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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE FAILURE(S) OF THE UN IN AFRICA

It is astonishing that no-one in the United Nations (UN) has the moral courage to step forward and admit their shameful behaviour and subsequent failures in Africa. In fact, their lack of contribution to keeping peace in Africa has been nothing but disgraceful. At least some UN generals have opted to rather leave than be tainted with this shambles. Perhaps they knew that if they didn’t jump they would be pushed.

Perhaps the time has come to hold the UN accountable for not only its mismanagement, mis-strategising, misconduct and for completely missing the objectives of peacekeeping but also for the many thousands of lives that their incompetence has caused. But, this will never happen as long as their salaries are paid. They will merely continue to show their complete lack of understanding insofar as conflict-cause, conflict resolution, strategy and conflict-containment is concerned. Coupled to a lack of discipline, poor command and control, inadequate training and little to no intelligence, the state of affairs just gets worse.

The current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a perfect example at hand.

The UN boasts that this is its largest peacekeeping mission in the world with in excess of 17 000 men. The costs to maintain this monstrously inept machine are enormous. The results they have achieved thus far hover close to an absolute zero. The fact that they are even allowed to wear military uniforms and travel in military vehicles ought to be a disgrace to any military man with some pride.

Hiding behind the impressive name of MONUC, this force has been unable to enforce or keep any peace whatsoever. Yet, their press releases appear to intimate successes that are invisible to everyone else. Chaos and lives lost are apparently of no consequence to them. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless and continue to flee the conflict area, yet MONUC seems oblivious to all of this. If they really are that keen to do their job, why aren’t they then doing it? Perhaps they too will soon blame “mission creep” for their failures. Or, when the whole world finally sits up and takes note, they will probably state that a peace agreement is “imminent”. Until then, Ban Ki-moon and his cohorts will continue to express their desire to solve problems – and do nothing. Besides, solving the problem could have a negative influence on their “jobs-for-life” mentality.

They give themselves a new name for every mission and loudly proclaim how they are going to make a difference. The truth is that they do make a difference – upon their arrival things rapidly progress from bad to worse. Then, as they steadily entrench the chaos they bring, they quickly blame everyone else for their ineffectiveness. When they are called on to stand their ground, they buckle and leave in a hurry – or even worse, as they did in Angola, they blame the government for wanting to finish off the rebel forces while they in turn ooze sympathy for the rebels.

Indeed, in Angola it was well known to the men of EO that these so-called blue-helmeted soldiers would, once they arrived to keep the peace, snivel in their bases and send back false area intelligence and patrol reports to their headquarters in Luanda. These reports, which the EO signallers intercepted – and which I still have in my possession - showed what true peacekeeping incompetence is. Even worse, they gave the rebels glowing reports while blaming government forces for any cease-fire violations when the opposite was true.

Had that same situation occurred anywhere in Europe or even the USA, the besieged government would have been helped to defeat any rebel movement aimed at overthrowing or destabilising it. But this does not happen in Africa. Here both sides are supported by the UN and some Western governments/multi-nationals and then a decision is made as to who the winner is likely to be and then that side is supported – until they are overwhelmed. The UN is able to switch sides faster than one can throw a light switch. After all, Africa is mainly black with a couple of whites thrown in – so why would they care? At the end of the day, these lives – be it black or white – are just expendable Africans as far as they are concerned.

Just look what the UN actually achieved in Angola: The rebels, defeated on the battlefield, signed the peace accord in Lusaka, the peacekeepers arrived, confined everyone to base, forced the military to disarm while quietly (and knowingly) allowed the rebels to re-arm and then, when the war broke out again, they fled with their tails between their legs, blaming the government for defending itself. Is that peacekeeping or chaos-creation?

They also successfully applied a similar strategy in Sierra Leone, eventually losing so much control that the British and US had to race to the rescue. Before the DRC, this was their largest mission which they eventually hailed as a great triumph to peacekeeping. If one really looks at what happened in Sierra Leone, the UN is solely to blame for massive loss of life and destruction to personal property – to say nothing of the trauma, disillusionment and refugees they left in their wake.

