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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.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

CUT THE SOURCE OF THE FUNDING

Fighting the complex and diverse wars of today requires us to be prepared to face an enemy who has no scruples in utilising crime, and total terror against innocent civilians in order to coerce their support with the aim of placing themselves into power.

This does not mean that conventional land battles are something of the past and unconventional warfare something of the future. The fact remains that armies need to prepare for both scenarios as well as their various off-shoots.  In many instances, they will need to conduct these missions in support of the law enforcement agencies.

Utilising unconventional methods, and in the process developing their armed gangs, we have allowed these unconventional forces to move funds and equipment, ie arms and ammunition, and in some instances, sympathetic governments have even provided these thugs with passports or allowed their territories to be used for “training”.

This has given numerous terrorist groups freedom of movement as well as financial freedom. Sometimes hidden beneath layers of ostensibly legitimate business, their activities aimed at instilling terror continue – and in some instances they are still able to move large sums of money, albeit in the shape of resources, to fund their activities and crimes. Even more so when they act as proxies for governments who plan the demise of neighbouring states or aim at creating regional instability.

Much has been done with international banking laws and regulations to follow the money trail but I suspect it is the wrong approach to follow. Ex-President Thabo Mbeki recently made the claim that Africa loses US$ 50 Bn annually to illegal activities. Whereas I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this figure, I do know that the amount lost in terms of monetary value is huge.   Not only has this undermined the continent, some of this funding has also enriched and empowered those that seek to cause instability.

I dislike using the “when we” label, but when Executive Outcomes assisted African governments with devising military strategies, the prime strategic military targets were the sources of funding. This led to an outcry in the local and international media with wild claims that the company was interested in seizing the sources of funding – mainly diamonds and oil – for its own purposes.

Had those who shouted the loudest spent five minutes thinking about it, the reasons for following that strategy would have become quite obvious:

1.      Deny the enemy his source of income
2.      With no income, no weapons can be purchased or replaced
3.      With no funding, freedom of movement is curtailed
4.      With no funding, the enemy will slowly bleed itself into destruction.

What the military-strategists-posing-as-journalists failed to understand was that the enemy – call them rebels, terrorists, activists or whatever – were resorting to criminal and terror activities in order to overthrow legitimate governments. In their foolish attempts to create suspicion on the company, these so-called journalists were not only assisting the rebels but also condoning crime. The crimes got worse when young children were forced to kill their parents and elders as they were coerced into joining rebel or terror networks. This was conveniently not reported.

It is no secret that illegally mined gold and diamonds are leaving the African shores to be sold elsewhere. Much of these profits are filtered back into radical terror networks. This continued access to funds allows them to perpetuate their activities, be they crime or terror actions.

It is also no secret that some countries in Africa have become transit points for drugs shipments to Europe – some of these shipments being coordinated by criminal groups with close association with terror groups.

Despite these facts, we have done very little or nothing to attack the source of the funding. Instead, we have given these forces the freedom to continue with their activities. Ironically, they are doing so in total safety with no real aggressive efforts to stop them.

We need to drastically step up our intelligence gathering capabilities, formulate intelligence-based strategies to attack the sources of funding to reclaim our stability and neutralise those who threaten it. We need to conduct this with aggression and vigour and give no quarter to those who seek to disrupt peace and replace it with terror.  

As long as we leave the sources of funding intact, we allow these people to continue with their actions, erode our belief in the state, damage our safety and security and implement their form of rule through savagery.

42 comments:

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

Another spot-on assessment. I will have more thoughts but the item I contemplate heavily is the pure wealth, cash and resources, of the criminal cartels. They look to be nations in themselves - working to only their rules. And any attempts to stop their activities get quickly tagged as "racist" activities - I wonder who those who shout the loudest about curtailing their activites get paid by?

The world is really searching for an EO to rescue ourselves from our stupidity - when we should also look at ourselves to dry up the desire for illicit resources (gold, diamonds, oil, drugs etc...). But an EO would be a great ally.

Regards,
John

Herbert said...

