Concern grows that private groups in Iraq are covertly being supplied with equipment. August 26 , a secretive military company belonging to the Namibian Defence Force, has come under fire from opposition parliamentarians for its lack of accountability and transparency. Among other things, opposition parties are concerned about the foreign policy implications of the company supplying armoured troop carriers to private military companies active in Iraq. Opposition MP McHenry Venaani, of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance ( DTA ), has demanded that Namibian Minister of Defence General Charles Namholoh answer questions over alleged sales to Iraq of Namibian‐made Werewolf troop carriers. “We have yet to see any financial statements for this company that has been in existence since 1999, and which was built up with taxpayers’ money. We want to know what is going on,” Venaani told the Mail & Guardian . He also expressed concern over uncontrolled sales of the Werewolves in an area where they could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. “We cannot have a company like this conducting military and foreign policy all by itself, without referring to Parliament,” said Venaani. Former Namibian president Sam Nujuma set up August 26 in 1999 in response to a South African ban on the export of armoured vehicles to countries involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The ban was imposed after it emerged that a great deal of redundant military hardware, which the South African National Defence Force had donated to Namibia in 1998, was being used in the DRC by the Namibian Defence Force. August 26 subsequently took over the struggling Windhoeker Maschi'nenfabrik from Namibian financier Juergen Koegl and his family. Windhoeker pioneered the construction of land‐mine resistant armoured vehicles used during the Namibian liberation war, but fell on hard times after Namibian independence in 1999. August 26 took over the Windhoeker factory with the stated intent of developing an indigenous arms industry and has, since 1999, collaborated with the United States Department of Defence in developing a more modern version of the original, V‐hulled armoured troop carriers. Controversial Company Controversy has dogged the company for some time. In 2005, a local consulting firm, Humanitarian Engineering Consulting , sued August 26 for R478,000 in unpaid commissions. The lawsuit exposed for the first time the fact that August 26 had successfully sold the V‐hulled armoured troop carriers to other countries, a fact hitherto not disclosed to Parliament. In documents filed with the Namibian High Court a year before, Humanitarian Engineering said they had entered into a Sales Referral Agreement with August 26 on marketing these vehicles to the US Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad, Iraq . An initial deal was clinched for the rental of three to nine such troop carriers, which then led to the sale of at least four so‐called Werewolf troop carriers at a price tag of $368,000 (about Rand 2,576m) each to the US army. Sources in Iraq said that Erinys International , a security company contracted to oversee security of oil installations in Kirkuk, Iraq, are using Werewolves. “I know of at least six Werewolves here—three painted black, three in olive green. But there are possibly more of them here,” one private military contractor active in Iraq said. International sales are not illegal but, given Namibia's staunch support for countries such as Cuba , North Korea and Zimbabwe , news of military collaboration with the US Army could present “some awkward political difficulties”, a top foreign affairs official conceded. August 26 MD Brigadier Matthew Shiweda has so far avoided commenting on the matter, and the Humanitarian Engineering lawsuit may yet be settled out of court, sources close to the case said in late September. Deals such as these—both real and rumoured—have added to a growing sense of disquiet among Namibia's small opposition parties, which have so far unsuccessfully clamoured for August 26 to account for its activities. ( Mail & Guardian , South Africa 25/9 )
Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 2006
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