Many governments in Africa are faced with growing external military threats, insurgencies, political upheaval and an escalation in violent crime. Indeed, this brutal phenomenon is not something new - Africa has faced it for decades – and will continue to face it in the foreseeable future.
Should a government decide - something it ought to be able to do without interference from foreign powers - that it wants to utilise outside sources to help it resolve these problems, it has four options:
1. Call on the United Nations and a multitude of NGOs to help
2. Call on the West to help
3. Call on the East to help
4. Call on a Private Military Company to help.
Arguably the largest sheltered employment agency in the world, the UN has time-and-again shown its ineptitude, inability and its partiality for rebel groups and other trouble-makers when “assisting” governments in Africa. The recent exposures detailing crimes by UN peacekeepers - in Africa and beyond - are likewise a major indication of its lack of control over itself. Additionally, the UN has, according to its own track-record, prolonged conflicts instead of bringing them to a closure. This large bumbling organisation and its associated NGOs have a habit of calling for ceasefires and giving the rebel movements critical time to prepare for their next offensive. Their dismal lack of achievement, which has no timeline and a never-ending budget, must surely rate at the bottom of the list of choices.
The West has a history of betraying African governments and backing both sides in a conflict. Coupled to this is the approach of giving sub-standard training under the guise of “military aid”. But these aid packages come at a price – “toe the line or else”. Additionally, the West is not beyond its own fraud and corruption. Take for example the latest report on the US military leadership in Iraq:
“In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme”.
And to think that the West is continually pointing a finger at Africa for corruption and fraud…but maybe this will serve as a warning for Africa.
Apart from this shocking exposé, the West’s recent containment strategies have not exactly yielded encouraging or significant results.
The East has always been keen to sell its weapons into Africa. More recently, the East has involved itself in a massive overt resource-exploitation drive in Africa. Despite voiced concern by the West, this has led to huge financial investments into Africa and in the process, some of these investments have found their way to both government and rebel forces. But the East has, like the West, not always dealt honourably with Africa. It too has its agendas and is not afraid to pursue them vigorously, regardless of the cost in terms of human lives or political integrity. But the East brings with it money and overt support to the government they are dealing with.
The last choice an African government has is it that it can contract a PMC to assist it. All such assistance is negotiated in terms of risk, cost and time and the PMC is contractually bound to give what it offered. Furthermore, the PMC is obligated to provide tailor-made training, achieve agreed results at a predetermined fee and fulfil its contractual obligations within a set time. The problem with PMCs is that they require careful vetting in terms of their REAL experience and not their own-imagined experience, their track record and their integrity. Ultimately, the fly-by-night, con-artist-types of PMCs should be exposed and weeded out – and there are many of them. (Note: Jake and Matt of http://combatoperator.com/blog/ and http://www.feraljundi.com/ respectively are working hard at showing the other side of the coin).
But for an African government to make such a decision, it is faced with problems that range from international condemnation, sanctions, political and economical blackmail, threats and even active support to the rebel movements.
To contract a PMC, these governments-in-need apparently require the permission of the UN, the NGOs, multi-national corporations, foreign governments and so on.
So, the question begs to be asked: Who decides what an African government can do to improve its security situation, ensure its territorial integrity, train its armed forces and assist it with the development of its national security strategy?
It appears that the under-siege government has no say in the matter and must instead bow to inept, unethical and/or corrupt foreign militaries.
Added on 19 February 2009: For those who thought I am forever having a go at the UN and its incompetence for no reason, please read the following - http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-02-19-un-accused-of-failing-to-protect-drc-civilians I rest my case.