Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 22:30:37 -0600 (CST)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: POLITICS-AFRICA: Mercenary Market Flourishing
/** ips.english: 493.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-AFRICA: Mercenary Market Flourishing **
** Written 8:52 PM Dec 21, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Mercenary Market Flourishing
By Thomas Hirenée Atenga, IPS
16 December 1998
PARIS, Dec 15 (IPS) - In the early 1990s, the United Nations launched
a convention banning the recruiting, use, financing and training of
mercenaries but its effectiveness has been weakened by the fact that
only 12 nations have ratified the treaty.
As war businesses flourish in Africa, donors mobilising for the
reconstruction of countries torn apart by conflict a re calling on the
United Nations to reactivate the issue of the ratification of the
Experts who attended an early-December meeting called by the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted
that to end violence, consolidate peace and lay the bases for
sustainable development, the security situation in Africa has to be
They recalled that development aid cannot be the sole response to
the problems of countries exhausted by conflicts which are not always
stoked by rival factions within their borders but also by mafia-like
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Development
Aid Committee (DAC) - which links the industrial ised countries -
recognise the urgent need for a system approved by all states which
would end the reign of those who live from the market for violence
in Africa, the main region still ravaged by conflicts since the end
of the Cold War.
The companies that thrive on war in Africa are many, from Executive
Outcomes (EO) to Sandline International (SI) to Military Professional
Resources incorporated (MPRI). Specialising in private military
operations, they make fortunes from the blood of millions of innocent
They are often staffed by retired generals and former elite troops.
Some, EO included, can mobilise up to 2,000 men. They offer tailor-made
services to their clients, from simple ones
like providing security guards to more complex operations such as
the surveillance of oil installations, and they have even intervened
directly in conflicts.
Mercenary outfits were suspected of having a heavy hand in the civil
wars in Mozambique and Angola, where they foug ht at different times
on either side following the principle of working for the highest
It has been established that EO sent men to Sierra Leone in 1995 at
the request of the government to help the regular army fight
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who had reached the outskirts
of the capital, Freetown. The price tag for EO's assistance was 35
million dollars, but it is not clear whether the government paid in
cash or by giving the mercenary outfits mining and water-distribution
contracts as has been rumoured.
The experts at the OECD-organised meeting said the mercenaries also
engaged in arms trafficking, especially light w eapons.
"There are more than seven million small arms circulating in West
Africa today," said Christophe Carles, research er at the UN
Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), defining small arms as
"all individual weapons requiring little maintenance and easy to
carry" and with calibres of less that 100 mm.
"That covers a frightening arsenal: revolvers, rifles, assault
rifles, sub-machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, " he said.
"Just about anyone can afford their prices."
More than eight million small arms are in circulation in Southern
Africa, he said.
Robin Edward Poulton, a research director at UNIDIR, said that where
the proliferation of weapons was concerned, A K 47s were a case in
point. According to Poulton, the Russian assault rifle, now
manufactured in about 18 countries, can use home-made ammunition and
can be had for 150 U.S. dollars or less on the underground market in
some African nations.
The donors hope to fight these underground circuits behind which the
mercenary outfits often hide. The ratification of the anti-mercenary
convention is being been brought back onto the front burner. And Emma
Bonino, European Commissioner for human rights and humanitarian
operations, has announced that the European Union (EU) has just
submitted to its member states a set of criteria for restricting arms
She said the list of military equipment whose export is to be
monitored was being drawn up and that countries which produced light
weapons were being asked to take stricter measures with regard to
brand names so as to make it easier to trace weapons.
Something has to be done, she added, to prevent the EU from eternally
rebuilding schools and dispensaries in Africa , which those who
benefit from the continent's conflicts destroy by encouraging arms
trafficking and the existence of private military groups.
For its part, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a
programme of coordination and assistance for security and
development that includes helping to set up databases on the
circulation of weapons and providing technical assistance to
governments trying to combat arms trafficking.
However, some Western governments have been sub-contracting work to
the private military outfits. MPRI, for example, participated in 1997
on behalf of the U.S. government in an assistance programme for
training an African crisis-response force. Moreover, they all have
websites and openly market their services.
As Poulton noted, even if the present context is conducive to
dismantling the private armies, nothing can be done without the will
of the states that have connections to them, and ratifying the treaty
is an important first step in the process.
(END/IPS/tha/kb/98) 12161155 WAS007 2161256 ORP027
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