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Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 22:30:37 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-AFRICA: Mercenary Market Flourishing
Article: 50794
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.10002.19981224181611@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** 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 convention.

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 improved.

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 groups.

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 victims.

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 bidder.

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 exports.

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.
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