The South African Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana – Mashabane, has expressed dismay at the news that a team of about 100 ex-soldiers in the country have been hired by Nigeria to help train its soldiers.
Addressing journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was billed to attend the African Union summit later this week, the minister stated that the South African government discourages ‘South Africans to enter the fray in a situation like that.”
Nkoana-Mashabane also said that she received the news with ‘dismay’ when she read the report in the newspaper while acknowledging that she is yet to receive any confirmation from defence officials on the situation.
Although she expressed concern that Boko Haram’s influence and activities were spreading beyond Nigerian borders, Nkoana-Mashabane declined commenting on South African government or regional plans of intervention in the situation in Nigeria.
She, however, assured journalists present that the issue of the insurgency in Nigeria would be discussed during a meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council on Thursday.
The news about the Nigerian government’s hiring of mercenaries to help train soldiers to effectively repel Boko Haram fighters was first reported by News24, a South African online newspaper, on Monday.
The website reported the ex-soldiers were being hired to help stop Boko Haram’s continuing attacks on cities in the North east and also to free the remainder of the Chibok school girls kidnapped in April, 2014.
The South African National Defence Force, SANDF, reportedly said it was unaware of the hiring of the ex-soldiers.
Attempts to authenticate the report from the Nigerian military failed as the Defence spokesman, Chris Olukolade, a Brigadier – General, declined speaking to our reporter. When our reporter phoned him on Wednesday to seek clarification on the matter, Olukolade refused to address any questions on the phone.
“I do not know you and I cannot speak to you on the phone,” he said and dropped the call.