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26 May 23. South African Procurement failures mean force multiplier tech for border security has not been acquired.
Procurement challenges have contributed to the fact that the Department of Defence (DoD) has not spent resources allocated for the procurement of technology that would act as a force multiplier to safeguard South Africa’s borders.
This is according to Lieutenant General Siphiwe Lucky Sangweni, Chief of Joint Operations, who provided the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 25 May with an update on the border safeguarding Operation Corona.
Earlier this year, National Treasury announced that R700 million had been allocated for border safeguarding technology in 2024/5 and 2025/26. R500 million of this will be spent on new vehicles; R22.5 million on a Geographic Information System (GIS) capability; R47 million on intelligence collection and processing capabilities; R7.2 million on an upgraded Chaka command and control system; R57 million on Reutech RSR 903 radars; R16 million on 60 observation posts; R16 million on 16 quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles; and R24 million and two long range UAVs.
Sangweni noted that the new technology systems in the form of sensors and radars being acquired for deployment on the borderline this year “have not yet been secured and deployed on the border AOO (area of operations) due to failure in the procurement process”.
Cyril Xaba, the Co-Chairperson of the JSCD, after the meeting said, “The committee has previously welcomed the intention to deploy technological capabilities as force multipliers and has fought for allocations to be made available to that end. The inability to procure negates the good plans and does not aid the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in its operations along the borderlines. It is on this basis that we urge the SANDF to streamline procurement processes and remove any impediments.”
Sangweni in his presentation reminded the committee that technology has been utilised in border safeguarding for a number of years to date, and continues being utilised periodically in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles.
In addition to acquiring new technology, other efforts to improve border security are improving the conditions of operational base facilities, and getting other government departments to improve the condition of borderline infrastructure, particularly fences and patrol roads.
The Department of Defence wants a whole of government approach towards border security, including opening up/establishing patrol roads along the entire stretch of the borderline and installing more Jersey barriers to hinder stolen vehicles from driving across the border. Joint Operations would like to see a “more robust approach” to the borderline wherein the government should own a portion of land stretching along the borderline (servitude, restricted zone) which will be exclusively under control of the security cluster.
Sangweni noted that cooperation between the Department of Defence and newly constituted Border Management Authority (BMA) is underway, “with cordial relations and no challenges thus far.” SANDF members have been instructed to assist BMA border guards secure the border. They are deploying in and around points of entry and at vulnerable community crossing points. Border guards are deployed at Qacha’s Neck in the Eastern Cape; Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg in the Free State; Kosi Bay and Sani Pass in KwaZulu-Natal; Oshoek and Komatipoort in Mpumalanga; and Beitbridge in Limpopo.
Sangweni outlined some of the challenges facing the SANDF in protecting the borders, including lack of mobility and transport capabilities, poor facilities for deployed soldiers, cumbersome and lengthy procurement processes, poor borderline infrastructure, and legislative impediments. He sees it as highly unlikely that more units will be provided in the short term for border deployment – the SANDF would like 22 companies for Operation Corona, but has 15 at present.
Sangweni believes that maritime border security will be improved with the introduction of the three new multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) being acquired under Project Biro.
In spite of challenges, SANDF soldiers continue to record successes on border patrol duty. Between January and March 2023, for example, the SANDF apprehended 7 946 illegal immigrants, confiscated R1.7 million worth of contraband goods and R7.7 million worth of drugs as well as 13 weapons, recovered 2023 head of livestock, arrested 90 criminals, and recovered 56 stolen vehicles worth R26 million.
“The SANDF elements deployed on the borderline continue working hard, with commitment, dedication and zeal to achieve the set objectives despite the serious capacity challenges the DoD is faced with,” Sangweni told the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.
26 May 23. Armenia-Azerbaijan: Muted responses following Moscow-mediated peace talks will prevent progress. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met on 25 May to take part in Russia-mediated peace talks. Russian media quoted Pashinyan as stating that Yerevan and Baku have agreed on the mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. The reported development comes after Pashinyan confirmed that Yerevan is prepared to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan if Baku ensures the rights and security of ethnic Armenians living there (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 23 May 2023). However, the relatively muted responses from Armenia and Azerbaijan, combined with reports that certain documents were not signed, indicate that core issues remain to be settled; this will likely prevent a diplomatic breakthrough. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia will meet next week in an attempt to settle unresolved issues. While the trilateral meeting indicates that groundwork is being laid towards the normalisation of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, the signing of a definitive peace treaty remains elusive. (Source: Sibylline)
26 May 23. Colombia: Elevated risk of attacks will persist amid extension of talks between government, ELN. On 25 May, representatives from the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced an extension of the peace talks in Havana (Cuba) until 8 June. This third round of negotiations, which follows earlier rounds hosted in Venezuela and Mexico, commenced on 2 May and was initially scheduled to conclude on 29 May. The extension comes in the wake of a pause in activity by the ELN on 15 May in response to President Gustavo Petro’s remarks suggesting that younger ELN leaders are driven by drug profits and are unresponsive to negotiators. Due to ongoing disagreements and past interruptions, it is uncertain whether the extended deadline will yield a comprehensive agreement. While Petro is likely to persist in advocating for the demobilisation of guerrilla fronts, the risk of attacks against security personnel and government officials remains elevated in the country. (Source: Sibylline)
26 May 23. Libya: Likely retaliatory action after airstrikes will raise risks for staff, assets based in west of country. On 25 May, the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) carried out airstrikes targeting alleged trafficker and smuggler hideouts in and around the western coastal city of Zawiya. However, the strikes also targeted locations affiliated with the influential GNU-funded Stability Support Authority (SSA) militia, including Abu Surra, Hassan Bouzriba and Al-Maya. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) condemned the strikes, underscoring the likelihood of the developments elevating tensions between the country’s rival administrations. Moreover, the SSA leader described the strikes as an act of ‘aggression’ that will likely trigger retaliatory attacks and confrontations between competing militias in the west. Bouts of domestic unrest in Zawiya are also highly likely in the coming days. This will sustain heightened physical security and operational risks for staff and business assets based in and around Zawiya in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Sudan: Ceasefire violations will disrupt delivery of aid, exacerbating food, energy risks. On 24 May, a significant escalation in ceasefire violations was recorded in the capital Khartoum, with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accusing the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of conducting airstrikes against its positions in the city. Meanwhile, the SAF accused the RSF of launching attacks on military bases and the nation’s mint. The escalation in fighting threatens to significantly disrupt the distribution of humanitarian aid, the purported primary driver for the current ceasefire (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 22 May 2023). Despite an initial lull in conflict on 23 May, distribution efforts have largely not begun, with a significant majority of the 168 trucks ready to deliver assistance remaining in Port Sudan. While limited aid distribution remains likely in the coming days, outbreaks of fighting will disrupt deliveries, particularly to Khartoum, where shortages of basic goods will intensify, exacerbating food and energy security risks. