Crushing Boko Haram: How The Nigerian Government Used South African Mercenaries To Beat The Terrorists

Jinger Jarrett

One year after the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls, the terrorist organization Boko Haram finally met its match. Former president Goodluck Johnathan, in an desperate attempt to defeat Boko Haram prior to the elections earlier this year, combined forces with troops from Chad and Niger and private South African security firms.

Eben Barlow, former chairman of security firm Executive Outcomes and the current chairman of STTEP (Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment, and Protection), was named as the person behind one of these secretive firms contracted to train Nigerian troops in counterinsurgency.

In an interview Barlow gave to Special Operations Forces Situation Report (Sofrep), a website geared to Special Forces operators, he stated the following.

"The enemy tried to engage the strike force on several occasions but suffered the consequences of their actions. It was not uncommon for the strike force to be met by thousands of cheering locals once the enemy had been driven from an area."

Although the combination of these private security firms and foreign troops have seen great success in defeating Boko Haram, according to IOL, their efforts have also generated a lot of controversy. Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of South Africa stated that these former South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers would be arrested when they returned home. According to her, they are in violation of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.

Reports of the involvement of these private security firms first emerged in January in an Afrikaans language newspaper. Earlier this month, Mapisa-Nqakula expressed her displeasure over the move of these private security firms against Boko Haram (via the Zimbabwe Daily).

"They are mercenaries, whether they are training, skilling the Nigerian defense force, or scouting for them. The point is they have no business to be there. The police have a responsibility to ensure that, when they come back, those people are arrested and the [National Prosecutions Authority] has a responsibility to charge them. There are consequences for going out of the country and provide [sic] any form of military assistance as a mercenary, not as part of the deployment by government."

Apparently, STTEP isn't the only private security firm involved in helping to defeat Boko Haram. Leon Lotz, 59, a former member of the SADF and employee of Pilgrim Africa Ltd., another security firm, was killed earlier this year in a friendly fire incident when a Nigerian tank opened fire on his convoy. Lotz was from the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. Pilgrim Africa Ltd. was responsible for maintaining the vehicles used by the Nigerian military in their fight against Boko Haram.

Despite the controversy, Eben Barlow and roughly 300 aging members of the former SADF have managed to help turn the tide in stopping Boko Haram in Nigeria. Their exploits have included directing helicopter gunship assaults and running nighttime operations, according to the Financial Times.

Due to the success of these former soldiers on the battlefield, do you believe they should be arrested?

[Photo Credit Pixgood]