Monday, October 26, 2020

The ghost of Botswana’s past relationship with mercenaries resurfaces

The Botswana government’s embarrassing past with Executive Outcomes, a mercenary group that was contracted to train the Botswana defence Force (BDF) special forces and the Debswana security is refusing to go away as the guns for hire outfit enters the fight between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.

International publications covering the re-surfacing of Executive Outcomes in the war against Boko Haram are tracing the Mercenary outfit to Botswana were the mercenary army had the first contract that launched them.

Other research reports trace the relationship between Executive Outcomes and the Botswana government as far back as the relationship between the Botswana government and the South African National Intelligence Services (NIS) towards the end of Apartheid”.

A SADC research report published in the distant past claims that there are “suggestions of covert collaborations between Botswana authorities, Debswana and the South African National Intelligence Services (NIS) towards the end of Apartheid”.

The report that was compiled by Bench Mark Foundation claimed that is why Executive Outcomes, founder Eeben Barlow was contracted to design Debswana security training manuals, to conduct training and give advice for De Beers and Debswana security personnel.

Barlow’s connections with the DeBeers diamond cartel allegedly helped expedite the start-up of Executive Outcomes. Barlow worked for DeBeers in the late ’80s and early ’90s, handling DeBeers’ corporate counterintelligence. He was also contracted to establish and train a covert group for the De Beers diamond company in Botswana, Debswana, with the aim of infiltrating and penetrating the illegal diamond-buying and smuggling syndicates.

Investigations into a Hong Kong bank account in the name Executive Outcome /Sandline Holdings turned up the signature of Barlow along side than of Simon Mann who was arrested for participating in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea in exchange for oil concessions.

Another former member of Executive Outcomes claimed that President Ian Khama had links with Military Technology Services (MTS), a mercenary outfit that was allegedly engaged to train Botswana’s Special Forces.

Revealing how MTS boss Nigel Morgan allegedly sold out Simon Mann, leading to the failure of the planned coup in Equatorial Guinea, the unnamed mercenary told the media that MTS enjoyed a good relationship with Botswana’s Ian Khama, at the time he was the Minister of Defence, and helped train Botswana’s Special Forces.

The instructors were all members of Executive Outcomes. The mercenary is further quoted saying, “There was no doubt that British intelligence and the British government were aware of this military arrangement with a mercenary force.” The Debswana contract with Barlow allegedly came to an end when Executive Outcomes was contracted by the MPLA government in Angola to fight against UNITA in 1993. With funding from the Angolan state oil company, Simon Mann spearheaded a very dangerous operation with Barlow’s Executive Outcomes using only a few MiG helicopters and a few dozen black African expat mercenaries, which would be transported by ship. Mann and Barlow eventually defeated the UNITA. Soon after, Mann and Barlow were given another contract by the dos Santos government to deal directly with UNITA forces, and by 1994 the company “dramatically tilted the balance of the conflict”. By November 2004, the two warring sides signed the Lusaka Protocol, temporarily ending the conflict in Angola.

According to the report, the Debswana contract with Barlow was terminated because De Beers saw the relationship between Barlow and the MPLA government “as a threat to its illicit trade in conflict diamonds” with UNITA. The Botswana government has in the past denied the relationship between Khama and the mercenaries.

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