Their record of indulging in criminal acts is also well documented – child prostitution, looting, rape, robbery and even murder are seemingly part of their peacekeeping portfolio. Perhaps the time has come for governments to start speaking out against the UN’s blundering and fuelling of fires. African governments should hold the UN accountable when they fail as dismally as they do.

It would furthermore do African leaders well to contract reliable PMCs to assist them with redefining containment strategies and implementing those strategies. The UN’s peacekeepers can then be expelled from African soil. This will ensure that there is a definite timeline for ending the conflict. Apart from the fact that it will cost a fraction of what it costs the UN – the DRC costs are currently estimated to be US$ 1,2 billion a year - it will also ensure commitment to complete the mission and there will be accountability to the contracting government – something the UN has neither of.

My next posting will take a brief look at the piracy problem off Africa’s east coast.

27 comments:

Oupa Grysbaard said...

You have said it right! The UN was originally established to help the nations of our planet out of the horrors of war, but they have failed dismally in that mandate.
I saw their inept blundering in the newly independent Belgian Congo where they helped to oust the only sensible black, Moise Tshombe, and secured the position of one of the classical tyrants of the African Congo Mobuto.The intervention of Mike Hoare and his fifth commando saved many lives in that cauldron of conflict, both black and white, but the UN kept agitating against him till he became the pariah of the western world.
From that time on they have been the most ineffective force showing a complete disregard for what is basically right from wrong.
Then to think that it is the slaving hard working people that have to carry the expense of keeping these whimps in the field! Enough to make one puke!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your comments are most valuable. But, as long as they are allowed to continue in the manner they do, someone needs to hold them accountable for their (in)actions. As you rightly point out, good hard working people have to carry the bill for their ineptitude. They are a total disgrace and a complete failure.

Aethyr said...

How do you do, Eeben!

I think one of the numerous Mistakes of the UN in Africa is the fact that they rely on troops of the middle East or Africa itself, who are not well trained and/or safeguard the interests of their countries (e.g. nigeria).

Reuters just released the news that one resolution of the UN asks for nearly 3000 more boots on the ground.

Do you think that PMCs would really make that difference? I know that the IPOA promotes the services of PMCs/PSCs in humanitarian operations.
I think there is a long way to go before PMCs are regarded as "social acceptable" to do the job.

Until now most of the people regard still them as trigger happy "mercenaries".

regards
D.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There is some validity to your comment but in Rwanda during the genocide, it wasn’t African troops that were keeping the peace. Nor were the UN troops in Angola or Sierra Leone African troops – they came from both first- and third-world countries.

Of course the UN wants more troops on the ground – if this increases to 20 000 men in DRC, the shambles will become even bigger if no planning and control is exercised.

I can only speak on Angola and Sierra Leone and there a PMC (EO) ended the wars in a very short space of time. It was only once the UN arrived that everything spiralled out of control - again.

A PMC is contracted to achieve a certain goal within a specific time at an accepted cost. A reputable PMC will do just that. The UN has no goals, no time limit constraints and no lack of funding to achieve whatever needs to be achieved. Still, they cannot/don’t want to do the job.

As regards the PMCs not being socially acceptable, again I can only speak from my experience: This image was created by the South African – and other - government, the intelligence services and the media as EO was stopping a lot of government organised crime and damaging the illegal exploitation of natural resources. However, despite this campaign, there was never a finger pointed at the men of EO for human rights violations or any such thing. Western governments wanted EO out of Africa is they saw us as a threat to their influence in African countries.

As was mentioned in an earlier posting, The Star newspaper printed a full-page apology to me (November 5, 2007) for the disinformation they printed and how they had been hoodwinked by the intelligence services and the government.

Of course there are trigger happy PMCs as Iraq and Afghanistan can testify. One needs to look into how they got their contracts in the first instance. But that said, a reputable PMC will out-perform the UN’s peacekeeping efforts any day.

Rgds,

Eeben

mawm said...

