16 February, 2013

What Congo's Rebels in South Africa Really Means

by Hussein Solomon

The recent arrest of 19 Congolese rebels in South Africa’s Limpopo Province where they were undergoing paramilitary training to ostensibly overthrow the government of Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa raises interesting questions in terms of how South Africa has increasingly come to occupy a central role in promoting insecurity on the African continent and further afield.

Indeed, the arrest of these alleged rebels forms part of a pattern where South Africa has increasingly served as a base for various undesirable elements who use South Africa’s territory to plan attacks in other countries. Alternatively, South Africa is also used as a safe house by these elements where they can lie low. Last month, a suspected former Niger Delta rebel leader stood trial in a Johannesburg court for masterminding two lethal car bombings in Nigeria whilst he was living in South Africa in 2010.

Since at least in the 1990s, the incompetence of our security forces coupled with the corruption in our Department of Home Affairs has attracted some of the world’s worst undesirable elements. In 1996, the existence of five Hezbollah training camps in South Africa came to light. In October 1999, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, part of the Al Qaeda cell that attacked US embassies in East Africa, was arrested in Cape Town. In 2003, the Tunisian Ihsan Ganaoui was arrest in Germany for attempting terror attacks in the country – planning for it was done whilst he was in South Africa. By October 2004, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report noted that the second and third tier of Al Qaeda leadership may well be hiding in Pakistan, Iraq and South Africa. In August 2005, a joint South Africa and United State security operation discover a clandestine cell in Cape Town specializing in shipping Al Qaeda operatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the United Kingdom. Small wonder, then, that the British government imposed visa restrictions on South Africans. By May 2010 report of militant training camps in various provinces in South Africa once again surfaced.

The underlying point being made is a simple one. Unless our borders are made less porous, unless corruption within government departments are tackled head-on, unless our security forces are better trained and resourced, insecurity will continue to plague South Africa and from South Africa this insecurity will spread across the region and indeed the globe.

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