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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 18, 2008

THE UN FINALLY ADMITS ITS INEPTITUDE IN DRC

I still recall the arrogance of the UN’s peacekeepers when they arrived in Angola as part of UNAVEM. The “peace” they brought with them led to that country’s return to conflict.

They miraculously achieved the same in Sierra Leone. They arrived after EO had virtually destroyed the rebels. They replaced EO’s 250 men with more than 17 000 men and then watched the country slide back into chaos. At a cost of more than US$ 600 million a year (2001), they applauded their “success” as the most successful UN mission ever. Never mind that the rebels were able to re-arm and butcher, eat, rape, torture and destroy whatever was in their path – the UN saw their mission in that country (UNAMSIL) as a great success.

Then of course, there was their brave and heroic stand in Rwanda where they spent approx another US$ 600 million within 6 months – and then fled the genocide with their tails between their legs. That was their idea of peacekeeping.

Some time ago (2008), I said to a UN general that their lies, deception and bluster will one day be exposed for what it is. I also stated that when success is measured by the amount of money spent and the amount of civilian casualties caused, then something is very seriously wrong.

Whereas the DRC must rank alongside the greatest “military” blunders ever undertaken by the UN, someone has finally had the courage to speak out. But, it has taken so long to admit their ineptitude. In the process, hundreds of thousands of people have died and been made homeless. (See http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-12-18-un-official-casts-doubt-on-drc-peacekeepers)

The great tragedy is that their presence in eastern DRC has only made the problem worse for the civilians in that area. Their departure will now only make it worse. That is a tragedy the UN should be held responsible for. The millions of casualties in that conflict should be on their conscience.

Will they be held accountable? Most unlikely.

Will they be shut down? Never.

Will they contract a reputable PMC to resolve the mess they have caused? Definitely not! They will rather flee and watch the entire region implode and then explode. Perhaps they will also hail this mess as another of their successes.

In the meantime, they may now set their sights on creating an environment where piracy off the East African coast can really flourish.

18 comments:

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
This just seems like a history lesson all laid out, previously taught and learned, but ignored.
Are the people of the world really willing to accept that the UN concept does not work.
I am here, like many others, living my life in a secure part of the world, with fluffy news reports of what the UN can and has done for humanity. The world community depends on a strong UN, especially in these troubling times. Just Imagine what could happen if the UN did not take a stand and get involved.
Can the UN sanction as well as carry out a mission that involves going into a county with an uprising, kill or capture all who resist and continue to do so until all resistance has been defeated?
I believe most governments can be identified by their seats at UN Headquarters in New York, that part should be easy.
Sounds more like an invasion.
If this is the only real way to bring about change why won't the UN grasp this concept?

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
In this fight between good and evil, disinformation is just a tool to advantage one's side. Definitely justifiable due to the higher calling of peace and political correctness.
You can at least find solace in the fact that someone is taking the time to update their misinformation about you.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sadly we do not seem capable or willing to learn lessons from history, ER – at least the UN doesn’t.

I believe that a UN concept can work if there is a genuine desire to do things and that those who infest the chairs have the moral courage to see things through. It doesn’t help that all they can do is condemn and “threaten” to bring about peace. As you rightfully point out, we need a strong UN. What we have instead is a spineless organisation that perpetuates its uselessness.

I believe I like so many others on this continent, look in horror at what the UN is unable to accomplish with so many men and so much money. The horror grows even more when we hear they are about to deploy another “peacekeeping mission”. Look at the mess they have left in their wake: Angola, Sierra Leone, DRC, Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Rwanda and so on. The fact is, the UN is NOT taking a stand.

Your disinformation comment is taken with a smile. At least, they do update their disinformation…it ought to give me some consolation.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

MR. Barlow, what would happen if the official governments hired a pmc against the wishes of the UN ? how does that work in todays, international law ?

luke said...

Hello Eeben,
I would just like to say I extremely enjoy reading your very informative blogs, and I hope you will keep creating them.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Although there is nothing illegal or wrong with a government hiring a PMC, Simon, the international community does not like such things. In fact, in the past the UN even brought out special reports which contained UN-generated disinformation. The World Bank and the IMF were roped in to exert pressure on those governments to the effect that loans will be cancelled unless the PMC’s contract is terminated.