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Colombia: Deadly bombing in Norte de Santander underscores heightened risk of attacks. An IED attack on 24 May in Tibu (Norte de Santander department) killed two police officers and a civilian, and injured 12 others. The shockwave from the explosion also damaged several homes. Various communities in the region are also experiencing power outages due to damage to the local power grid. The municipality of Tibu is a hotspot for guerrilla activities by the ELN, FARC dissidents and EPL. However, no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Human rights advocates criticised the government, linking the halt in military operations against guerrillas with a recent uptick in attacks. The likelihood of escalating violence remains high in this area, sustaining a heightened risk of further attacks, presenting a threat to staff and bystanders in the region. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Iran: Missile testing moderately raises regional tensions though full-scale escalation remains unlikely. On 25 May, Iran reportedly tested a 2,000 km-range ballistic missile with the capacity to reach Israel and US bases in the region, moderately escalating regional tensions. This comes after the Israeli army’s chief of staff indicated on 23 May that ‘action’ against Iran is a possibility, particularly in light of stalled negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme and increasingly conspicuous demonstrations by Iranian-backed Hizbollah (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 22 May 2023). Though a full-scale escalation between Iran and Israel is unlikely, conflict in the cyber domain is likely to persist. There is also a realistic possibility of targeted assassinations. Moreover, escalating proxy confrontations with Hizbollah will possibly increase security risks in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Inflammatory rhetoric from Iran is also likely to bolster ethno-religious tensions in the Palestinian territories, raising domestic security risks for firms operating in proximity to Gaza and the West Bank. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Russia-Belarus: Moscow highly likely to intervene if Belarusian leader risks being ousted. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated on 24 May that Russia has obligations to ensure Belarus’ security after a former commander of Polish Land Forces said Warsaw must prepare for an uprising against the government in Minsk. Waldemar Skrzypczak claimed on 23 May that if Kyiv’s counter-offensive is successful, Belarusians who are fighting on the side of Ukrainian forces could move to overthrow Kremlin-backed Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. A representative of Ukraine’s Border Service reported in early May that the number of Russian soldiers in Belarus has significantly decreased, claiming there are currently as few as 2,800 who are usually involved in training. While the domestic situation inside Belarus remains broadly stable, Russian forces would be stretched if such a scenario were to arise following a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive this year. However, despite this, it is highly likely that Moscow would intervene to prop up long-term ally Lukashenka and support extremely oppressive measures to ensure the survival of the established government in Belarus. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Georgia: Non-compliance with Western sanctions on Russia will increase risk of secondary sanctions. On 24 May, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that Georgia would not comply with calls from Western governments to restrict trade with Russia, arguing that restricting the low volume of trade between the two countries is unlikely to impact Russia’s economy. While bilateral trade increased by 22% in 2022, Georgia’s annual exports modestly increased by 7%, which is significantly less than Armenia or Kyrgyzstan’s exports, rising by 195% and 151%, respectively. However, given Georgia’s shared border with Russia, Tbilisi has the potential to further boost exports to Russia, with automobile exports having reportedly significantly risen in January and February 2023. Ultimately, the resumption of direct flights and broadly cordial relations with Russia will create favourable conditions for exports to rise in the coming months. This will increase Tbilisi’s exposure to Western secondary sanctions, amid the EU and US increasing efforts to tighten sanctions evasion enforcement. (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Senegal: Opposition caravan will drive movement disruption, risk of violent clashes. On 24 May, opposition leader Ousmane Sonko called on his supporters to join a ‘freedom caravan’ travelling from his home in the southern city of Ziguinchor 310 miles (500 km) to the capital Dakar departing either on 25 or 26 May. The announcement came after prosecutors called for a 10-year prison sentence for Sonko over allegations of rape, with the caravan likely aiming to reach Dakar for the verdict, which is expected on 1 June. It is highly likely that a significant security presence will be deployed around the caravan, particularly when it passes through cities and upon its arrival into Dakar, significantly disrupting movement along key routes and impacting supply chains. While some clashes around the march are likely in the coming days, the arrival into Dakar and a probable guilty verdict will act as significant flashpoints for a marked escalation in unrest. Probable looting and use of teargas will significantly elevate threats to bystanders and assets (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 18 May 2023). (Source: Sibylline)
25 May 23. Gloomy picture of SANDF prime mission equipment readiness. Expanding on his belief that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is in “intensive care”, Kobus Marais provided National Assembly (NA) parliamentarians with highly concerning prime mission equipment (PME) availability and serviceability statistics.
Responding to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise’s budget vote address this week, the Democratic Alliance shadow minister for her portfolio gave a number of examples to support his view of a national defence force in dire straits.
There are, according to him, just two of 11 homegrown Rooivalk combat support helicopters airworthy. When it comes to maritime rotary-wing aircraft it’s worse with not one of the four Super Lynx specialist helicopters available for use.
The SA Air Force (SAAF) rotary wing workhorse – the locally developed Oryx medium transport helicopter – is marginally better off, with Marais’ research showing six of 39 airworthy.
This, he maintains, when taken alongside the minimum availability of C-130BZ medium transport aircraft, impacts on training for SA Army airborne units ahead of deployment. Marais refers specifically to Makhanda-based 6 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion, one stop on a recent Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) oversight visit to Eastern Cape.
28 Squadron, the sole SAAF medium transport unit, has just one of six of the ageing C-130BZs it can put in the air.
Apart from use as a jump platform by airborne troops, the venerable Hercules is regularly tasked with logistic flights to the South African contingent in Cabo Delgado, part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).
“We cannot provide logistic support to our soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique with a lone C-130. The consequence is we have to charter aircraft at hundreds of millions a year – spending enough to buy C-130s,” he told the NA.
Other examples which, he said, “mirror the dire state” of the SANDF, include two of 26 Gripen jet fighters available, three of 11 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter trainers, and two of 25 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II trainers. When it comes to aircraft for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue (SAR) – a tasking supposedly shared between the venerable C-47TP and C-130BZ – not one, Marais found, was mission ready.
Only one of the SA Navy’s four frigates is operational and one of three submarines. The situation should improve somewhat going forward as National Treasury allocated R1.4 billion to refit the frigates and submarines and R1 billion to make six C-130BZs airworthy again.
The SANDF is chronically underfunded. Modise said this week the national defence force is underfunded by approximately R2.6 billion this year: the DoD received a total budget allocation of R51.1 billion for the 2023/24 financial year, a net decrease of R500 million from the previous adjusted budget.
In March, Major General Thembelani Xundu said to rejuvenate and re-equip the SANDF to make it a truly effective force would cost R41 billion over 25 years.
There was – at the time of publication – no reaction to Marais’ claims from either the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC), the Department of Defence Head of Communication (HOC) or the Defence Ministry. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
25 May 23. Modise tasks DoD with reviewing South Africa’s problematic procurement system. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has said that to root out financial irregularities in the Department of Defence (DoD), she has ordered a review the entire procurement system.
The Minister was speaking during the debate on the Defence and Military Veterans Budget Vote on 23 May.
“We have traced irregularities straight back to procurement. So the Secretary for Defence, Acting, has been instructed to look and find solutions…The whole procurement system has been reviewed,” Modise said, adding that a lack of skills in procurement was identified and an agreement signed with the School of Governance to train soldiers regarding procurement to avoid misstatements and misreporting.
Modise instructed the Accounting Officer to conduct a complete and rigorous review of the whole procurement system, identify the root causes, and put in place a robust and high-integrity procurement system.
“We simply cannot continue with non-compliance in the procurement of goods and services. We have agreed that any form of corrupt activity must be rooted out and pursued vigorously,” her budget vote speech read.
The DoD is awaiting the new Procurement Bill by National Treasury, which will have a significant impact on the way forward.
“A defence force which cannot look after its own resources cannot in the long term be responsible for taking care of the bigger business that is looking after the resources of south Africa,” Modise told Parliament.
The Minister believes that effective governance and accountability cannot be achieved if the defence procurement system is not modernised and digitised.
“As a national security organ, it is incumbent upon the department to ensure digital sovereignty over the information it manages,” her speech read.
“I have made it abundantly clear to the department that wrongdoers will not be protected, that the investigations will be thorough and that the necessary consequences will be expedited. Where Commanders are tardy, it is incumbent on firstly the Chief of the SANDF and then the Accounting Officer to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the matters proceed speedily,” her speech continued.
Shifting her focus to material irregularity, as well as other high-level reports by the Auditor General (AG), the Public Protector, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) and the Hawks, she said the Accounting Officer must take immediate steps to expedite the required consequence management as the reputation of the Department of Defence hinges on this matter.
According to the Minister, the department received a qualified audit opinion on four balances from the Auditor General in the 2021/22 financial year. Excluding matters related to the underfunding of Compensation of Employees (COE) during the 2022/23 financial year, the department incurred unaudited irregularities.
These include R1 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure and R475 million in irregular expenditure.
In addition, the department received nine material irregularities from the Auditor General at the end of the same financial year.
In the current financial year, due to the underfunding of the Compensation of Employees, the SANDF is likely to overspend by R3 billion, Modise said.
The department also had a qualified audit opinion on the completeness of the its movable tangible assets.
To date, Modise said a considerable amount of the current R126 billion assets have been physically verified for existence.
“This situation is less than satisfactory. The root causes are threefold… The department is running legacy common IT [information and technology] systems that are unable to integrate and blend financial and logistics information.”
In addition, the Minister told Parliament that the corporate structure for asset management within the logistics division was inadequate.
“Furthermore, a special audit needs to be done on all firearms, weapons and other statutory items in the department.”
The Minister said the legacy common IT systems in the department are “fragile and a material risk” to the department.
“These legacy systems are not integrated. They are not compliant with the standards of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act], and they do not support good governance and accountability.
“I instructed the department to make a strategic assessment of this matter and to come to the Council on Defence on a Defence Digital Strategy for the way forward, including considering bespoke Defence Enterprise Systems in the interim.” (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
25 May 23. Armscor should support the entire SA defence industry, not concentrate on Denel. Ahead of the planned South African defence industry (SADI) lekgotla, a Pretoria-based industrialist maintains it’s time to stop “Denel bashing” and look to Armscor and its obligation to protect SA National Defence Force (SANDF) interests.
The lekgotla is set down for June/July and will be hosted by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise. The SA Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD) said Modise has directed the lekgotla, postponed from last year, be convened as soon as practically possible, with a firm date and venue yet to be determined.
Andy Hodgson, ADG Mobility Executive Manager, Business Development, candidly admits putting politics aside and starting on level ground is a major ask in the local defence industry. To clarify, he adds “well run and functional businesses in the sector should be able to interact on a sound commercial footing, follow simple supply and demand dynamics, ideally with healthy competition”.
“Ideally, and broadly, it is supposed to work like this,” he explains. The SANDF needs capabilities and raises its requirements with Armscor, which applies its knowledge and experience to issue RFIs (requests for information) and RFQs (requests for quotation) to the SADI. Then capabilities are offered by reputable and vetted industry, who respond promptly. Armscor vets, audits, inspects and awards and manages contracts. Work is then executed, overseen and assured by Armscor (with their mandate to commercially protect the SANDF’s interests).
“The entire process could and should work, while accepting national BBBEE goals and objectives and applying fair scoring accordingly,” he observes, adding “it’s critical to note Thandi Modise, as Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV), has both the SANDF and Armscor in her portfolio, so no conflicts exist”.
Hodgson notes what he terms “some blurred lines” between Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), government’s shareholder in Denel, and the DoD.
“This creates an unnatural thorn in the side of the process I suggest with the historic remnants of a crippled Denel draining all available funding in the hope of some ‘miraculous resurrection’ to a long bygone capability.
“What used to be a national asset is these days, without any doubt, a national liability and the pain and fear of simply ‘letting it go’ is too hard to imagine ‘politically’,” he told defenceWeb, adding the result is an SANDF that isn’t getting any value for its money – “the little there is”.
“Government,” he said, “needs to recognise and accept Denel is not the only show in town and take a long and cautious look at what real technical capabilities still exist in it”.
Going further, Hodgson feels “Denel bashing is a waste of time” and more attention should be focussed on Armscor and its obligation to protect SANDF interests. At the same time Armscor – “to at least some degree in its own interests” – should support the wider local defence industry. An approach of this nature would stimulate healthy competition, new local ingenuity and fresh synergies all ultimately to the advantage of the national defence force.
His final take is Armscor doesn’t have a mandate to support or “falsely prop up Denel”.
“Armscor needs to answer to the Minister of Defence and the SANDF, not to DPE/Denel and they should be encouraged to start to cast the net wider, reduce red tape, stimulate private research and development as well as get best products on the best time scales for the best value for money for taxpayer Rands.” (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
25 May 23. Update: air strikes against Daesh.
The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
- Tuesday 2 May 2023 – RAF Typhoons struck two Daesh terrorist targets in north eastern Iraq.
UK forces, as part of the coalition, continue to support the Iraqi government in its unrelenting work to prevent any attempts by the Daesh terrorist movement to re-establish a presence in the country. Careful intelligence analysis revealed that a Daesh group was basing itself at two remote locations in the Hamrin mountains in north-eastern Iraq. Royal Air Force Typhoons were therefore tasked to attack the terrorists at both locations on Tuesday 2 May 2023 in support of an Iraqi security forces operation. Having confirmed that there was no civilian presence nearby that might be put at risk, the Typhoons employed seven Paveway IV guided bombs in successful precision strikes. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 May 23. The situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to deteriorate: UK statement at the Security Council. Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East. President, the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has deteriorated further to the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians.
In Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant factions fired 1,748 rockets at Israel. Indiscriminate rockets from Gaza caused the needless deaths of an Israeli and 4 Gazans. The UK condemns unequivocally the indiscriminate fire of rockets against civilians and all forms of terrorism. The UK Foreign Secretary welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and militant factions in Gaza, and is grateful for the support of Egypt, Qatar and the US. We urge all parties to honour the ceasefire and prevent further loss of life.
President, the UK supports Israel’s right to self-defence. But Israeli conduct must always be in line with international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, humanity, proportionality and military necessity. We were concerned by the reports of at least 12 civilian deaths, including 6 children, in Israeli strikes in Gaza.
This month, we have also seen further deaths in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces have killed 110 Palestinians this year, including militants and civilians. If killing continues at this rate, 2023 will be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since UN records began in 2004. Israeli security forces must show restraint in their use of force and investigate civilian casualties. 19 Israelis, residents and tourists including Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, have already been killed in terrorist attacks in 2023. The Palestinian Authority must also re-assert control over Area A and take steps to tackle terrorism.
President, a solution to this conflict won’t be found until both Israel and the Palestinians tackle inflammatory rhetoric and incitement, as they agreed in Sharm El Sheikh on 19 March. Yet only last week, we heard from President Abbas and Israeli participants in the Flag March in Jerusalem racist slogans and slurs. Such rhetoric and incitement, including by both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders undermines the cause of peace.
Israel must also tackle increasing settler violence and coercion which on Monday resulted in the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population from Ein Samiya and desist from settler expansion which is illegal under international law.
Finally President, the United Kingdom also strongly supports the historic Status Quo governing Jerusalem’s holy sites and values the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s important role as custodian.
The UK remains firm in its belief that a negotiated two state solution, based on 1967 lines with Jerusalem as a shared capital, is the only way to ensure a lasting peace, security and prosperity between the two parties.
At the General Assembly committee meeting on voluntary contributions to UNRWA in June, it is vital that the international community puts the agency onto a sustainable footing to protect the delivery of critical services to millions of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA is crucial to stability throughout the region.
As the Foreign Secretary stated on 14 May, the UK will support all efforts to promote dialogue and create a pathway towards a just and sustainable peace. The first step on that pathway is clear: both sides must honour the commitments they made in good faith in Aqaba and Sharm El Sheikh. Published 24 May 2023. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 May 23. Kenya: Chinese cyber espionage operations will sustain latent security risks to BRI-linked entities . Chinese state-sponsored threat actors have targeted the Kenyan government in a widespread and long-term campaign to obtain financial information related to debt owed to Beijing as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) global infrastructure development programme. The Chinese threat actor ‘BackdoorDiplomacy’ is believed to be behind the campaign; it is likely that the group engages in operations to further pursue China’s foreign policy objectives. This long-term operation, spanning from 2019 until early 2023, highlights China’s leverage of its sophisticated cyber espionage capabilities to monitor and protect its strategic and economic foreign interests. Kenya is a strategic nexus in Africa for the BRI; this underscores Beijing’s need to secure repayments amid regional socio-economic struggles and growing debt levels. The campaign targeted Kenya’s ministries and government departments, including the presidential office, as well as the finance and foreign ministries. There is a realistic possibility that the threat actors attempted to steal information in an effort to gain knowledge on how Kenya will manage the bns of USD it owes Beijing. While the Kenyan presidential office stated that ‘none of the attempts were successful’, Chinese cyber operations targeting BRI countries will likely continue amid rising uncertainty around their rising debt and loan repayments. Private and public regional organisations involved in or linked to the BRI are likely to be targeted by Chinese threat actors, highlighting the latent security, reputational and financial risks. (Source: Sibylline)
24 May 23. Timor-Leste: Opposition party likely to form government following election; likely improving political instability. On 22 May, the National Elections Commission released the final vote count from the 20 May parliamentary election, showing that the opposition National Congress of the Reconstruction of Timor-Leste (CNRT) party won 31 of the 65 seats. CNRT is likely to form a coalition with the Democratic Party (PD) which would allow former prime minister Xanana Gusmao to return to office. If a government is successfully formed, it is likely that the political gridlock that has plagued Timor Leste in recent years will ease, especially as current President Jose Ramos-Horte is also part of the CNRT. Gusmao has campaigned to facilitate the development of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas project, which would provide significant economic benefits if successful. Additionally, political stability would help Timor-Leste meet the criteria to join ASEAN, with a roadmap for the country’s full membership being adopted by ASEAN last week. (Source: Sibylline)
24 May 23. Israel: Budget likely to sustain ethno-religious tensions, anti-government sentiment; operational environment remains unchanged. On 24 May, President Benjamin Netanyahu’s government passed a new two-year budget with significant discretionary funds for religious programmes and settlement efforts. The budget, which earmarks ILS 484 bn (USD 131 bn) for 2023/4, increases funding for ultra-Orthodox religious schools and continues grant programmes for settlements in the West Bank. This is despite previous commitments to freeze construction authorisation until August 2023 (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 27 February 2023). The budget is likely to exacerbate tensions between ultra-Orthodox and secular communities and concerns about Netanyahu’s substantial support for the former, driving anti-government sentiment (see Sibylline Alert – 27 March 2023). Moreover, continued funding of settlement construction will sustain ethno-religious tensions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, aggravating border disputes and maintaining threats to proximate assets. Even so, the short-term operational environment is unlikely to significantly change. (Source: Sibylline)
24 May 23. Tunisia: Protests likely to continue, sustaining moderate security risks in urban centres. On 22 May, Tunisian journalists and human rights activists protested in the El Gorjani neighbourhood of the capital Tunis, following the detention of two radio hosts by police forces. This is the latest in a series of demonstrations highlighting declining press freedoms and arrests targeting government critics and journalists, including opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 16 May 2023). Demonstrations over the government’s increasing authoritarianism are likely to continue in the coming weeks, particularly in Tunis and potentially extending to Sfax and Sousse, sustaining moderate security risks for staff and assets. Physical risks for bystanders and business assets will remain elevated due to an enhanced security presence around demonstrations and the sustained threat of heavy-handed dispersal methods by riot police, including tear gas and rubber bullets.
24 May 23. Democratic Republic of Congo-Rwanda: Elevated tensions will reduce prospects of political agreement, drive continued ceasefire violations. On 23 May, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) filed a formal referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that the court’s ongoing investigation into the eastern DRC will focus on actions committed by the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and the M23 rebel group. While it remains unclear if this referral will shift the court’s focus, potentially implicating senior figures within the RDF in rights abuses and war crimes in the DRC, it does underline the continuation of elevated tensions between the DRC and Rwanda despite an ongoing ceasefire. These tensions indicate that the prospects for a political resolution to the conflict with the M23 remain low. As such, ceasefire violations in the eastern North Kivu region will continue and the threat of a broader resumption of conflict persists. This will drive the risk of indirect attacks facing NGOs and journalists in rural North Kivu. (Source: Sibylline)
24 May 23. Ethiopia: Mounting unrest over ‘invader’ presence increases risks to peace agreement. On 23 May, thousands protested across several cities in the northern Tigray region, including the regional capital Mekelle, demanding that ‘invaders’ leave the region. Such demands could refer to both Eritrean forces, Amhara regional forces and aligned militias which continue to occupy parts of southern and western Tigray, the ownership of which is disputed by Amharans. While the November peace agreement has broadly held these demonstrations reflect mounting frustration and impatience with finalising a lasting settlement, normalisation and the return of Tigray territory. The removal of Amharan forces from Tigray remains unlikely until an agreement is finalised. The occupation of this territory provides an advantage in negotiations and the removal of Amharan forces for no return would risk considerable public backlash in Amhara. As such, public criticism of the government in Tigray will likely build, driving protests and increasing risks to the unity of Tigray forces, elevating the threat of ceasefire violations. (Source: Sibylline)
24 May 23. Modise charts future strategic direction for ‘terribly underfunded’ SANDF. Given the ‘terrible’ underfunding of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise says the Department of Defence (DoD) is working on a revised level of defence ambition and a revised strategic trajectory.
Modise, who was speaking during the debate on the Defence and Military Veterans Budget Vote in Parliament on 23 May, said the strategy would be actioned under ministerial directive and the guidance of the Chief of the SANDF. It includes evaluating the implementation of the 2015 Defence Review, with an evaluation to be submitted to the Joint Crime Prevention and Security cluster before March 2024.
“The Future RSA Defence and Security Policy Concept document is taking into account the security environment constrains facing the defence function that is also being developed. The Future Military Capstone Concept will be providing the strategy to pursue our national defence and security policy,” she said.
Modise said the Chief of the SANDF’s Long-Term Capability Development Strategic Plan will direct the development path of the SANDF for the next twenty years. Work on five key areas covers nation building, safeguarding the nation and building internal stability, securing regional development by creating conditions conducive to regional security and stability, enhancing cyber resilience, and enhancing the hard power capability of the SANDF through a small but core major combat capability that is relevant and ready to meet future conflict challenges.
“I trust…that that the journey to greatness will begin to optimise security on our border, will enable us to establish a rapid reaction capability, will enable us to establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul capability to maintain the legacy systems and we will also be able to revisit the soldier’s needs to be happy and proud to be in the employ and service of South Africans,” Modise said. “Unless we do this, we will not be able to arrest the decay in the defence [force].”
The Minister told Parliament that, “we want to quickly, quickly make sure that Chief SANDF is able to come out with a rapid deployment capability that we are able to deal with air transport, that we are able to have air capabilities in place, that our maritime platforms are fixed and work. That the health systems are in place and that we find the money which we are promised to ensure that even if we do not field the 15 companies on the borders, we have enough technology to substitute because we think the porousness of our borders leads us into being, frankly, being undermined as a sovereign state, being undermined economically and this contributes to the unstableness of our economy. Because if you see your train tracks jumping fence, if you see your electricity pylons jumping fence, you do know that you have issues. But before you point at your neighbour you fix your own yard, you clean up.”
Modise said the Department of Defence is also looking at exploiting intellectual property and going back to forcing government to invest in intellectual property. “That R&D investment will stand us in good stead. It will promote young people to have more people in the defence. It will resuscitate the relationship between Denel, CSIR and our service, but it will also begin to re-emerge the defence force in this country to the levels that we want.”
With regard to Denel, she said that “we are beginning to work with other industries in other countries to try and resuscitate Denel. It is in our interest to see a vibrant defence industry. It is in our interest to lure back the skills that this country has lost.”
Modise said the department received a total budget allocation of R51.1bn for the 2023/24 financial year, a net decrease of about R500m from the previous adjusted budget. Of the R51.1bn, she said R30.6bn has been set as the ceiling for the compensation of employees (COE). Due to the underfunding of the Compensation of Employees (COE) allocation, the department will most likely incur unauthorised expenditure of approximately R3bn in the 2022/23 financial year.
Based on the actual number of feet on the ground, the SANDF is underfunded by approximately R2.6bn, according to Modise.
Of the R51.1bn budget allocation, R8.6bn is earmarked for specific expenses, including R1.5bn to Armscor; R2.8bn for accommodation charges, leases and municipal services; and R1.5bn for an air transport lift capability and repair and maintenance of Navy systems. R1bn will go towards deployment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, R800m has also been allocated for the continuation of the implementation of the exit mechanism for SANDF members, and R850m has been allocated for the deployment of the SANDF in Mozambique.
“We are definitely, terribly underfunded due to the cost of employments,” Modise said.
While there are challenges, Modise said the SANDF continues to execute border safeguarding in five provinces in an endeavour to safeguard and maintain the integrity of the country’s borderline.
She said maritime coastal patrols were conducted during the past financial year as well.
Modise told Parliament that various SANDF force structure elements remain on continuous standby as a contingency to deter possible acts of violence and criminality and deter possible threats to critical infrastructure across the country.
“The SANDF is on continuous standby to render humanitarian aid, disaster relief and assistance of all sorts in all provinces. Examples were the KwaZulu-Natal floods and the adverse weather in Coffee Bay.”
Defence expert Dean Wingrin pointed out that on top of the normal activities expected of a military, due to the collapse of other State institutions, the SANDF is also responsible for things such as protecting power stations, cleaning polluted rivers, building bridges, policing communities, maintaining its buildings, etc.
“The SANDF has already lost scarce skills and capabilities, it is in imminent danger of losing major weapon systems (particularly the Airforce and Navy) as the feeble budget is unable to keep up with maintenance and upgrades.
“The Department of Defence has a Constitutional mandate to provide, manage, prepare and employ defence capabilities commensurate with the needs of South Africa. As Government increases the demands on the SANDF, so too does it direct a reduction in human resources and funding.
“The SANDF is about to break, unless the Govt and National Treasury urgently recognises that the DoD is not just another State department, but a unique organisation with special needs and requirements, particularly in procurement processes, staffing and funding.
“It is going to take time and a lot of money to stabilise the SANDF, even more to recover lost capabilities,” Wingrin cautioned. “The time to remedy the situation was five years ago. The next best time is now!”
