PRIVATE MILITARY SERVICE PROVIDERS: AFRICA’S WELCOME PARIAHS By Doug Brooks

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There has been much written on the “scourge” of mercenaries, private military companies, and private security companies that are operating in Africa. They are blamed for instigating conflicts, for human rights abuses, for intensifying wars, for dealing in conflict diamonds, for landmines, for child soldiers, for selling small arms to warlords, even for neocolonialism.
The reality, however, is that in virtually every instance of their use on the continent, these companies and individuals that provide military services were specifically invited and welcomed by African governments. They have assisted regional stability, supported fundamental law and order, protected threatened communities of civilians, curtailed the malicious activities of insurgents, and created conditions beneficial to economic growth and political development. Thus, despite frequent vilification of companies providing military services, African governments continue to utilize or tolerate private companies filling the critical security gaps.
There are many reasons for this; private companies are considered more reliable, effective, and neutral than state security services controlled by African governments. In fact, African states have suffered scores of coups and coup attempts from their own state forces since independence. Many state militaries are guilty of being used to support the ethnic partiality of leaders, of horrendous human rights abuses against their own citizens, and of looting the state treasury.

For modern African leaders interested in bringing stability, security and prosperity to their countries, the history of recent decades supports the rationality of decisions to increasingly privatize security, both national and commercial. Compared to conventional militaries, the record of private companies in Africa is pristine.

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