It is a very strange situation indeed. They prefer a country to be destroyed, raped and pillaged than really have the conflict resolved.

On the other side, if a foreign government is asked to assist an under-siege government and the foreign government brings in a PMC to assist them, then that is deemed semi-acceptable.

Personally, I think that the fear exists that the PMC will act more professionally and resolve the conflict at a lesser cost, thus making the UN and others look incompetent.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Luke. Your comment is much appreciated.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by saying "desire to do things". Would this desire change the UN from being peace keepers to peace makers?
Not that the world wants to hear about the failings of the UN, but in it's current state, which it seems will remain the same, is there anything that the UN can accomplish on the ground in the DNC?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

What I am referring to ER is a clearly defined plan with the courage to see it through. Currently the UN has neither plan nor courage.

I asked the question almost a decade ago – how do you keep peace if there is none? For there to be peace, it first needs to be enforced. The alternative is to allow all warring parties to simply destroy themselves and everyone in that area. That in itself is allowing an even larger catastrophe to take place.

The UN initially saw itself as an organisation that would inter alia keep peace throughout the world. (To do this, you need to be strong in words and deeds). There is a difference between talking about doing things and actually doing them, hence my comment “a desire to do things”.

The UN has already lost so much credibility in the DRC and other places in Africa. Civilians throw stones at them, plead for them to leave, plead for them to do things and so on that they have become a bit of a joke, albeit a terrible and tragic joke.

The UN has taken the first step of admitting they are unable to contain the situation. Now they need to either redevelop a decent strategy or get out.

Rgds,

Eeben

Kim said...

It amazes me that the UN has atmitted this. At the same time I think it is quite obvious why the UN peace forces keep on failing their missions (Serbia allthough an accomplished UN peace keeping mission, wasn't much of a peacekeeping success either):

The UN is an institution composed out of representatatives from all over the world who all try to force their own agenda through. At best this means "bureaucrazy" at it's worst. You create an army to intervene but at the same time you cut it's balls off and tell to hold the line and do nothing untill "bureaucrazy" has been reorganized and has concluded what needs to be done... (hold the line, do nothing when fired upon, contact the "bureaucrazy" and the "bureaucrazy" will tell you if you may or may not defend your life..)
being
Meanwhile the UN soldiers themselves are become quite frustrated from seeing women being raped and children tortured and not allowed to act upon.

The UN needs to be sorted out. Actually it is simple: The UN needs representatives in the governments and not the way around as it is now.
The peaceforce command should be given to the UN ( Military staff should be appointed for a duration of minimum 3 years) and the rules of engagement - for peacekeeping - should be, well yes, totally changed.


The reason why EO was so succesfull was that they only had one mission and one agenda and no stupid rules.


Often it is pointed out that EO was there for the mining grounds. Well at least the job got done (and afterwards undone by the UN) in a short amount of time. Nobody needs to tell me that the cost of the wars, as they are being kept alive by the UN, cost less than a few mines. I won't believe it. UN peace troops don't come for free.

(ps: Eeben you on Facebook? ;-) )

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise some valid points, Kim. But then, if the bureaucracy prevents soldiers from doing their jobs, then one would hope that the soldiers – at the very least their commanders – will have the courage to speak out, instead of doing nothing. Also, as a military operation, it must rank as one of the worst in history.

The UN peacekeepers have also indulged in all sorts of illegal activities from gold and diamond smuggling to child prostitution. Surely that is indicative of no control or discipline? The fact of the matter is that any decent human being who witnesses another being butchered, raped, tortured or killed will intervene. This has nothing to do with rules of engagement but with decency.

The story that EO got paid in mining concessions was a story instigated by SA’s military intelligence. Whereas we considered it laughable at the time, it has been perpetuated by many so-called scholars and journalists it has now become a “truth”, despite the fact that it is nothing but a lie. One cannot employ people and tell them that you will pay them when your non-existent mine makes a profit.

Any strategist worth his salt will tell you that to end a rebel conflict, you need to deny the rebels access to funding. This is what EO did. Cut off their money supply and they cannot sustain themselves. However, when multi-nationals are buying from the rebels and foreign governments selling them weapons, one is faced with a massive propaganda war on several fronts. Hence the claims that we were paid in concessions. If that were true, I would love to get my concessions now.