Eeben,

Excellent article. We sometimes get so wrapped up pontificating about culture, politics, patriotism, individual and tribal power, etc, all valid issues themselves, that we forget the naked ubiquitous impact of money. Whether it's counted in cash, cattle, diamonds, oil, arms, or drugs, money is the primer of the pump. Find it, attack it, make it go elsewhere, increase its overhead cost; kill it and all the other stuff is strangely deflated.

I do some business consulting. Often I am asked questions such as "why is my competitor (or maybe my partner) doing this or that?" I am repeatedly surprised at how easily people forget IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE MONEY. Go there first for all answers--it's in there somewhere.

If you remember our discussion some while back about including preparation of the information environment as early as possible in a conflict, it really applies to this business of money and resourcing conflict. Bluntly, it is important to tar your opponents with the "dirty money" moniker before they can do it to you, as assuredly they will. Perhaps your EO experience supports this.

I'm not yet so cynical as to contend that money is behind all human behavior, but as I get older I have noticed that more things than we want to accept are explained by the axiom IT IS ALWAYS BOUT THE MONEY.

Regards,
Herbert

Ian Westrip said...

Another well written post.

Cutting the supply lines of an enemy, or cutting their source of resupply and freedom of movement (such as funding through whatever means obtained) is a textbook method. This allows either the enemy force to die out slowly or for friendly forces to move in and neutralise.

I really feel for EO for all the the flak that they (and ostensibly you) copped at that time for its involvement in the various conflicts. I think is is somewhat rubbing salt in the wound that the majority of these 'journos' are now eating their own words from pieces that they wrote back then and using EO as a model to the unscrupulous PMC/PSC's of today as to how they should be conducting themselves. I can't honestly imagine how these people make a living from fanning the flames of war and misrepresenting facts - often resulting in more needless deaths.

With regard to the African governments approach to eradicating antagonist groups, is it not a viable option for the intelligence communities to inflitrate in order to identify sources of funding or other methods of exploitation? With an (unvalidated) figure of US$50Bn annually, a staggering figure for any government, surely you would think there would be a more proactive approach to its eradication. Is it the case that governments prefer Western intervention? Perhaps one of Africa as a whole's problem is the fact of ongoing Western intervention, as you mention, it does much more harm than good and oftentimes I would suspect that you are right in that it would be not for a care of Africa's wellbeing but more for point of leverage against her to pressure or blackmail for her resources.

Very good read!

Regards,

Ian

Orlando Wilson, Risks Incorporated said...

The problem is there are so many people making money from these crimes.... Without the trafficking etc... how many law enforcement departments in developed countries would be closed or have budget cuts. How much does the UN plough into supposedly fighting this activity... (We all know its just bullshit and they just do it to look important) without this criminal activity there would be a lot out of jobs... With these people its not about right and wrong it's about how much they can exploit, profit from the problem and make themselves look good! I don't right and wrong and achieving a goal is in the books these days. Looking forward to your book!!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The syndicates and cartels are getting more financially powerful by the day, John.

In Africa, some of this wealth is passed on to radial groups. Some of this money is used to buy influence, some of it to buy weapons and ammunition. We know it but do nothing about it.

The influence they buy allows them to achieve some political gains. Add that to the publicity they get and we soon find ourselves believing “they are everywhere”. But unless we wake up and take drastic action soon, they will be everywhere. But taking action may just infringe on their human rights – so I don’t really see that happening too soon.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are so correct Herbert – it is always about the money as money buys influence and influence buys power.

What I see happening is that we implement laws to limit the flow of inter-bank financial transactions but we leave the source of the money out of the equation. If we were to attack it aggressively and vigorously, I am sure we will be able to deny a lot of funding to these people.

In my experience (EO-time), by attacking the source of the funding the media were leading the charge to tar us. This gave the enemy the respite they needed at that time. But as long as some journalists believe they are strategists – and continue trying to aid and abet the enemy through their ignorance – we give the enemy an advantage he would never have.

Thanks for bringing the tie closer to business. With your experience in the business world, I am sure you come across a lot of duplicity when it comes to money and power.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Some of them had the integrity to apologise Ian, but many didn’t as they felt it their duty to give their strategic inputs as to how to end conflicts. But with useful idiots like that around, the enemy must have a laugh at how they are able to manipulate the situation to their advantage. I would have thought that the aim of “news reporting” was to report facts objectively and allow the reader to decide on what is happening. Sadly, they didn’t.

Intelligence agencies are bound by policies formulated by the state. Many states are fearful of being viewed as “war mongers” and therefore restrict their agencies. You are correct: these groups need to be infiltrated and penetrated – and once a target has been identified and confirmed, it should be attacked with ruthlessness.

Intervention can be a positive thing if it is aimed at allowing a government to be “independent”. Sadly, much of it isn’t.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

We will never be able to eradicate crime, Orlando as it has so many motivators and has become entrenched in certain sectors.

I do remain convinced that we can stop the illegal flow of a large percentage of illegally mined resources – if we have the will to do so. I think the will is lacking.

Yes, it is about exploitation, profits and looking good. But when these activities pose a threat to the national interests, it should be attacked. When they pose a real and ongoing threat to stability, they should definitely be attacked.

Rgds,

Eeben

suihkulokki said...

We all know how thin the veil of ideology for any African militant group formed after '70s is, that calling them anything but "armed gangs" is giving the groups too much credit.

While cutting easy supplies of money (gold, diamonds) is important, it will not stop armed gangs. They will simply resort to robbing peasants. USA et all have cut essentially all money supplies to Somalia, yet the armed gangs calling them self "islamists" are still well supplied.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Their claims at ideology are often nothing more than an attempt to give themselves legitimacy, suihkulokki.

These armed gangs still have access to resources and they use it wisely. In the case of Somalia, one simple resource they have are ships which they still take with almost impunity. The ransoms that are paid reach into millions of dollars. Some of their supporters are also actively engaged in gold smuggling, this gold being shipped via safe channels into the Middle East where it is traded for cash.

Whereas the money supplies may have been cut off, the resource supplies certainly haven’t been disrupted as much as they could be.

Rgds,

Eeben

Ben said...

Eeben,

While I agree with your assessment, I also think that regulation, whether international or self-regulation, by banks is an important tool for stopping the flow of money. Many of the biggest banks have grown beyond the limitations of national borders so they are not subject to the laws of any one country and it is also easy to make inconspicuous transactions in the midst of all the other business that goes on.

As a result, some terrorist groups don't need to go to hard resources in order to get cash, but from donors and laundering of criminal proceeds from the other side of the world. Compared to "back then", it seems as though preventing the funding of terrorism is like fighting the many tentacles of the giant squid.

As for accusations in the media, I think that this is a common narrative among people who are not interested in military affairs. If a country intervenes in the affairs of another, it is "always about resources" and if they choose not to intervene it must be "because they have no resources worth taking". I guess there is an appealing simplicity to that world view. I have no doubt that all countries act in their own self-interest in everything, but sometimes that narrative is really too much.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good points, Ben.

Banks play a very important role in stopping the flow of money. However, I look at what is happening in Africa and I know that there are groups (criminal predominately but some being supportive of terror groups) that move raw resources to end-destinations where it is exchanged for money. That money is then fed back to the networks that require it.

Your assessment is correct – we will never really be able to stop it all but every cent we do stop is a cent less for them to use. I know it is a very simplistic view but it is a view I believe in.

Your comment on the media is something I have not really thought of. It is a matter of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. I would however expect the media to be more responsible in their reporting and to do just a bit of research before they write “opinion pieces”.

All countries act in their own interests, especially if they believe that their vital interests or national interests will benefit from their actions or may be threatened by inaction.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

Cut the head off and the snake dies goes one age old saying. It does work and is a vital instrument to throw the enemy into leaderless disarray. Lets just hope the enemy arent cockroaches. They live for two weeks without a head and starve to death. Its a genuine scientific fact. I am amazed that funding was authorized to find out just how long a roach would live without its head. With geniuses like this in the world being funded its no surprise that anyone nowadays can get funding for coup's and revolutions. Mike.