Eben, I recall that EO supported the Government troops in Angola. Also I find it hard to believe that the UN did not give support to the Marxist Government, and instead gave support to the rebels who had previously been supported by 'white' South Africa and the US.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am not an apologist for the Angolan government or any other government. However, the Angolans were not Marxist but African Socialists whereas UNITA was Maoist. The MPLA did not invite the UN to Angola – their arrival was a condition of the Lusaka Protocols. Besides, given the changing political landscape in SA, what are we now – African Socialist, Marxist, Democratic, Socialist …?

Be that as it may, the UN were the first to acknowledge that the elections in Angola (1992) were “free and fair”. If the UN therefore accepted the MPLA as the legitimate winner of the elections, why then give covert assistance/turn a blind eye to UNITA when they (UN) should have been ensuring a stable security environment in order to facilitate political discussions?

As for “white” SA supporting UNITA, only the ex-NP government ministers can explain why they wanted a Maoist Savimbi to take control in Angola. Was this a trade-off for cheap diamonds and oil? Who knows?

Ironically, EO was castigated for supporting the MPLA who, in everyone’s mind was “communist” yet when SA changed its political direction in 1994, a great many senior civil servants and soldiers elected to serve the new SA government with no care or concern for what the new government stood for. When I recently asked an ex-general the question, he couldn’t answer it for me. But this is a discussion for another time.

Regarding the UN in Africa, history alone will judge its peacekeeping efforts in Africa and right now, it is not a good judgement at all.

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

Regarding Ruanda you are absolutely right!
But for SL I recall the problem with nigerian Troops looting the country.

The fact that reputable PMCs could do the job is not doubted. But these companies are having hard times because of those trigger happy contractors. Again the whole herd is held accountable for some black sheeps.

I really would like to see that article of THE STAR. Via Internet I can't get a look at it without subsrciption.

Again, thank you for your time, keep on blogging!
regards
D.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The Nigerian troops in SL were initially part of ECOMOG and were asked to rejoin the UN when it arrived in SL. Yes, they did start looting but then they were under UN command – and they weren’t the only ones looting. Several other peacekeepers decided that diamonds were more lucrative than peacekeeping.

As for the PMCs: It all goes back to vetting them. Many PMCs today are composed of men who are out of control and also incapable of doing their jobs. That sadly is a fact. But, there are ones out there that are dedicated and who are capable.

If I can get an email address for you, I shall send you The Star’s article.

Rgds,

Eeben

Grumbleguts said...

Hi Eeben,
VERY interesting stuff coming out of the blog, and the comments that follow. I have a question regarding the rathole utopia that South Africa has become. What is your solution to the mess? Personally, a military coup would be unthinkable, as the liberals in the West would kick against it. A white man as president would also be out of the question, as the support of the locals would vanish, and anarchy would reign. Perhaps a coup with a black puppet president in power.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very interesting question indeed but as I (sadly) do not see myself as an expert in politics, I will really not be the ideal person to answer your question. As a once-professional soldier I always tried to avoid politics as much as possible and will continue to do so.

I don’t believe that SA requires a military solution.

I think it would be most useful for people interested in this blog if I confine myself to military and security matters.

Rgds,

Eeben

Grumbleguts said...

Hi Eeben,
thanks for the reply. I am no politician either. I left SA some time ago to settle here in the UK, so whatever happens there is out my control, not that I would have made any influence at all. It will be interesting to see how things unfold with there with two rival factions at each others throats. I know that a military solution is out of the question. There was no backdoor motive in my question at all. I am just curious to hear what people in the know think.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks! I appreciate your understanding. I must however confine myself to those things I know a bit about.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jeff ( Va. Rebel ) said...

Greetings from the U.S. -

Got the nudge your way from Dark Raven and I too anxiously await the dissemination of your years of knowledge .
Particularly the dirty involvement of the American government in African affairs ... who so many are still convinced wears a white hat .

Good luck and stay safe . We'll be reading .

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sadly, the US government - under various administrations - has pulled off its fair share of dirty tricks, both covert and not so covert - in Africa (some more spectacular in failure than others) much to the detriment of both the US and Africa. Perhaps this may explain the reluctance of Africa to give AFRICOM a home?

