Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) has responded to a report by Amnesty International alleging racial discrimination in recent helicopter rescue efforts by the South African private military contract group in Mozambique.
During an attack on Palma, Cabo Delgado, by the Islamist insurgent group known locally as, ‘Al-Shabaab’, DAG rescued some people trapped in the Amarula Palma Hotel. Amnesty International last week released a report on the attack that started on 24 March, stating that according to survivors, DAG mainly rescued white contractors and a few black nationals. An estimated 220 civilians sought refuge in the Amarula Palma Hotel: 200 were black nationals and 20 were white contractors. The report quoted witnesses testifying to racial discrimination allegations and added that the Amarula Palma Hotel manager’s two German Shepherds were prioritized for rescue over black locals.
DAG subsequently issued a response to set the record straight and stated that DAG rescued 24 people from the Amarula Hotel on 25 March, six of whom were white and 18 black from differing nationalities.
“The DAG team did not choose who would or would not be evacuated, they secured the landing site and loaded the people that were sent to them for evacuation by the lodge manager; this was done six people at a time, at no time did our staff enter the lodge whilst undertaking the evacuations,” the company said.
DAG clarified that it did not evacuate the Lodge Manager and his dogs; this was a private arrangement made with a commercial charter company (apparently Everett Aviation).
“As well as the people that we evacuated from Amarula lodge we also managed to evacuate all the people trapped in Wentworth Compound, Banotti Compound, Palma Village and the WBHO site,” DAG stated. “As well as these main sites we also evacuated people from many other locations as they could be identified, or information was given to us of people trapped in the ongoing fighting.”
DAG said that most of the people that we rescued over the 10-day period that it undertook operations in Palma were Mozambican nationals, “in fact of the 240 people that we got to safety at the Afungi Peninsula only 12 were white, and two of those where bodies that we recovered so that they could be returned to their families.”
DAG concluded by stating, “We stand committed to our Human Rights obligations as encapsulated in our company policies and are incredibly proud of our team and the efforts that they made during this attack to support and save as many of the civilians stuck in the middle of the fighting – this was done at great personal risk to themselves. This is one of, if not the largest helicopter rescue operation of civilians during an ongoing battle in modern times.”
Survivors told Amnesty International that there was a disagreement between the Mozambique security forces and DAG regarding who was responsible for rescuing people during the Palma attack. The breakdown in communication meant the civilian survivors were essentially abandoned to flee for their lives, having been left at the mercy of Al Shabaab. A number were killed when they attempted to flee in a vehicle convoy.