipment.

Beeld has heard that the group’s details have already been supplied to the South African security and intelligence community.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said it can take action only if South Africans land in any kind of trouble.

Omega Risk Solutions CEO Alex de Witt told Beeld he is aware of the allegations that the company concerned is active in Guinea. He is concerned his company may be confused with it, while he has no links with it.

“I’m even more concerned that South Africans may be exploited on the pretext of something being a legal security contract. In view of events in Guinea in the past few weeks, it is clear that any military support given to the junta could end up in a fiasco. It could also cause the South African government a great deal of embarrassment.”

A number of the South Africans recruited are believed to be former police officers.

The junta is said to be paying for the security contract in gold and other mineral mining concessions.

According to David Zounmenou, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies, there was already talk of foreign military aid to the junta at the time of the massacre in September.

The Economic Community of Countries in West Africa is investigating the incident, as is the International Criminal Court.

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