Hundreds of former South African reconnaissance soldiers (“reccies”) continue to serve as soldiers of fortune in a number of foreign dirty wars despite it being illegal under South African law, and despite the UN warning that one company with links to South Africa presented the biggest threat to the failed state of Somalia.
However, last week Somalia’s minister of information for the country’s Transitional Federal Government, Abdulkareem Jama, said that his country would most probably end its relationship with Saracen International, a private company employing South African mercenaries and with an office in South Africa.
Saracen has links with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, the American security company involved in atrocities committed in Iraq against both prisoners and Iraqi civilians during the invasion of the country.
“At this point, our collective thinking is that this is not a good thing. We don’t want to have anything to do with Blackwater. We need help, but we don’t want mercenaries,” Jama told journalists.
The company, comprising a group of shadowy private military contractors that evolved from the joint SA/British mercenary outfit Executive Outcomes, has no permission to operate as a security provider in Somalia which has had no functioning central government for 20 years.
The UN Security Council warned eight months ago that Saracen International represented the “most egregious threat” to peace and security in the failed state of Somalia. It also stated that Saracen continues to run and train a private army in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and an arms embargo.
The council also moved last week to cripple anti-government fighters financially by ordering an international ban on trade in charcoal from Somalia.
Exports of charcoal from the port of Kismayu in southern Somalia generate at least $15m (R115m) a year in revenues for the al-Shebab militants, according to a report by the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG).
SEMG confirmed that Saracen had permission from the international community to operate as a private military contractor in Somalia after it warned last year that the company was operating in Somalia illegally.
Tlali Tlali, the spokesman for the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, also confirmed in a media report that neither the South African arm of the Saracen operation, nor any of the individuals associated with the Somali venture had applied for accreditation as legitimate security contractors.
Ostensibly, Saracen is in Somalia to train forces from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). However, since early 2011 it has been exclusively contracted to the administration of Abdurahman Farole, “president” in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
Puntland security forces were involved in a 2010 massacre of nomads in which 36 men, women and children were killed.
Lafras Luitingh, a former “reccie” implicated in South African apartheid hit squads, heads the company’s operations in Somalia. He was implicated in the cover-up of the murder of anti-apartheid activist David Webber by a hit squad. Former SA Special Forces soldiers have also been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan.