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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


STAPLETON, Tim. Bush tracking and warfare in late twentieth-century east and southern Africa. Historia [online]. 2014, vol.59, n.2, pp.229-251. ISSN 2309-8392.

During the decolonisation era guerrilla wars fought in East and southern Africa, tracking represented an important skill mobilised by state security forces in their hunt for elusive insurgents who themselves tried to use it to avoid detection. In 1950s Kenya state game-keepers played a central role in recruiting skilled indigenous trackers, establishing a tracking school which taught British troops how to supervise African trackers and developing the tactical concept of specialised small units called Tracker Combat Teams grouped into Forest Operating Companies. Although the Rhodesian forces enjoyed considerable success in counter-insurgency tracking in the sparsely populated Zambezi Valley during the late 1960s and cultivated a tracker training programme that favoured members of the white minority and used helicopters to gain ground on their prey, the shifting of the war into the more populated east in the 1970s and the insurgent use of antitracking techniques led to a decline in the effectiveness of Rhodesian combat tracking. In South West Africa during the late 1970s and 1980s the combination of semi-open terrain and available technology greatly enhanced South African security force tracking which employed trackers from the Ovambo majority, mine-resistant cross-country vehicles for greater mobility and close co-operation with aircraft all of which insurgents attempted to counter with highly imaginative antitracking methods.

Keywords : Tracking; Warfare; Counter-insurgency; Decolonization.

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