All goes well for rebels with chosen wheels

2013-04-28 14:00

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It’s probably an endorsement Toyota can do without: the motoring giant’s Land Cruiser has become the vehicle of choice for rebel groups across Africa in the past few years.

Many of the vehicles are lavishly decked out with home-made camouflage.

Others have machine guns mounted at the back, and during the Libyan rebellion two years ago, there were some sporting anti-aircraft guns.

More recently, South African soldiers in the Central African Republic had first-hand experience of today’s rapidly moving rebels during the battle of Bangui.

Thousands of them advanced to the outskirts of the capital in the blink of an eye – with Land Cruisers as their steeds.

In Chad, Sudan, Niger and other war-torn spots on the continent, rebels seem to have unlimited access to the vehicles they need for moving quickly over poor roads.

Toyota does not care to elaborate on the rebels’ preferences, but presumably they know what the vehicles’ legal owners know: it’s not easy to break a Cruiser.

A few years ago, the defence force in South Africa did tests with military-issue and Toyota double-cab bakkies.

The traditional military vehicles were almost overshadowed by the ordinary soft body Toyota.

The Cruiser is even harder.

Military expert Helmoed-Römer Heitman said the main reason for Cruisers’ popularity is that they are readily available – unlike military vehicles that are controlled items and will not be sold to ordinary rebels.

“There are scores of Cruisers in Africa, so it’s not difficult to get hold of parts.

“They are easy to run, and they can take a hammering, even if there’s a heavy machine gun mounted at the back.

“Carrying this kind of weaponry, they will probably not keep going indefinitely, but then most rebellions don’t last that long either,” Heitman said.

Most second-hand Land Cruisers, sources in the industry told City Press, come from Africa and South America.

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