Sierra Leone jungle training underlines Britain’s role in Africa


From the jungles of Sierra Leone to the shores of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, Britain has stepped up its support to Africa.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has underlined the breadth of UK contribution across the continent, and has now announced the training of UK Armed Forces alongside Sierra Leonean troops for the first time ever, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on 7 January.

Nearly 90 soldiers from 1st The Queen’s Dragoons Guards’ ‘B’ Squadron recently deployed alongside 25 soldiers from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces for a jungle exercise to learn the skills to live and fight in this environment.

UK focus on military support to Africa is strong, and two-thirds of Britain’s entire global short-term training team effort is invested in the continent, which equates to around 18,000 man days of training per year, the MoD said.
“Training with Sierra Leonean forces is just the latest example of the UK stepping up globally to tackle international threats that put Britain at risk. Backed by Britain’s rising Defence budget and by working with allies in Africa, Britain’s armed forces can help ensure stability in the region which helps to deliver security at home in the UK,” Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said.

At sea, the UK has sent Royal Navy ships to support Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean, focused on tackling human smugglers and arms traffickers who endanger the lives of migrants seeking to travel to Europe, often from northern Africa.

Since 2015, this has included the deployment of HMS Bulwark, HMS Enterprise, HMS Echo, HMS Diamond, HMS Richmond and RFA Mounts Bay, and UK ships have saved nearly 15,000 of the 31,000 migrants rescued during the operation, as well as constricting the activity of criminal gangs.

The UK also plays a longstanding leading role in a separate operation in the Indian Ocean, focused on targeting piracy off the coast of Somalia.

As well as countering Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria, the UK also plays a role stemming extremism in Africa, supporting security in the countries affected, in turn making Britain safer.

In Tunisia, the UK helps defend against Daesh by training Tunisian forces in border security to prevent illegal movement from Libya, and protecting against the threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), and around 1,000 members of the Tunisian Armed Forces have been trained in counter-IED techniques.

In Nigeria, British troops continue to train Nigeria Armed Forces fighting Boko Haram. Over 350 British troops deployed to Nigeria in 2016 in support of the resident British Military Advisory and Training Team, including a 70-strong team from the RAF Regiment to help train its Nigerian counterpart, the largest Short Term Training Team the UK has sent to Nigeria to date.

In total, around 22,000 Nigerian military personnel have been trained since April 2015, underlining the scale of UK support. This follows the Defence Secretary’s announcement last year of a doubling of UK personnel to train Nigerian forces, and Britain has also recently provided life-saving medical supplies to equip 5,000 Nigerian troops as they take on the extremist group.

Separately, the UK has stepped up its presence in Somalia, and around 65 UK troops are backing UN, EU and African Union efforts in country, supporting work to build stability, enhance the effectiveness of the Somali National Army, and help neutralise the threat posed by Al-Shabaab extremists. A UK Headquarters has been established in Mogadishu to coordinate UK effort in Somalia.
“Wherever terrorism rears its ugly head, Britain will continue to back our friends as they work to defeat threats posed by these barbaric groups, including Daesh, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. By helping our allies defeat terrorism and international crime around the world, our Armed Forces make the world more stable making Britain more secure and our streets safer,” Fallon said.

UK support to UN operations also extends to peacekeeping in South Sudan, and at the UK-hosted UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial in September Sir Michael announced an uplift of British troops supporting this effort, meaning up to 400 are due to deploy to the UN Mission in South Sudan, as well as the UK setting up a field hospital.

Illegal wildlife trade is a challenge that blights much of Africa. In 2017 a British Army team will deploy to Malawi to train a new force of anti-poaching trackers, helping counter the threat of poaching, and bring those responsible to justice. Separately, around 850 Malawians are trained per year by the British Peace Support Team in South Africa, in support of their contribution to the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UK military personnel have previously carried out anti-poaching training in Gabon, in Uganda, and the British Army Training Unit Kenya is supporting the building of an elephant fence in Kenya to protect the endangered animals from poachers, and protect the British training area, local people and resources.

The UK contribution in Africa also involves working alongside other international partners. This includes joint maritime support, sharing ideas and intelligence, and, following the Amiens Summit in March, the UK provides a monthly C-17 flight to French forces in the Sahel, which will continue through to spring 2017.

Persistent Defence Engagement underpins the UK’s relationship with our partners in Africa. Last month the Defence Secretary announced a new British Defence Staff (BDS) for West Africa, based in Abuja, in addition to BDSs in the Gulf and Asia Pacific.

The BDS West Africa will act as a regional hub for the UK’s Defence efforts. This will include engaging with Nigeria and other countries around the Lake Chad Basin, focusing in particular on the transnational threats from Boko Haram terrorists.

There are 16 Defence Sections across Africa, which cover 40 countries. This includes a new Defence Section in Senegal, covering the Sahel. The UK also has an enduring footprint in several nations, through resident military training teams in Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa.