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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.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

THE GREAT LAKES CATASTROPHE

Having been falsely accused in the 90s by the SA Department of Foreign Affairs and some of the “intelligence fabricators” of Military Intelligence as well as the media reporting on Executive Outcomes’ alleged involvement in the Great Lakes area – and in particular in Rwanda and Burundi – it is only natural that I take a good, hard look at what is unfolding in that area. (In case ex-Director-General Rusty Evans and his merry MI and media friends wish to deny or dispute this, I shall gladly post their false and fabricated “secret” and not-so-secret reports on the internet).

Africa’s Great Lakes area’s riches are also its curse. This area consists of eleven countries but it is generally considered to comprise Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and is rich in natural resources such as gold, copper, oil, coltran, diamonds, water, uranium, cobalt and more. Many of the resources in this area are considered to be strategic in nature. However, the area is also characterised by acute shortages of power, widespread poverty, corruption, poorly maintained infrastructure – and political power struggles, tribal antagonism and corruption.

The DRC, the largest owner of these resources, is the stage that is being used to play out the catastrophe the world is currently witnessing – a catastrophe brought about by an abundance of resources instead of a shortage of them – and a desire by outside parties to gain control over the resources. Added to this mix is the clandestine foreign aid, mainly from the US and the UK, being channelled through Rwanda to the rebel CNDP of Laurent Nkunda.

The wars that are currently raging in that area are not focussed on gaining military victories but rather in wresting control over resources. This is in part because in Africa – unlike as in the West - politics drive the economies and not visa versa.

Stability in the Great Lakes region is hampered by numerous factors, many if not all of them, being driven by outside forces. In essence, these factors are mainly greed and power and these two factors are being used to fuel the tribal and ethnic tensions in the region. The resultant spill-over effect is bound to have serious repercussions on all neighbouring states and even beyond, and is likely to plunge the area into even deeper chaos and poverty. The migration of huge numbers of refugees will add additional financial and social strains on the states neighbouring the conflict area.

But, when looking (simplistically) at what is happening, the following can be noted:

1. The US Special Forces are actively involved in training the Rwandan armed forces.
2. The Rwandan army is accused of aiding and abetting the rebels of Nkunda’s CNDP. There are also allegations that serving Rwandan soldiers are fighting alongside the CNDP in the DRC. (Were they trained by the US army?)
3. Rwanda is additionally supplying child-soldiers to the rebels in DRC.
4. In violation of the UN arms embargo, Rwanda is also supplying arms and ammunition to the rebel forces of the CNDP.
5. The United Kingdom is pumping a huge amount of money in the direction of Rwanda. Much of this is being used for actions in the DRC to support Nkunda’s rebels. Perhaps President Kagame’s recent, under-the-radar visit to the UK was to get more money for his actions in the DRC?
6. The head of Anglo American’s Brenthurst Foundation, Dr Greg Mills, was appointed as “Special Advisor to the President” and is part of the Strategy and Policy Unit of the Rwandan President. The official announcement was made on 31 October 2007. Mills was also an advisor to General Richards and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
7. Barely a year after Mills was appointed, heavy fighting resumed between the FARDC (DRC armed forces) and the CNDP. One wonders what advice was given.
8. The CNDP has called for a condition of any ceasefire the review of all resource mining and exploration contracts awarded to the Chinese - so that they can go to…who knows?
9. South Africa supplies weapons to Rwanda.
10. South African weapons are also being used by the CNDP.

I wonder if all of this is pure coincidence. I also wonder why the UN, with its many thousands of men on the ground, are unable to figure this out?

Given the apathy of the West and in particular the UN, who have for a long time stood idly by and watched the civilians in that region to suffer the horrors they are faced with, their reason for being there needs to be seriously questioned. With the UN’s superior firepower they remain ineffectual and unable or unwilling to stop the fighting. (See http://www.africancrisis.co.za/Article.php?ID=39573&) With a peacekeeping force of 17 000 men and approval for an additional 3 000 men, they are surely the most useless peacekeeping force the world has ever known.

Many of the failed states in Africa are the result of overt and covert interference by foreign governments and companies. This interference takes the form of poor advice, misguided policies and giving credibility and empowerment to those that abuse their powers – all aimed at gaining control over resources and influence over the governments. Yes, there is tribalism, power struggles and corruption at work as well but there is corruption all over the world. The recent economic meltdown in the West was surely not caused by honest and responsible business practices.

