Tag Archives: private military contractors

Selling War Services: the Mercenaries

Despite a UN treaty banning mercenaries, their day is far from over. Some analysts think there are now more of them in Africa than ever. But can they ever be a force for good?  ….In the years after most African countries gained independence, mercenaries were notorious for supporting secessionist movements and mounting coups. 

Western governments have in the past winked at mercenary activity that served their commercial interests. But nowadays Russia is seen as the leading country egging on mercenaries to help it wield influence. It does so mainly through Wagner, ***whose founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is close to President Vladimir Putin.

Wagner has been hired to prop up a number of shaky African regimes. In Sudan it tried to sustain the blood-drenched dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir. He was ousted last year after big protests. In 2018 hundreds of Wagner men arrived in the Central African Republic to guard diamond mines, train the army and provide bodyguards for an embattled president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra. In Guinea, where Rusal, a Russian aluminium giant, has a big stake, Wagner has cosied up to President Alpha Condé, who has bloodily faced down protests against a new constitution that lets him have a third term in office. In Libya, despite a un arms embargo, Wagner is reported to have deployed 800-1,200 operatives in support of a rebel general, Khalifar Haftar, who has been trying to defeat the UN-recognised government….

Mercenaries have three main advantages over regular armies. First, they give plausible deniability. Using them, a government such as Russia’s can sponsor military action abroad while pretending not to. Second, they tend to be efficient, experienced, nimble and flexible. Third, they are cheaper than regular armies. Whereas soldiers receive lifelong contracts and pensions, mercenaries are often paid by the job..

***Other firms include Dyke Advisory Group (DAG) , OAM Middle East

See also The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries

Excerpts from Soldiers of misfortune: Why African governments still hire mercenaries, Economist, May 30, 2020

Private Military Firms: business in Africa

But Blackwater’s demise created space for two rivals: DynCorp International, a 60-year-old firm that diversified into military security, and Triple Canopy, founded in 2003 with a similar business model to Blackwater’s.  Groups such as Human Rights First campaign against governments’ use of private military contractors…Post-Blackwater, two trends have dominated the new industry...globalisation and indigenisation. On the supply side, there are a growing number of private military firms, and not all of the new ones were formed by former special forces from Western powers, such as Aegis and Blue Mountain, two British firms. Warlords in places such as Afghanistan and Somalia ainre creating contracting firms that they staff with local talent. Their embattled national governments are seeing the merits in contracting out security. So America is no longer the only big buyer of private force…

One thing that would greatly improve the industry’s prospects is if the United Nations began using private contractors for peacekeeping missions, as it is said to be considering. Today, such missions are staffed by soldiers from poorer countries, who are often badly trained. Mr Prince thinks that private contracting would make the UN more effective, but he has no intention of going after that business. For him, the new promised land is Africa, where he is investing in firms providing services to the oil and gas industry, in places where he thinks his expertise in providing logistics and security can give him a competitive edge.

Private military contractors: Beyond Blackwater, Economist, Nov. 23, 2013, at  65