Tag Archives: privateers

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

Hunting Down Somali Pirates: British Empire

Times are tough and getting worse for Somali pirates, as their targets take countermeasures. The number of attacks off the Horn of Africa tumbled from 236 in 2011 to no more than 72 in 2012, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a body that monitors crime at sea.

Now a private naval effort is adding to their woes. A company called Typhon will use a 10,000 tonne “mother ship” to accompany convoys of merchant vessels. With 60 mostly armed, mostly British ex-soldiers on board, it will deploy speedboats and unmanned drones to watch and intercept hostile boats.  Anthony Sharp, Typhon’s boss, says customers will find that more efficient than putting armed guards on every ship. It will also spare them keeping guns on board (which is tricky in law). Typhon plans to have three large ships by the year end, with at least one based in the Gulf of Guinea, a hotspot for pirate attacks last year, and ten by 2016.

Its backers include Simon Murray, a former foreign legionnaire who is now chairman of Glencore, a commodities giant due soon to merge with Xstrata, a mining behemoth. The new outfit will be a big potential customer for Typhon. But Mr Sharp downplays comparisons with Britain’s East India Company, which ran a private empire with its own navy. His is “actually quite a boring business,” he claims. Not for the pirates.

Piracy: Privateers,Economist, Jan.12, 2013, at 54