Only 'Koevoet' can defeat Boko Haram

The key to defeating Boko Haram is to send in units that actually know what they are doing in African warfare. If we want to win, we need to bite the bullet and bring in South Africa's toughest, and there were none tougher than Koevoet

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Koevoet veterans
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Robin Mitchinson
On 24 July 2015 05:22

Boko Haram was quiet for a while. Now it is back with a vengeance. What has been going on? The explanation involves SSTEP -- Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection.

This is the successor to Executive Outcomes (EO), a private army that existed in South Africa from 1989 to 2000, both founded by Colonel Barlow, a former commander in the South African Defence Force.

In 1995, EO gave the arm-choppers of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone a good thrashing. There was relative peace until EO was withdrawn and the mayhem began all over again, until it was finally snuffed out by the Royal Marines and the Paras,

Now history is repeating itself.

When Nigerian forces proved to be very bad at fighting Boko Haram but very good at robbing, kidnapping and murdering innocent civilians, the then-President Goodluck Jonathan turned to Col.Barlow.

At its peak, the army numbered around 1,500 men, mostly battle-hardened veterans who had honed their trade in Angola and Namibia..

They were dubbed ‘koevoet’ -- the crowbar -- as tough as they come, skilled at arms, and very experienced in bush-warfare. They were the only multi-racial fighting unit in the South African military.

Of course, they are now ageing but they reckon that it’s experience that counts more than youthfulness.

About 100 men were deployed in Nigeria, and they were equipped with attack helicopters. Their key tactic is ‘relentless pursuit’ in which they chased Boko Haram into exhaustion and then cut off their escape routes by landing troops ahead of them.

Boko Haram got hammered and fled back into the bush.

Then the Nigerians got a new Big Man when Jonathan lost the Presidential election. He promptly sacked all his top generals. He also got rid of the South Africans.

And Boko Haram immediately returned, now affiliated to ISIL. No surprise there, then.

The lesson is blindingly obvious.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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