However in Africa, the fuelling of corruption leads to an escalation in power-grabbing and the resultant ethnic and tribal strife we witness. African governments at war mean large profits, regardless of the collateral fall-out. I suspect that the parties involved in fuelling the conflict have caused more harm to the local population than the warring parties have caused to the opposing sides.

The benefits that many foreign governments, the UN, several NGOs, as well as numerous multi-nationals derive from the Great Lakes conflict are astronomical. Yet the great irony remains – one of the most resource-rich areas in the world is also one of the poorest. Thousands of people have been killed in this conflict and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Yet, the catastrophe does not feature high on anyone’s agenda. Had this situation occurred anywhere in the West, the great powers would have stepped in and put a stop to it. But this is Africa. Here deaths, white or black, don’t matter.

Perhaps the time has come that the situation in the Great Lakes area is exposed for what it is - an attempt by Rwanda and its foreign allies to grab the resources in the DRC.

Added on 13 December: Here is an interesting follow-on article on the DRC:
http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2441811,00.html

Added on 14 December: This article from the New York Times is indicative of the utter uselessness of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC. The excuses offered as to why and how the massacre happened defy belief. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/11/world/africa/11congo.html?_r=1

Added on 16 December 2008: Another interesting article on the massive wastage and incompetence that reigns supreme in the UN. To think that they can even point a finger at corrupt governments…It is about time that this organisation is exposed for what it is. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htun/articles/20081214.aspx

31 comments:

graycladunits said...

wow, i do not know much about Africa, not many African courses offered at my colleges (JMU and VT)when i was there...i draw the sad conclusion that the US, UK, and SA take no interest in sending enough money and supplies to this conflict to end it ouright, but simply want to keep it going so that they do not have to compete directly with China for natural resources on the continent, thus keeping China from becoming a dominant superpower, am i right or off base?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think that part of your reasoning is correct, GCU. The Chinese are not in Africa because they love the people and the continent. They need resources for their industry in order to establish themselves as THE world superpower. But, as I have said before, they have been pretty upfront about this all along. Lest some see me as an apologist for the Chinese – I am not – I am simply stating something I see in my travels across Africa.

On the other hand, there is great concern about Chinese business development in Africa. What I do find ironical is that direct Chinese investment into Africa equals 6% whereas into Latin America, it equals 16%. Yet, no one seems to have noticed this or if they have, they may feel it is politically incorrect to discuss this. Are the American people aware that the Chinese build-up is on their southern step?

Whereas Latin America is not characterised by the same conflict situations we have in Africa, the cost for resources is different. In Africa, conflicts lead to cheaper costs for resources whereas in Latin America, competitive prices need to be paid.

So, it is not a matter of really wanting to stop African conflicts, it is about seeing how long they can continue. In order to achieve this, a lot of foreign clandestine assistance is given to ensure conflicts continue. Promises are being made to governments - promises that will be broken and denied in the near future.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Eeben,
As usual well said. It would be news to nearly everyone in the US and UK that our 'efforts to assist the Rwandans' is resulting in covert proxy support for the rebels in DRC.

My question is what is your proposal for a solution both in the short-term and long-term? Clearly the resources exist to fund and sustain development in the region. Here is a theory I have been discussing for some time. Is not our 'collective' (read: UN) approach unworkable as history has proven time and again? Everyone is basically involved but no one takes any ownership of the challenges. Why not put these countries/regions up for open tender and simply 'allow' one single entity (probably a country such as the the U.S., China, SA, UK, India, Brazil,or Russia, etc, etc) take full ownership/responsibility of the area and manage the project on a 20 or 30 year timeline? The UN, could provide 'oversight' since that's all they are cabable of in any case. This caretaker would be responsible for managing the natural resources, building infrastructure and institutions, etc against predetermined milestones of achievement. In short, it's colonization all over again only this time we get the chance to do it correctly and set up the local population for success at the end of a reasonable bur realistic timeline. In this way when they depart (and they must ultimately depart) they leave in place something that is sustainable? I am working on a blog post currently along this theme but wanted to get your thoughts on this general concept.

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I believe that at present there is no easy or quick solution, Jake. The situation has been allowed to simmer due to a host of factors and now it does appear as though it may become another proxy war by the West supporting the rebels against a government that the West had a role in installing.

About 3 years ago, I was approached by a senior UN official who asked me to write a plan to resolve the conflict in the DRC. I did so. I was told that the UN forces in DRC were very excited about the plan. When it was presented to the UN in New York, it was discounted as; I quote “Although the plan will work, it is too cheap”. The end result is that the UN opted for a more “financially correct” approach. Now before someone runs off and says that I am just upset that the plan was not accepted – the UN approached me out of the blue. I didn’t approach them – nor did I propose anything prior to their approach on me.

Your approach to a solution sounds both exciting and fascinating and I am sure no one has tread that path before. I believe if one could mobilise all the components, it would definitely present a possible alternate solution to the mess in that area. I do however foresee all the human rights people shouting about neo-colonialism, neo-oppression, enslavement and the like. But the agendas behind such shouts will be clear when we see who they come from.

Please do keep my posted on your strategy. It may be just what is needed in thse conflict-ridden areas.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Colonize the savages, yes I could see that going over very well in the media. With all the great minds and money we have in this world, it's a shame that we can not figure this one out.
It has subsided as of recently be we endured years of news on The Sudan, Darfur. Christians, Muslims,Government, Jonjouweed?, it was a non stop front page assault, for years it went on, and after awhile your perspective becomes believable. Who is driving whom?
I believe that the reason DRC is being exploited is because it can be. If anyone were to actually invest in Africa it would be more of a loss than gain. By actually improving the quality of life of the people, (which is what I believe should be where the money is going) you create a population that is becoming dependent on the items that you wish to exploit.
Houses, cars, running water, social security all cost money which would equal more investment upfront, longer wait on investment returns, less control.
Our prestigious universities are graduating intelligent idiots, who's idea of successes are balance sheets and board meetings,and scams that the government will buy.
As a trade school graduate, relatively reasonable guy, I find it hard to believe that regular guys are running the show.

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Just A quick thought.
Yesterday on the radio NPR, National Public Radio did a piece on the mountain gorilla, who's headquarters seems to be Rwanda, imagine that. Nothing but positive press for the stable Government of Rwanda. Proxy seems more fitting.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t think Jake was referring to colonisation as we know it, ER. But, you are right – there will be a massive outcry again, hence the requirement to get all components mobilised. But then again, not only the media would shout and stand their feet but so too would many of the NGOs as well.

Being subject to an information over-load, especially when it is very subjective does prevent the average Joe from knowing what is really happening. So he forms an opinion based on someone else’s agenda. I do still think Jake has an idea, which if correctly sold and approached, could yield some great success.

Africa is a continent that is immensely rich in natural resources. Ironically, it is one of the poorest as well. Not all of its woes can be blamed on the West or the East but what is sure is that both East and West have used it as a battleground to obtain resources. This in turn has entrenched corruption, ethnic tensions, made the poor poorer and the rich richer.

If Jake can get his thoughts accepted, I think it may bring about an end to a lot of these problems.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

ER, in all of these conflicts, the wildlife is inevitably destroyed. Sometimes it is as a means of food, other times because their habitat has been so invaded and destroyed that they can no longer exist there. But the cause of that destruction needs to be understood.

All a government needs to gain international sympathy is claim that it is trying to protect the wildlife – then it can do basically whatever it wants as it/they are then seen as “good guys”. Everyone will want to throw money at them and insist it is to bring about stability. The threatened mountain gorilla is a good case in point.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

ER,
Firstly, I am not so arrogant as to think I am sitting my lounge in Europe and have suddenly solved the problems in Africa. I am not that pretentious. What I am saying is that what he have tried in the past few centuries has not worked and we (by we I mean those of us living on the planet) need to try something else in the next century. There is no doubt that any proposed changes to the status quo will be met with huge resistance. It's hard to actually imagine a tougher nut to crack, perhaps, Kashmir, Israel/Palestine, etc, etc. 99% of people will, as you did, jump to the immediate conclusion that my proposal is to simply 'recolonize'and dismiss it out of hand without thinking it through. Actually what I am proposing is a true partnership/joint venture between willing African countries and capable developed nation states who could serve in a mentoring capacity for at least a full generation. Think of this like the Olympic selection process where various cities lobby the IOC for the rights to host the games. Only in this case various countries who want/need help will petition the UN for that assistance and make their case and name their price in an open tender. 'Bidders' will make open and competing offers for the rights to assist the host country over a 30 year period of time. This is not the traditional donor/receiver model which has proven to be a failure. Instead bidders will truly 'invest' in the partner country and rebuild it with the intention of gettinag a financial return on that investment over time. In order to be awarded such an opportunity a bidding country (or coalition of countries) would have to be willing and able to commit the necessary resources to get the whole job done. This means diplomatic, social, economic, military, medical, educational and physical infrastructure development.
I am not saying it would be easy, it won't. What is needed here is not just money, but real, meaningful, long-term engaggement. The kind that only comes with having real skin in the game. Simply cutting checks and hoping for the best is not a strategy.

simon said...

info for years has been slipping out of africa of us SF personnel 'training' troops. mini bases and listening posts on border lands with friendly govts. Of course we are involved in the congo. The CIA cant decide what to do , its like a mini tribe within africa with alot more money and firepower at their disposal than the thousands of rebel groups....

Again you see people trained under the guise of humanitarian aide er combat tacts for COIN and let the players do our bidding. It always gets beyond the scope of the aims hoped for by US policy. The congo is a battleground every superpower wants to play on but no one wants to claim.

I cannot see any nation going back to africa to 'colonize' it. There would be riots in the US streets. Africom is no coincidence and its not just for hunting terrorists on the horn of africa. Its a relay and staging point for us ops within the continent. And I cant say I disagree with the principle strategically but again, the will is never strong enough to say, look we have national interests here and we arent going to let them slip away.

Apparently problems in africa cannot be solve by any other means than the gun. Or at leas not yet and it doesnt help that we continue the policy half heartedly.

Oh for the truth. It would make hollywood go, nah, too unrealistic, no one would believe it. Simon

Sigurdur said...

Eeben, have you ever read "East Africa Campaigns" by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck? He was the German general who ran one of the most successful guerrilla wars in history in the Great Lakes region during WWI.

If you look at the way he waged war, it is very similar to the way war is waged there today, with some notable differences.

For example, child soldiers are recruited instead of just fighting age adults, because it is not Europeans doing the recruitment. Supply dumps in the form of villages are still used, except instead of having the women follow the column, women are treated just like food or any other strategic resource (take territory, exploit the women/food/sub-soil while you hold it, destroy them before you leave to prevent the enemy using them).

Von Lettow invented the style of modern warfare in the great lakes, and lessons from his wars can be used today by any military force seeking to end the fighting.

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
I understand the peril that wildlife must exist in during a regional conflict. My subdued point was that NPR put forth, with intent the relationship of the plight of the gorilla and the :stable government of Rwanda:.
The many millions of people who listened can now associate the "stable government of Rwanda" with the saving of the gorilla. Considering the current state of events in DRC, I just have to wonder what the current administration had to give in return for the positive plug on prime time NPR.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I still think Jake’s plan is novel and exciting ER. With the disarray many states are in, having a long-term investment partner in the sense Jake proposes may just be a very attractive option.

But, your comments on how it will be perceived are valid. People are keen to run riot and chant all sorts of slogans when they do not understand something or feel that they are the ones that are getting the short end of the stick.

I would still love to see what Jake comes up with.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

To me it is not a problem at all that the US is training armed forces in Africa, Simon. After all, the CIA trained Bin Laden amongst others. It is how they go about doing things…and by backing both sides in the same race is bound to fail as it has elsewhere.

But, when this strategy eventually becomes exposed – as it certainly will – it will lead to a furthering of distrust against the US. That distrust extends to the common US citizen, who has nothing to do with the shaping of US foreign policy but, who in turn becomes a target.

I am always struck by the attitude I encounter when meeting senior politicians, diplomats and military officers in Africa. Whereas they want to be friends with the US, the level of distrust runs very deep. In many ways, they have a point as historically, they feel that in the end, the betrayal is always there.

But this is because no firm decision is ever taken by the US as to who the friends are and who the enemy is. The US, like all other powers, needs to have an ear on the ground and having a friendly ear is better than having two antagonistic ears on the ground.

Poorly formulated strategies, implemented half-heartedly as you point out, can never succeed.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sigurdur, in his book, he makes a point of how that area’s behaviour differs from that of the German forces – and I believe that is the point you are also making?

