Is South Africa contemplating involvement in Somalia?
The question arises in the wake of SA winding up its successful eight-year peace mission in Burundi – and follows a report in the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times on December 26 quoting a Somali news site as alleging that the SA Secret Service (SASS) was spying on the African Union peacekeeping mission there.
The Somali news site said at least two officials were under investigation for passing on “sensitive information” to the SASS and the United States Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The report claims that the African Union is probing the activities of an intelligence analyst from an East African country and a Somali-Tanzanian who works for the United Nations Support Office for Amisom (UNSOA) in Nairobi. “(They) have reportedly been recruited separately to spy both on Amisom (African Union Mission to Somalia) and Somalis with the view of undermining the Djibouti Process and assisting the West in the War on Terror in East Africa,” the news site mareeg.com reported under the headline “Somali Spy Network Exposed”.
SASS head Mo Shaik would only tell the Sunday Times: “All I can say is that we will neither confirm nor deny any of these allegations.” It is not clear why SA or the US would want to undermine the Djibouti process which both support, nor how recruiting “spies” at UNSOA would achieve this aim. (The process is seeking to bring peace to the anarchic country that has been without an effective government since 1991.)
I thus discount the allegation. It is however possible the SASS is indeed monitoring the country and Amisom, made up of troops from Uganda and Burundi. SA has both the means and probably the opportunity. But what about motive? Is the SASS sourcing information on which to build an intelligence briefing to Cabinet whether or not SA should send peacekeepers to bolster Amisom?
Time will tell…