23 May 23. Mali: Wagner Group’s transit of weapons through Mali will create additional compliance risks. On 22 May, US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, stated that the US has information indicating that the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, is attempting to funnel international military acquisitions through Mali for use in the Ukraine conflict. Miller added that no evidence has emerged to confirm that any acquisitions have been finalised, but indicated that the group was already falsifying paperwork to move the transactions through the country. With the US having already sanctioned a number of individuals and institutions for assisting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, the allegations will increase the exposure of Malian government officials and business persons to secondary sanctions. Given Mali’s reliance on Russian support for counter-insurgency operations and the junta’s government stability, such sanctions are unlikely to cause Mali to end its agreements with Wagner. As such, further confirmation of attempted weapons shipments through Mali will increase compliance risks for international firms. (Source: Sibylline)
23 May 23. Colombia: Government suspends ceasefire with dissident FARC guerrilla in several departments; risk of attacks remains elevated. On 22 May, Colombia’s government announced the suspension of the ceasefire with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) guerrilla in the departments of Meta, Caqueta, Guaviare, and Putumayo. The EMC is an offshoot of the former FARC’s guerrilla, which formed after the 2016 demobilisation process. The decision comes as a response to the murder of four indigenous teenagers on 17 May, which were reportedly recruited by the guerrilla and shot dead after a failed attempt to escape. The ceasefire suspension will come into effect within 48 hours. President Gustavo Petro – who has invested significant political capital in his ‘Total Peace’ plan – was also forced to suspend a ceasefire agreement with the Clan del Golfo paramilitary group in March after several violent incidents. Petro is likely to continue to push for the demobilisation of other EMC fronts not operating in the affected departments. The risk of attacks against security personnel and government officials is likely to remain elevated. (Source: Sibylline)
23 May 23. Iran: Top security official appointment will increase likelihood of enhanced crackdown on anti-government sentiment. On 22 May, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi appointed Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian as the new secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, replacing its long-time chief Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani. Ahmadian’s appointment is significant given Shamkani’s ten-year tenure, but reports of his dismissal had increased since November 2022 following criticism of his handling of the anti-government protest movement. While Shamkani’s departure is unlikely to result in a significant national security posture shift, under Ahmadian’s leadership there is an increased likelihood of support for greater crackdowns on anti-government demonstrations. Developments also follow a recent uptick in protests on 19 and 20 May in Tehran, Isfahan and Karaj, in response to recent executions (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 19 May 2023). Amid the continued volatility of the security environment, risks for staff and assets will remain heightened, particularly in Tehran. (Source: Sibylline)
23 May 23. Lebanon: Upcoming protests highlight socio-economic-driven unrest, sustaining risks to bystanders. On 26 May, the Depositors’ Cry Association plan to demonstrate outside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) building in Dekwaneh, north Beirut, due to Lebanon’s deteriorating economic environment. Up to 100 protesters are expected to attend and violent confrontations with police cannot be ruled out. This demonstration is the latest in a series of nationwide protests highlighting Lebanon’s ongoing socio-economic health crises, exacerbated by restrictions on access to bank deposits, the volatility of the Lebanese pound, food insecurity and economic instability (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 10 May 2023). Demonstrators have previously attacked financial institutions, including incidents of arson, raising incidental risks to personnel and assets located near the IMF’s offices and proximate bank branches. Localised disruption to transport in Matn District is therefore likely, and violent clashes predicating the use of tear gas by police are a realistic possibility. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Statement on U.S.-Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Agreement. This U.S.-Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) is an important milestone for the relationship between the United States and Papua New Guinea (PNG) – and for our collective Indo-Pacific security. The agreement reflects our partnership and our shared values as Pacific countries, the importance of ensuring the security and prosperity of the region, and our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The DCA represents an important next step in the evolution of our long-standing relationship as the United States and Papua New Guinea continue to work closely together on a wide range of issues of importance to both countries, the region, and the rest of the world. This agreement will serve as the foundational framework for our two countries to enhance our security cooperation, improve the capacity of the PNG Defence Force, and increase stability and security in the region. Importantly, this agreement underscores our commitment to deepening our engagement with the region, modernizing our alliances, updating our force posture, and bolstering our Allies and partners in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Source: US DoD)
22 May 23. Sudan: Reduction in conflict is likely following agreement, though threat of violence persists. On 21 May, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) signed a US-Saudi Arabia-brokered week-long ceasefire that is due to take effect from 2145hrs (local time) on 22 May. Since the signing, fighting has continued in the capital Khartoum, including airstrikes. Of all the previous ceasefires, this agreement is the most likely to result in conflict reduction given prolonged negotiations between the two parties, the implementation of an international monitoring mechanism and the threat of sanctions. This will increase opportunities for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Khartoum, though shortages of key goods including food, water and fuel will likely continue. However, a complete cessation of fighting remains highly unlikely. The RSF have explicitly stated that they will surrender none of their positions in Khartoum; their fighters remain spread across the city. Under these conditions, both sides will struggle to enforce a ceasefire, sustaining the threat to aid workers and staff attempting to deliver and receive supplies. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. DRC: Further delays, electoral register irregularities will prompt anti-government protests in capital. On 20 May, the security forces fired tear gas during protests over high living costs and alleged electoral irregularities ahead of the December presidential election in the capital Kinshasa. The police alleged that they opened fire after opposition supporters deviated from the authorised route. In February, President Felix Tshisekedi announced that the conflict in the north-east of the country threatened to disrupt preparations for the general election, compounding allegations that the government is planning to postpone the ballot to extend President Tshesekedi’s term in office (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 28 February 2023). Opposition leaders are highly likely to call for further protests in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi (Haut-Katanga province) over any perceived irregularities or delays, with one already scheduled on 25 May in front of the headquarters of the National Electoral Commission in Kinshasa. The authorities’ likely use of excessive force to disperse protests will elevate risks to bystanders and assets. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Papua New Guinea: Revamped US commitments will bolster security, elevate tensions with China. On 22 May, the US and Papua New Guinea signed two defence and security co-operation agreements to improve the latter’s security capabilities and expand US military presence in the South Pacific. The agreements come amid an expanding US military footprint in the Asia-Pacific region as part of intensifying US-China competition, including in the South Pacific (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 1 April 2022). As part of its revamped engagement in the South Pacific, the US will also expand its partnership with Port Moresby on economic development and climate change, presenting opportunities for US businesses in Papua New Guinea. A second agreement will also allow US Coast Guard vessels to patrol Papua New Guinea ‘s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to protect against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, thereby improving its economic security. Growing US military presence in the region in the long term will improve Papua New Guinea’s security by providing better deterrence capabilities; it will also raise regional tensions with China and possibly policy risks. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Georgia: Cordial relations with Moscow represent key trigger for pro-EU unrest in medium term. On 19 May, protesters gathered near the capital’s Tbilisi International Airport (TBS) to protest the first direct flight from Moscow to Georgia, claiming such flights undermine Georgia’s EU membership application. On 20 May, a public protest organised by the pro-EU opposition party United National Movement took place in Tbilisi in front of a hotel where relatives of sanctioned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were reportedly residing. While ruling Georgian Dream party leader Irakli Kobakhidze criticised the protesters, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili openly supported the rally and stated that the government’s decision to resume direct flight goes against the Georgian people’s interest. Georgian Dream’s policy of co-operation with Russia will reinforce the perception that the government is further aligning with Russian interests. This will deepen the country’s political polarisation and represent a key trigger for pro-EU anti-Russian protests in the medium term. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Guatemala: Risk of unrest will likely remain stable amid suspension of presidential candidate. On 19 May, a court provisionally suspended the high-profile businessman and presidential candidate Carlos Pineda from running in the country’s general election on 5 June. The court ruled that Pineda – who is among the frontrunners in the presidential race – committed a series of infractions during his nomination process. Pineda has indicated that he will appeal the ruling to the Constitutional Court. Pineda is regarded as a populist right-wing figure, who has focused on cracking down on corruption and rolling back some policies espoused by President Alejandro Guammattei. The country’s courts had previously come under pressure after suspending the candidacy of two other high-profile candidates. Nevertheless, none of the suspended political figures likely enjoys a significant popular base capable of sparking prolonged protests or major unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Mexico: Firefight in Ensenada underscores elevated risk of attacks in region. On 20 May, several gunmen engaged in a firefight at a car show in Ensenada (Baja California state) which led to ten fatalities and nine injuries. Domestic media suggested that the assailants were affiliated with the Sinaloa and Tijuana cartels, though this remains unconfirmed. The incident triggered a significant security response in the region. As of 2023, Baja California ranks third in the number of homicides among all states in Mexico, with a rate of 25.94 per 100,000 residents. This is largely attributed to clashes between organised crime groups. While it is likely that public security will be tightened in the region in the near term, the risk of attacks by criminal groups therein remains high. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Israel-Lebanon: Large-scale Hizballah military exercise will sustain security environment volatility. On 21 May, Hizballah simulated cross-border raids into Israel and a drone attack in Aaramta, located around 12 miles (20km) north of the border with Israel. The military exercise represented the Iran-backed group’s first such large-scale show of force in the past few years. The rare media invitation to the training comes ahead of the annual Liberation Day celebration on 25 May, which marks the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon. The developments have taken place amid heightened tensions between Lebanon-based groups vis-à-vis Israeli security operations across the Palestinian Territories (see Sibylline Alert – 12 May 2023), as well as hostilities linked to the Israel-Iran ‘shadow war’. However, the military exercise is unlikely to increase the likelihood of an armed conflict between Hizballah and Israel (see Sibylline Special Report – 18 April 2023) in the near term. Nonetheless, the likelihood of rocket fire into northern Israel will sustain security and bystander risks for staff and assets. (Source: Sibylline)
22 May 23. Iran: US navy patrols will heighten regional tensions, underscoring persistent maritime risks. On 21 May, the Iranian armed forces’ chief of staff warned that Iran will possibly move to secure its regional waters ‘fully’. This follows increased patrols by the US and its allies in the Strait of Hormuz. Earlier on 19 May, navy personnel from Bahrain, France, the UK and the US conducted multilateral patrols through the Persian Gulf following Iran’s seizure of two oil tankers on 28 April and 4 May. The announcement will sustain ongoing diplomatic tensions between the US and Iran (the latter is the target of multifaceted US sanctions). Increased maritime surveillance and a bolstered security presence in the Persian Gulf will potentially delay shipping; it will also raise the likelihood of accidental collisions in the coming weeks. Ongoing tensions also highlight the possibility of further vessel seizures, significantly elevating detention risks to crews and vessels linked to the US in the Strait of Hormuz. (Source: Sibylline)
19 May 23. Nigeria: Inter-communal clashes highlight increasingly violent ethno-religious tensions. On 18 May, officials reported that ongoing clashes between herders and farmers in Plateau State, in the Middle Belt region, have killed 85 people and displaced over 3,000 since 15 May. Fighting between largely Islamic herders and Christian farmers over land access are common in Nigeria’s Middle Belt and has escalated in recent years, frequently spiking during periods of southern migration (see Sibylline Special Report – 19 January 2023). This latest incident reflects sustained ethno-religious tensions in central Nigeria. It is almost certain retaliatory violence will continue to occur, sustaining sporadic conflict throughout 2023. While foreign nationals and businesses are unlikely to be targeted, indiscriminate and opportunistic violence during clashes will drive incidental threats to overland movement and increase bystander risks to staff operating in affected areas. This risk is particularly acute for aid workers and staff visiting mining projects in the region. Violence will also disrupt the flow of goods to major regional cities, including Jos (North-Central region), sustaining the risk of domestic unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
19 May 23. Guinea: Deployment of armed forces, internet restrictions will likely reduce participation in protests. On 17 and 18 May, the military junta deployed troops across Conakry in response to an opposition-led two-day protest. The junta also threatened to impose anti-terrorist laws against protest organisers and participants, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Access to various internet platforms was also restricted over the two days. As a result, the turnout was significantly lower than last week, when violent clashes between the security forces and protesters killed at least seven people (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 11 May 2023). While the Forces Vives of Guinea (FVG) coalition has called for further protests on 24 and 25 May, the junta is likely to deploy similarly repressive measures, which will likely dissuade significant public participation. However, a heightened security presence in the capital will likely sustain disruption to city-wide movements. Risks posed by violent clashes with the security forces, as well as vandalism and looting, will remain heightened over the protest period. (Source: Sibylline)
19 May 23. Iran: Increase in executions drives risks for activists, NGOs; more Western sanctions will likely follow. On 19 May, Iran reportedly executed three men accused of being responsible for the death of three members of the security forces during anti-government protests in November 2022. Strong domestic and international appeals over the past few days failed to halt the executions. A report by Amnesty International highlights allegations of a fast and flawed trial, which included extracting confessions by torture. More than 200 executions have been carried out since the start of the year. This recent uptick reflects an enhanced crackdown amid a significant reduction in protest activity. The deterioration of human rights in Iran, as well as the authorities’ strict response to public dissent, will elevate physical security risks (particularly for activists and NGO staff) in the coming months. There is a realistic possibility that further Western sanctions will be imposed, elevating compliance and operational disruption risks for firms doing business in Iran. (Source: Sibylline)
19 May 23. RoK accelerates KF-21 development programme. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said on 16 May that Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)’s KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft development programme has passed a “provisional combat suitability evaluation”.
According to DAPA, the milestone paves the way to accelerate aircraft manufacturing work ahead of the initial KF-21 production phase that is anticipated in 2024. The announcement comes after two years of extensive ground-based and flight trials following the rollout of the first prototype in April 2021 and the type’s maiden flight in July 2022.
The agency revealed that the latest evaluation assessed key developmental metrics such as the KF-21’s durability, structural integrity, manoeuvrability, and performance in over 200 test events over the past two years. It added that the evaluation also assessed the performance of core onboard system such as avionics, weapons, and its indigenously developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
DAPA noted that the milestone will enable plans to develop the necessary production capability for initial aircraft manufacturing to proceed. Production of the KF-21 is expected to commnce by mid-2026.