Not too much has changed in terms of the style of conflict we witness apart from the large differences you point out. We are not yet witnessing the scorched earth policy that has been employed successfully in the past.

As you know, any strategic planner knows that there are several factors that need to be appreciated in depth in a conflict such as the one raging in eastern DRC. When one looks at what is happening, these factors appear to not even have been considered. But then again, I believe that the war is not aimed at achieving military victories but rather at taking control over resources.

I shall go back and read General von Lettow-Vorbeck’s book again. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your point was taken first time ER. I was simply waffling on about how the wildlife eventually gets destroyed. But, it does make one wonder, doesn’t it?

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
I was not so much disagreeing with the quasi-colonial plan of Jake's as I was the narrow acceptance of it. I was referring to our corporate structure and the blank check mentality that our state department gives them with regards to access to any market that is profitable any where in the world, not the ideas of the blogger.
You can't say enough about the UN but as reference, The Committee on the Present Danger, archives, papers, about UN reform is interesting.
I apologize for any misunderstanding.

Sigurdur said...

Yes, exactly, the Germans and fighters there now have slightly different methods, but the tactical and strategic environment they are operating in is similar, and still dictates doctrine. Key differences include the following: forces are more mobile, with more firepower, wildlife is more scare, women cannot follow the columns of troops, and food stress from low farm production is greater

Von Lettow talks fairly often about issues of supply, which have likely only gotten worse as farmland is overused, and wildlife is over-hunted, as well as the importance of keeping troops light for movement in the bush, and moving from food supply dump to food supply dump in the AO. Importantly, in one of the later chapters he points out the necessity of having the women in the column to the Africans.

To him, key strategic ground was ground with good soil that could be farmed by his men to produce food for future campaigning. To the modern fighters, key strategic ground is ground with rich sub-soil resources, followed by ground containing food, followed by ground containing women.

It is likely that the rapes are so prevalent because while the Western soldier learns to do without the comforts of women, and has a strong cultural predisposition against rape. The African is expected by culture to rape before going without, and is never taught that a part of good order and discipline is sexual discipline (Von Lettow's columns were followed by wives and prostitutes, which would not work today because of the greater firepower, communications, and mobility of forces).

To Central African armies, women are a key strategic resource, just like food, and the 'scorched earth' policy is in evidence in the form of fistulas. They cannot do 'scorched earth' with regard to mines and sub-soil resources, and I doubt that they would resort to scorched earth policy towards food, because the food stress is too great, and a strategic calculus is made which suggests that it is better to leave the food and retake the ground later than to burn it, just like it is better to abandon a mine than to blow it up.

Maurice said...

There was/is a solution for Africa - unfortunately this opportunity has been destroyed by the greedy political correct liberals in the West.

One has to ask - if the West had the guts to stand up to Mugabe - just like the blacks and whites did in Rhodesia - what then? The same can be asked about South Africa, which is going down the drain rapidly.

If you consider that the Boers were basically illiterate at the end of the Boer War (early 1900's) and then look at what they (and other Europeans) achieved for Africans in Southern Africa ... unsurpassed.

We didn't have the 'genocides' like in in the cases of the native American Indian, the Aboriginal in Australia - the destruction of cultures in New Zealand and elsewhere. Not to mention the history of slavery.

In all the above countries the original settlers were the minority - THERE WAS SEGREGATION - and there was clear campaigns to diminish the native population numbers. As soon as the numbers were way down - the permission was given to vote. In the case of the African American - it was still a battle even when they lost their own cultural identity and they've always been a minority.

In Southern Africa - a Zulu is still a Zulu, Xhosa a Xhosa and a bloody Boer is still a Boer - the cultures have been retained - not destroyed. Blacks were give sections of South Africa and South West Africa - not placed in 'reserves.'

We all know it is not about people for the rest of the world - a classic example is the total destruction of Zimbabwe and the rest of Southern Africa - it is all about resources and WHS (white guilt syndrome).

What most people don't realise is that Africa is a very complex continent. Not anyone can achieve what the European Southern Africans achieved. Anyone that think, they can just walk in from another continent or culture and 'hand out' mirrors and bicycles to the 'natives' to 'win' their trust - a huge mistake.

It is a selection process - the ones that are not tough enough back up quickly, turn their backs on the continent of just perish. In Southern Africa we have a tough breed of Europeans who have just as much right to the Southern tip of Africa as the Australian, Kiwi or American have to their pieces of dirt.

We have people that understand, love and care for Africa. We have people that are proven to fight and work alongside Africans - achieving where most others have failed.

It is just a matter for the West and Africa to tap into this RESOURCE and utilise it. Just look at what Zimbabwe was, look at Namibia and look at South Africa. It is already a proven fact of success.

It is time for these weak white mentalities of the world to wake up.

These countries produced some, if not the best defense forces in the world. These countries brought a higher standard of living, education and medical care to millions in a very short time.

You must remember that during the 'worst' years of apartheid, South Africa had to put electric fences up and patrol its borders. Not to prevent people leaving the country, but to keep the rest of Africa out. They knew that if they reached South Africa, they would be better of.

I'm so sick of this mess and the total idiocy of the Western world. They don't have solutions, they are just f@cking everything up.

Please, don't come and tell me the natives in all these other Western colonised countries are better of. First, a three year old can count their total numbers. Most have a lower life expectancy and in most cases the majorities are way behind in basic literacy and other social levels.

All the destruction of Southern Africa by the West achieved so far, is: pointing out the destruction of a solution;
pointing out rotten egg on the faces of these white liberals that supported the Mugabes of the world.

Can you believe that the US gave this creature the: "The Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger!!!"

For: "pointing the way not only for Zimbabwe but for the entire African continent."

This is the West's solution for Africa - how about utilising what is there??????

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am sure Jake took it in good spirit, ER. Most things logical have a very narrow acceptance. It is almost as though some leaders want to prove how stupid they really are – and the media are keen to promote their stupidity.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very valid points you raise, Sigurdur.

Given the manner in which the fighting is done and the extent to which ethnicity has been exploited, there is no respect for women and children. Both are apparently there to be used.

Your comments on strategic ground are well put. However, the tactics are dictated by terrain and as so much farmland has been reclaimed by the jungle, what was once farmland now hides a different danger. But as you point out, the tactical environment has remained much the same. As far as strategy is concerned – it seems to be a simply desire to take control of the sub-surface resources. If that ground is occupied by another ethnic group, it is easy to rather just kill them than ask them to move. It is in such an environment that a peacekeeping force should operate – after peace has been enforced.

I am afraid with the UN there, we will probably never see such an enforcement or a peace.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very good assessment, Maurice.

I love my country and will continue to love it, despite all its faults. Likewise I love Africa. Wherever I have travelled in Africa, I have found many people arguing along the lines you have. I have also realised that the majority of people simply want to get on with their lives, be protected from crime and have a roof over their heads and food in the pot. Many African leaders have also told me that in South Africa, we became the white guilty conscience of the West – and that was coupled to a massive surge in jealousy.

Africa is highly complex in terms of ideologies, cultures, belief systems and so forth as you rightly point out. Traditionally, African leadership is based on power. In countries where this leadership has been eroded by bribery, corruption and so forth, the power base has collapsed and has led to internal conflicts in trying to usurp that power. Coupled to those power struggles comes the desire to wrest control over resources (biotic and abiotic).

When a country does not possess those resources, the situation is exploited by selling arms and ammunition to both sides. When it does possess the resources, both sides are backed, albeit one in a covert or clandestine manner. This again leads to distrust and we enter this never-ending cycle of conflict.

The fact is, in my opinion, that much of what we see in Africa is the result of foreign interference and exploitation.

Your mention of Zimbabwe is a good illustration. Mugabe was installed by the UK, awarded titles by all and sundry and look at what he has done to his people. The after-effects are being felt in all neighbouring countries – and stretching everyone’s social services to breaking point. Is any foreign power willing to put an end to something they started? I don’t think so.

I still maintain that Africa can solve Africa’s problems – but it will never happen as long as there is duplicitous foreign interference and exploitation.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

The Western media and those who choose to misinform played a huge roll Rhodesia & South Africa's 'down fall.' In fact, the truth about current South Africa (and the Great Lakes Region) saga/tragedy is totally ignored by the world media.

In the history of EO, the media again played a roll in creating and manufacturing negative propaganda.

PMC's are mostly on their own and treated even by the countries and 'powers' that 'employ' them as 'to hot' to handle. Therefore, during operations, in most instances, PMC's don't have a 'voice.'

Currently the South Africans, for example, don't have a voice - not just because of being ignored by world media, but also because it is not their nature to voice their opinions and educate the world. "We'll either dig in, bite the bullet and get over it or undertak the Great Trek again."

Anyone that ventures into Africa with the will to improve conditions seem to be either ignored or under attack by the media.

Eeben, do you think it is necessary for PMC's to concentrate more on the PR's side in the future? Do you think that people on the ground in Southern Africa and elsewhere should speak out more? How can anyone anywhere in Africa make sure that the truth gets to the rest of the world?

This type of 'warfare' is, in my opinion, actually the most important and a deadly weapon. Personally, I'm not worried about someone like Mugabe for example. He's just doing what he does well. If the world let him get away with it, if nobody stands up - why shouldn't he continue?? I mean, by not destroying the jackal that kills your ducks that produce the golden eggs, your inaction give him the permission to carry on.

In the Great Lakes Catastrophe and Southern Africa it is actually the lack of the truth, the real true story that was either ignored or twisted. Even worse, there might be other 'darker' motives.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Maurice. However, one does need to distinguish between those in the media who really try to inform and those that follow a more sinister agenda aimed at misinforming. That has largely been Africa’s problem as these misinformers abuse their positions of trust in order to create chaos. Maybe this gives them a sense of power or even more sick, a new story to write about.

Insofar as EO is concerned, one segment of the media did finally apologise, albeit a little too late. However, I do respect the courage it took to do that. I am also aware of the fact that that journalist drew massive negative comments from his peers for doing it. It just goes to show the calibre of some of those who have a responsibility but choose to abuse it.

The South African will complain amongst his peers but usually chooses not to do so to the outside world in case it is seen as a sign of weakness. He has also been so bombarded by the media that often it is a case of “no one will listen anyway”. He will, as you mention, rather knuckle down and get the job done. This may, however, not always be the best approach.

I believe that PMCs should give more focus to PR, Maurice. But, for the PR to succeed, we need an objective media. I realised in EO that that was not the case and in most instances, our PR efforts were simply wasted, despite the fact that I could prove what I was saying. Much of the malicious, disingenuous reporting on both EO and myself is still freely available on the internet and in magazines and books. People also tend to believe what they read on the internet, despite it being a place which can be massively exploited to generate and perpetuate disinformation. If the media was objective, PMCs would find their situation much improved.

Governments will continue to use PMCs but continue to try to deny the extent of their use. I am fine with that. But, when the truth is out, it is not pleasant to find that the government who has employed the PMC denies their use. This casts an almost “criminal light” on the PMC in question. There are some good PMCs out there who are tainted by the bad ones. The bad ones do need exposing though.

An objective media will furthermore allow people in not only South Africa but elsewhere to air their views. For example in the DRC, the UN is very selective about what is being reported. That too is criminal as it is painting a picture to the outside world that is vastly different from the reality on the ground. But asking for an objective media is much like asking the Easter Bunny to bring our Christmas presents.

I started this blog with the hopes of trying to give a more balanced view of EO, conflicts, warfare and the like to people out there who are really keen on making a difference. Of course, not everyone will agree with me and I don’t expect them to. But I have become so sick and tired of the real creators and exploiters of conflict (media, multi-nationals, governments and so on) to continue with their warped reporting that I feel it is time to stand up and give an alternate view. If this will achieve anything, who knows? At least, I will have tried.

Inaction by the West in areas such as you mention are due to a lack of moral fibre from the West and the inherent fear they have of a media they helped empower to the extent they did. In short, governments are being dictated to by the media and the media is now the shaper of public opinion. Sad, but true.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
We resemble many of the comments of the west. Our conquest took place before CNN could comment on it. Our Native American population was throughly controlled to achieve our objectives, sad but true. In California the state government has allowed gaming (gambling) on Indian reservations. At least in California the average Indian has more monetary worth than the average citizen. As a whole the combinations of Indian Tribes, now distinguishable by big billboards advertising their casinos and hotels along the roadways are major political players due to the amount of excess cash they are contributing to the political process.
What is culturally acceptable, rape for men is a strange custom that is always bad news.
All men are created equal, some just rise to higher levels than others.
It is obvious that left to their own ways the situation in your home lands will deteriorate.
As biased as it may seem, everyone is not a manager and can not thrive without direction. But just because the skin colors don't match between the managers and the workers many cry foul. BS, if you can''t manage, at any level, job site, city government, state or country, get the hell out of the way so someone can.
The enlightened world will never accept that the Black African population would have been better off as things were in South Africa and the like countries. Good luck.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your comment, ER. Whereas I can only regurgitate what the history books tell me regarding the Americas, much of what you write corresponds with that.

