In Africa, British spies target allied leaders, executives, and telcoms engineers

Le Monde has published a new collection of documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that the British spy agency GCHQ targeted the leaders of allied countries in Africa, as well as business executives and employees of telecommunications companies, whose accounts were a means to gaining access to communications infrastructure across the continent.

Beyond France, the disclosures highlight the U.K.'s extensive spying operations across Africa. In 20 countries across the continent, GCHQ monitored current and former heads of state, prime ministers, diplomats, military and intelligence chiefs, as well as leading figures in the business and finance industry, Le Monde reports. Among those who were subject to the surveillance, which involved intercepting communications as they were being beamed between satellites, was a close British ally – Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and his strategic advisers. Other targets included Nigeria's president Umaru Yar'Adua and his private secretary; Ghana's president John Kufuor; Sierra Leone's leader Ernest Koroma; and the presidential palace in Luanda, Angola. Prominent business figures were also monitored, such as Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu, regarded as one of Africa's richest and most influential men, and Chris Kirubi, a wealthy Kenyan businessman and radio-station owner who was described by Forbes in 2011 as the country's "most flamboyant tycoon. "

But not all of the people on the surveillance lists were high-flying corporate and political elites. Le Monde reports that GCHQ spied on the employees of two major telecommunications companies – the South African firm MTN and Kuwait-based Zain. The agency focused in particular on "roaming managers" working for the companies in at least 15 African countries, including Gabon, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Congo, and Mali. Roaming managers who work for cellphone companies organize partnerships between different carriers across the world, ensuring that when you travel overseas on vacation or a business trip you can use your phone to connect to a local network and make calls and receive messages.

British spying: tentacles reach across Africa's heads of states and business leaders
[Simon Piel and Joan Tilouine, Le Monde]


(Image: Africa (orthographic projection), Martin23230, CC-BY-SA)