Russian Weapons Cargo in South Africa: Re-Engagement Policy in Africa?

By Scott Morgan

One of the most interesting security rows in Africa this week has to be the issue of the Russian Vessel detained in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with at least 20 cases of Arms onboard that were not legally marked.

A tip to the South African Police led to the detaining of the Lada after it had unloaded 14 containers of legitimate cargo during a planned port of call on a voyage from Tulear (Madagascar) to Lagos, Nigeria. A subsequent investigation discovered another 20 containers of improperly documented weaponry on board. It was revealed to local media that the total cost of the weapons and explosives on board have an estimated worth of $3.5 Million.

There are several reasons for those who monitor Africa and Covert Operations to be concerned regarding this situation.

We all have noticed this year the recent moves by the Russian Federation as it reengages Africa. 

A highly touted deal with the Central African Republic has created controversy as three Russian Journalists investigating the deal were ambushed and killed in the Country, earlier this summer, while investigating the activities of a Russian Private Military Company. There are reports that some Militia groups are planning on rearming due to the presence of Russian personnel in the Country. Seeing an increase in Russian activities anywhere in Africa should be a cause of concern in Washington. Whether or not this actually causes the US to pay attention to this event is yet to be seen.

Who is profiting from what is taking place in Nigeria? 

According to statistics from the Nigerian Police Force, during the period from 2010 to 2017, 21.5 million weapons and ammunition were illegally shipped into Nigeria. one report indicates that 2,100 pump action shotguns were seized in Lagos in 2017 in a recent action by the Security Forces. Clearly there are people who have nefarious thoughts about what is occurring in Nigeria or are even seeking to exploit the situation for their own personal profit. The influx of small arms into Nigeria is considered, by some, to be a major factor in the increase of violence within Nigeria.

Could the shipment to Lagos be a delivery point for these arms being sent to another location in the region? There has been a sharp increase in violence within Cameroon as the Anglophone Community there seeks to finally achieve the Independence that was promised to them back in 1961. The possibility of these weapons ending up in this conflict is a reason to be concerned.

The Russian Company Transflot which is headquartered in St. Petersburg and owns the LADA has denied any wrongdoing in this matter. 

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