I shall in due course be looking at AFRICOM and its inability to find a base in Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben

He of difficult days said...

"I shall in due course be looking at AFRICOM and its inability to find a base in Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben"
---------------

I was under the impression that they did find a base in Africa?

But then I had a look at their website and saw that it seems that their location is Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany?

Bloody hilarious I say.

robnoel1 said...

Hi Eeben..Are you open to doing a radio show in America with a fellow Rhodie?

Loggi said...

Excellent post Eeben .
The same thing is happening in all the UN missions in Africa. Speaking from experience some of the contributing countries have run out of actual deployable soldiers. There are now soldiers in these missions that were employed 2 weeks prior to their deployment on an international peace keeping mission. And I am not talking about 18 yr olds. These are people in their late 30`s, overweight, endless health problems and no military background whatsoever. If there has been as much as a rumor or a report of gunfire they remain in base for months on end as it is declared unsafe to patrol. This while they are housed, fed and they earn a Per Diem of $95.00 per day. Needles to say they lose all respect from the locals within the first few days of a mission. What is however heart breaking is to see the SANDF operate with the same ill discipline; lose their vehicles, clothes and dignity without firing one single shot.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is indeed a problem as no African government wants them at present. But, can one blame the distrust?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the offer to do a radio show with you. At present, I am a bit "over-talkshowed" - would you allow me a break of a few months and then invite me?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The UN’s actions are absolutely disgraceful. Thank goodness my career was “politically terminated” and that I never became a member of the SANDF’s rabble whose behaviour is totally shocking. How does one lose vehicles?? To think that just yesterday Ban Ki-moon called for the UN’s peacekeeping forces in Chad to be DOUBLED! The man must be seriously stupid if he thinks that will bring about a change for the better. As we used to say: "There are no tablets for stupidity".

Rgds,

Eeben

Loggi said...

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

19 November 2008

Only hours after diplomats graciously hosted one another, fresh fighting between rebel and government forces erupted in Riwindi, a town 125 kilometres north of Goma, while peacekeepers in the area from UN mission in Congo, MONUC, retreated into their compound.

"We couldn't go out or else we would get caught in the crossfire," said Jean Paul Dietrich, the military spokesman for MONUC.

What an embarrassment.

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Just by there being a UN Mission, most of the problems have been solved from the UN perspective.
How does it always end up this way?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The UN are not always truthful in what they say ER. I cannot speak for the UN but I can speak from what I have seen first-hand and witnessed: The UN is never impartial, views problem solving in terms of how many men it can put on the ground – regardless of what they do and how long they remain in a country, and measures its success in how much money it spends. I don’t see this as problem solving but rather as problem creation.

One doesn’t need to look very far to see just how ineffective they are.

Also, they UN haven’t yet fully understood that there can be no peacekeeping if there is no peace.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben.
So what does the UN do if their is no peace and they have a mission in place, are they observers? Are you saying the UN has chosen a side to favor while on it's mission? Interesting. I thought them to be impartial, as the word peacekeeper would imply.
You mention tribalism and I understand a bit of this way of life but only from a western perspective.
I realize that all peoples do not want what we have in the USA, but how about just the stability of not killing each other. How can we sell this to other countries without all of the other baggage that comes along with it, as that part will manifest itself anyway.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

They claim that they are “observers” when there is no peace but what sense does that make? The wars continue, the rape and pillaging goes on and everyone can do whatever they want to do under the watchful eyes of the UN. Wherever we witnessed UN peacekeepers, the locals weren’t happy that they were there as they saw them as constantly choosing and then changing sides to support either the government or the rebels.

Let me quote something to you that was reported from the DRC today:

...................................

The conflict is good for the well-paid members of the 18-nation MONUC peacekeeping force, and for the aid agencies and news organisations and the people who cater to them and their fleets of white four-wheel drive vehicles competing for space on the deeply-rutted streets. The phrase rings out across the city's Birere market as fellow traders play up MONUC's unpopularity. They see the UN force as a vehicle for prolonging the war between government forces and Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels.