Contrary to belief, EO had rules and we applied them. There was discipline and there was command and control. Of course, EO made mistakes but despite the allegations of EO misconduct, no-one has ever come forward to openly accuse EO of any human rights violation, misconduct or crime.

The only ones who complained at us being in any area were the rebels, whereas the men were welcomed by the locals wherever they went.If EO did anything to harm the locals, I very much doubt that they would have welcomed us at all - or given us intelligence on where the rebels were hiding.

Wherever the UN has gone, it has cost millions of dollars with no result to show.

Finally, no I am not on Facebook.

Rgds,

Eeben

Kim said...

I was all in favor of the actoins EO undertook.

My appologies about bringing up "the mines". But it is good to see you deny it as is was indeed not true at all.

;-)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Kim but no offence was taken and there was no need for you to apologise. Stories will always abound and one needs to occasionally set the record straight.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

I have to ask another question as this aspect of PMC's is new to me. The terms brokered for the deal.

Are you saying that the UN and the powers at large discredit Operations by laying a moral charge against them of mining concessions, etc to block them from working or aiding ?

In essence, they are appealing to the possibility of a PMC being morally bankrupt when it comes to its business and would go beyond what would be considered payment for services rendered.

Also what is the feeling about the moral directives PMC's adhere to. I have yet to read you book though I intend to but what is acceptable these days in terms of command and control in the 'morality' issue . BTW, I did recieve today my book on 32 battalion by piet nortje. Gonna be a good weekend. Have a nice on yourselves. Simon

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whereas I cannot speak for or on behalf of other PMCs, Simon, that is exactly what happened in EO’s case.

UN Special Rapporteur Enrique Ballesteros lied in his “Special Report” in February 1997, on the use of so-called mercenaries. Not only did he lie but he chose to discount a lot of the information we had given him regarding claims that EO was being paid in mining concessions – including falsified MI intelligence reports. In my book, I actually cover a lot about this man and his so-called special investigation into EO and the subsequent report.

By making false allegations and letting them trickle back to the media made a very strong case against EO because it came from such a “respected” organisation. In my book, they (UN) are a worthless, lying, discredited organisation that has finally come forward to admit their ineptitude. But, by lying, the UN simply endorsed the false claims that EO was operating as a morally bankrupt, out-of-control PMC. Despite numerous investigations in later years in those areas EO worked in, no local or government official has ever come forward to re-make those claims or give details of even one instance where the men acted criminally or out of control.

PMCs working under contract to a government are supposed to abide by the law of the country they are working in as well as with international law. When the contracting country has virtually collapsed in terms of law and order, the PMC has to resort to relying on international law. Additionally, when a PMC is tasked with operating in a hostile area, the last thing they want is for the locals to resent and/or join any fight against them. For that reason, EO set up numerous medical clinics in Angola and Sierra Leone, provided safe drinking water for the locals, assisted with food deliveries and so on. The locals were one of the major sources of information the men on the ground had and everything possible was done to keep them happy with the company being in the area. (I also cover this to some extent in my book).

A 60-Minutes documentary made while EO was still operating shows how the locals felt about EO.

Piet Nortje’s book is a very detailed history of 32 Bn. Whereas it drew a lot of flak from people who felt they deserved more mention than he gave them, it does accurately cover much of what the battalion did.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
"The pen is mightier than the sword".
The ones who view PMC as an unmoral option are doing a better job journalistically that PMC supporters.
Not to say that the current UN policy works, it just has the support and funding that keeps it sold in the media.
Maybe if the general public would do more than take a news brief at more than face value we could actually get information that is factual to the core of the issues.
Negotiation, peace, ceasefire, hard to do better than that when selling the policy.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Too true, ER. Words such as “peace”, “ceasefire”, “negotiation” and such have become these warm, fuzzy words to pacify the world, despite having been so corrupted that they have lost their original meaning.

He who can afford it buys the headlines. Therefore, these disingenuous reports about all of the UN’s success will simply continue.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Your neighbor in Zimbabwe, Sir Mugabe, seems to be making news as of late. Opposition party (power Sharing) under pressure, leader in Botswana, is something cooking?
I could yes a blogs worth of information on these guys.