KAI has made steady progress on the KF-21’s development, with other recent successes including weapons release and firing evolutions in March and early April 2023.
On 7 April, DAPA announced the successful test launch of an AIM-2000 IRIS-T (InfraRed Imaging System-Tail control) air-to-air missile for the first time. The test was conducted on 4 April and builds on the launch of a Meteor missile on 28 March.
Another prototype aircraft was also used to test fire the onboard 20 mm rotary cannon. About 100 rounds were fired to assess the effect of recoil on the airframe and other subsystems.
Since the KF-21’s first flight in July 2022, four prototypes have conducted more than 150 flight tests, according to DAPA. The fourth prototype, which is a twin-seat variant, conducted its maiden flight on 20 February. The first three prototypes are all single seaters. A fifth prototype was also flown for the first time earlier this month.
The KF-21 is domestically classed as a ‘4.5-generation’ multirole platform that will replace the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF)’s ageing F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft. The RoKAF is expected to acquire 40 KF-21s by 2028 and another 80 aircraft by 2032.
19 May 23. SA Portfolio committee maintains Treasury out of touch on defence. Making the South African military comply with Cabinet authorised budget and spending cuts is not in the best interests of the country’s defence capabilities, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) maintains.
This after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s National Treasury (NT) roasted Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) and its operating arm – the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) – in a presentation this week (Wednesday, 17 May). Among others, those responsible for holding government’s purse strings took exception to irregular expenditure, including a just on R3 bn overspend on salaries.
Reacting, PCDMV chair Cyril Xaba in a statement pointed out making the SANDF comply with NT regulations on curbing spending and budget cuts “appears to have not considered the defence force’s operational structure and requirements”. A Parliamentary Communication Services statement has him saying verbatim: “The PCDMV is of the view the decision to cap the CoE (Compensation of Employees) remains unimplementable and contributes to irregular expenditure, as to fund the shortfall the department must shift funds from operations and assets acquisition and maintenance. This impacts heavily on South Africa’s defence capabilities”.
It continues, again verbatim: “The committee is concerned about the arbitrariness of the decision, as it has started to impact negatively on the serviceability of prime mission equipment (PME), training and the general readiness of the defence force. It has a direct impact on the defence force’s ability to recruit annually for both regular and reserve force. As a consequence, it restricts its rejuvenation efforts”.
According to the statement Modise and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, were both present and “felt” the NT directives “weakened the SANDF and put South Africa’s national security at risk”.
Xaba’s committee “welcomes prudent financial spending” with the rider that it should not result in “a shrinking defence force”. This in the light of factors including South Africa’s “increased population growth”, “the growing security threat posed by porous borders” and “regional instability”.
NT recommendations on “optimising internal spending” include staging Armed Forces Day (AFD) once every two years; “reconsidering the number of costly parades for promotions”; re-evaluating the continued maintenance of 44 attaché offices (which costs R320 million a year) and cutting travel spend, which amounts to R1.5 bn annually.
NT further recommended the SANDF manage overtime spending and other discretionary allowances; rationalise certain functions in corporate services such as avoiding duplication of functions like finance; dispose of assets that can generate revenue; and merge Armscor and Denel to save costs on corporate services.
As one outcome, the PCDMV recommends the DoD and NT “engage to find feasible ways of dealing with severe irregular expenditure and unsustainability of the CoE cap”. Both are to report back to the PCDMV in the third quarter.
Another outcome is the PCDMV meeting with NT on an as yet not scheduled date “to discuss the impact of budgetary constraints on PME and budget constraints”.
The PCDMV statement was issued a day after Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais came out with guns blazing against the apparent lack of control over SANDF spending.
The defence budget is shrinking in real terms, going from R54 bn in 2020/21 (bumped up then thanks to additional COVID-19 related interventions) to R48bn in 2021/22; R54bn in 2022/23 (including R2.9bn not appropriated); and R51bn in 2023/24. For 2024/25, R51bn is allocated and in 2025/26 R53bn has been allocated, insufficient to keep pace with inflation.
Although the SANDF has reduced personnel numbers by 2 833 between April 2022 and March 2023 (down to a total of 69 358), NT maintains it has not seen a “discernible impact on CoE”, partly because the SANDF is spending money on implementing its exit mechanism. R1.8 bn was allocated last year for the Mobility Exit Mechanism (MEM) over the next three years. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
19 May 23. RoK defence budget rebounds after FY23 dip. South Korea spends more on defence programmes to keep pace with the escalating security crises on the Korean peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific.
North Korea and China’s growing assertiveness have compelled South Korea to enhance its military capabilities and preparedness.
The document includes detailed information on the manufacturers and suppliers and their products, along with contact details, to inform your purchasing decision.
The country is investing in new weapons systems, expanding military personnel, and strengthening cybersecurity infrastructure.
South Korea’s defence budget shrank to $44.2bn, at a compound annual growth rate of -8.5%, in 2022. GlobalData intelligence forecasts this to rebound to $47.1bn, at a CAGR of 7.1%, in 2024. Henceforward, the company expects steady growth as the defence budget swells to $52.1bn by 2028.
Defence analyst Akash Pratim Debbarma at GlobalData comments: “South Korea’s shift in budget allocation toward acquisition budget reflects its efforts to keep pace with the evolving security challenges in the region. Although there is a temporary decrease in the defence budget, the country will make substantial investments, particularly in upgrading its air force and navy inventory.”
South Korea hopes to reduce its dependence on imports. It will strengthen its aerial capabilities with the development of the KF-21 Boramae fighter jet.
The country has plans to acquire 60 units of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A and F-35B aircraft. Besides this, the completion of the KF-21 domestically is a positive step towards achieving self-sufficiency in fighter jet production.
Scheduled for 2028, the induction of the KF-21 will significantly enhance South Korea with advanced features and increased operational readiness.
“Even though South Korea seeks to reduce its reliance on imports, it is likely to continue to work closely with the US on co-production initiatives and research and development. [This] maintains peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
“Given their mutual commitment to regional security, this partnership is expected to play a critical role in shaping the region’s security landscape in the future,” Debbarma concludes.
South Korea’s defence market has become an attractive alternative to Europe’s military platforms. While the country hopes to invest in itself, it has already made strides to coax a Eurpean consumer base.
Poland receives South Korean platforms
Poland purchased 180 South Korean K2 Black Panther main battle tanks (MBTs). The country will manufacture another 920 K2 MBTs from 2026 under a major technology sharing agreement.
This deal strengthens Poland’s security while distancing itself from standard platforms that come out of the European market.
Such standard European platforms include the German-manufactured Leopard 2A7s. The 2A7s were an option the Polish government considered until they decided to opt for the K2. As Poland develops K2 MBTs from eastern Europe, the South Korean platform will have a foothold inside the European market for land platforms. (Source: army-technology.com)
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