"The MONUC guys want the war to go on, if it stops they don't make money," said Chantal, as she watched over her array of garden vegetables. "MONUC will not do anything. We can't count on them. MONUC is only helping the war," she said, puffing her lips out angrily.

"The MONUC troops here are doing nothing. So more of them won't make any difference," shouts her neighbour. "People want the war to make money”.

"It won't change anything. Bringing more blue helmets here will only bring more problems," said another woman who did not want to be named.

Back in security-pampered Goma, hardware store manager Alain Kebera said the fresh UN troops could make a difference but another trader, Jean-Paul Ziali, said: "There is too much complicity with the rebels. And the ordinary people are caught in the middle. People here know nothing about politics. It's over their heads."

...................................

I think that says it all.

Rgds,

dgstraub said...

I have chosen to write my PhD dissertation on this subject (Entitled: "Outsourcing Human Security: The Pros and Cons of Private Security Companies in Peacekeeping") and have found Mr. Barlow's book to be exceptionally enlightening as the view from the other side.

In many cases, one can directly compare incidences that Mr. Barlow describes with incidences that the UN describes in its reports, and what I have found is NOT that the "answer lies somewhere in the middle," but that entire sections of activity by PSCs like EO have been omitted from the UN record. No credit given for the creation of stability which enabled UN troops (or officials on mission) to "intervene" in the first place. (Just so I am clear, I am not saying that EO missed out on "credit" or pats on their backs; what I am saying is that, had the UN or other international agencies/coalitions worked closely with firms such as EO or Sandline (or even GSG early on in SL), and established transitional boundaries (i.e. when will EO stop and the UN take over), things would most certainly have been different.

There are parallels that can be drawn between MPRI's involvement in BiH and EO's involvement in both Sierra Leone and Angola; however, the similarities seem to end there. EO, as one of the first PMCs/PSCs was an anomaly not easily accepted by the UN, and as a result, for myriad reasons, there was poor coordination between the UN and EO (and zero collaboration). Had EO had the support of the international community (or coalitions of nations) that MPRI or DynCorp (for example) enjoyed in BiH, the extended conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone (effectively ended at the termination of EO's contracts) could have ended much sooner, saving hundreds of thousands of limbs and lives.

Mr. Barlow has mentioned it already in this blog, but to reiterate, of course there has to be accountability by PSCs. The actions of many PSC employees have damaged reputations of PSCs in specific and in general, but what I found from my research is that the human rights abuses perpetrated by UN peacekeepers FAR outnumber the human rights abuses perpetrated by PSCs. Unfortunately, perception caused by a few PSC employees or incidences (Nisour Square, Bosnia, Abu Ghraib, etc.) has resulted in the effective elimination of a valuable resource that could be used in peacekeeping and stability operations by the UN. (Don't get me wrong, I know that PSCs are used as security for the UN, to protect themselves, but there is an attitude that, "the UN will NEVER use PSCs for peacekeeping." I heard this sentence in different forms from officials I interviewed at the UNDPKO and the UNDSS, as well as from academics and NGO practitioners.)

I understand that the above is a relatively simple coagulation of polemics and that there is much more to this issue, but I think it is imperative that if truly ending the "scourge of war" as the UN proclaims is to happen, then coordination, collaboration, and cooperation between ALL available (and willing) agencies must be considered.

CDR Dan Straub

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visit and your comment, CDR.

I firmly believe that the UN has no intention of stopping any conflict or providing the necessary security to people caught in the conflict zone. If they did stop it, where would they go to next? Additionally, when we approached the UN and offered to assist and support them, they refused point blank and then lied about EO in several reports. Rwanda is a good example of their foolishness.

Then they forget to tell the world that we provided security to them in SL and rescued their people in Irian Jaya.

A little bit of research will bear out your comment on their behaviour which is by far worse than any PMC to date – and there have been some that have really exhibited poor discipline and even worse judgement.

You are very correct in terms of the “pat on the back”. Our mission was to get the job done and not to take the limelight. Indeed, what we did we did as support for national armies and they should get all the credit, if not for anything but for trusting in us.

My best wishes as you progress down the road with your PhD.

Rgds,

Eeben