Despite what the world says and thinks about Africa, most are only too keen to rush in, exploit, make their money and get out. I accept that and although I cannot speak on behalf of any African government, I think many accept that that is what capitalism is about.

I fear that Africa’s problems lie with the malicious exploitation of the poor to enrich the already-rich, both from within and from outside of the continent. Also, as I have mentioned before, I believe most people just want to get on with their lives and be kept from harm. But, developing strategies are often left to people who do understand how such things are developed. The subsequent result is that the “strategy” that is produced ends up advantaging only a select few. And there too lies part of the problem.

Rgds,

Eeben

Stupid said...

Hi Eeben, you said in a comment that if you could do things over again, since you started EO, that you would do them differently. How would you approach the media differently?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

In retrospect, one can be a genius, Stupid. However, this time I would target intelligence agencies staff for recruitment long before I did such a thing. That would give me a glimpse of what they were trying to do in their discreditation operations and I would then be able to counter it.

I would also approach respected, objective journalists and introduce them to my “PR” person who would interface with them in terms of any questions they might have.

Of course, there would be more to do but that is where I would start.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

I read today that now the UN themselves are admitting that their 17'000 strong force is not up to the task. On the one hand that is not a surprise as the UN is hopeless anyway. But also as DRC is a massive AO, nearly the size of all of western Europe. From a pure military perspective covering that much area with what amounts to a single operating Division is not realistic under even the best circumstances. However, secure-and-hold is not neccessary they strategy of choice, certainly not in the kind of terrain that is the DRC.

However, can you just imagine how fast these rebels could be dealt with if a PMC of only regimental strength were brought to bear to fight a counterinsurgency campaign? The CNDP, or what remained of them, would certainly be willing to negotiate and they would probably insist on doing it from the safety of Rwanda. My point is the security issue is a challenge but it is one that can be solved if we had the guts hire professionals.

I actually think the EU is smart not to send troops at this stage. Most experts know you don't take the first step if you can't take the second. The first being troops, the second step being to deliver on the promise of what a functional state should deliver i.e. jobs, infrastructure, education (read: hope). The DRC government is corrupt to the core and as such even if someone (UN, EU, AU, PMCs) drove the rebels out of the picture for a year or so this government is not going to deliver the goods and meet the needs of the citizens. And of course this condition is ideal for yet another insurgency and rebellion. So the cycle continues.

Security is key, that is a given. But the security is only creates the breathing room necessary for external investors to feel comfortable in taking the risk of investing. This investment creates state revenues through taxes. The taxes must then be used in a real and meaningful way to help the people, not to continue filling the pockets of the elite at the expense of the common citizen. If he does not see improvement then the cycle continues with only with a new group of rebels. Who can really blame them?

If the UN has any role to play in the world it should be on the socio/political front to work with or when necessary to install leaders who can serve the citizenry. They should stay out of the security business by outsourcing that to professionals and providing oversight via imbedded reporting. Figure out how much peace and security you need (3, 4, 10 years worth) to get the job done on the political side in an particular country. The results will be better and at a much lower cost in terms of lives lost and dollars spent.

SF

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Precisely, Jake! However, the terrain in question is largely to the east of the DRC and thus one should be looking at aggresive search-and-destroy operations and not a large static contingent sunning themselves in a base somewhere. The UN is very obviously incapable and unwilling to do this lest it infringe on the human rights of the rebels.

I think I mentioned it before in a posting or a comment – I was asked about 2 or 3 years ago to write a strategy for the UN. I did this and it was accepted at MONUC level (or so I was told). But, it was rejected at the UN in New York for “being too cheap”. I did not approach the UN, they approached me, so I am not mentioned this because of sour grapes..

That made me realise that they (UN) did not really want to resolve the situation at all. After all, if iot is resolved, they make less money. Sad but true.

Resolving the situation is actually very simple and easy and can be accomplished with a small number of men at a fraction of the UN’s cost.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I sent you an email Miriam but have had no response.

Rgds,

Eeben