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

Thanks so much for another outstanding and informative read! According to claims, you must be an expert gemologist and have an oil refinery in your back garden. I laughed at some of the claims in a documentary called 'blood diamond' on history channel. A very good documentary, but unfortunately claiming that Executive Outcomes rapidly secured the Kono mines for self reward showed a lack of 'real' intelligence and undermined the documentary. The facts speak for themselves, take the food out of the bastards mouths and they will either die, or go eat elsewhere.

The documentary was not about Executive Outcomes, but highlighted the Diamond trade and as for De Beers....well, their spokesperson did not represent their innocence in Angola very well.

In the macro picture of continental economics, what if we as a continent secured our resources through Executive Outcomes' style operations and policing and retained a secure resource trade? This continent would become the land of milk and honey.

One thing is clear, if the resource is regulated ethically, dirty/blood resources will be pressed to find a market. Diamonds almost always end up in one destination in Europe for processing, why not control where it initially comes from? It can be controlled, so why isn't it?

If I may comment on Ian's comment. The world is small. One of these 'cowards' from Eeben's book had one of his representatives canvas me to seek business from my company and it was with joy that I told him to tell his boss that I am a friend of Eeben Barlow's and he can...well two choice words were used. I did this out of my own choice and because of the principals that I live by. Small world, very small.

Integrity; honour; loyalty; to some, they are just words, to others a way of life.

Regards
Robin

Luca Zatarra said...

Hello,

I just stumbled on this blog a few days ago and it has quickly become one of my favourites.

I have to agree with you on cutting the funding. One big problem that I see is that targeting the criminal activities of terrorists is unlikely to bankrupt them because they tend to have diverified funding streams. But as you have pointed out, it could hinder their ability to fund and arm themselves on the margins. Being able to identify the criminal nexus within terrorism provides counterterrorist and intelligence specialists entry points which they can exploit. It is a shame that EO is no more because international law will not allow outside intervention to strike at the resources, even if it would solve a lot of the problems. And it does not help that Europe (especially the southern parts) is in financial distress at the moment. I'm sure this will make the borders even more porous and allow easier access to the markets needed for the goods. With youth unemployment in Europe soaring, Serbia's approved EU candidacy and journalists and the UN being the muppets they are, it will probably get worse before it hopefully gets better.

Regards

Luca

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very true, Mike. However, I still maintain that these networks have a trinity of gravity, ie the leadership, the locals and the funding.

Obviously, if the leadership is neutralised, the problem may stop – or the departed leadership may be viewed as martyrs and simply prolong the problem. If we cut-off the funding, the leadership have less flexibility and less options. In turn, this will definitely have an adverse effect on their plans.

Mind you, I doubt we will ever be able to stop the funding in total but in my opinion, every cent we can stop is a cent they don’t have.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I note that lately another failed “journalist” wrote that EO was involved in “arms-for-resources”, Robin. Ironic that these people always feel that they have to add a lie to make their “story” more credible. Even more surprising is that he forgot to add that he is a disgraced former member of the Scorpions and that he was arrested for drunk driving. It is obvious to me that he is still playing several sides of the fence but as he claims to also be an expert art critic, one has to wonder to what depths the paper that employs him have sunk. When I get more information on him, I will be doing a piece on him for the blog.

As for “blood diamonds” – when I mentioned early in our contract in Angola that diamonds can be traced back to their source of origin, I was scoffed at by some diamond companies – and the media. When De Beers happened to say the same, everyone was terribly excited at this “discovery”. So, I am not too put out by these things. I know where the driving power is located.

The international community will never allow an EO-type operation. It threatened too many governments and their collusions in Africa. There is no desire to allow Africa to come to terms with itself. That would not be in their interests.

Good on you for telling this guy off. Thanks for that.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for join us, Luca.

You are correct – we will never be able to bankrupt them due to several reasons, one being as you mentioned re their diversified funding streams. But, if the origin of funds can be traced to origin, and the origin secured from them, it will certainly disadvantage them. As I mentioned to Mike, every cent we stop is a cent less for them.

You are correct – the financial distress in Europe along with high unemployment has opened the doors to a host of options for organised crime. Unless something is done to prevent an entire meltdown, it will certainly get worse before it gets any better.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

incredible that a person of such high stature and being involved with the high and mighty all encompassing righteous "Scorpions" is now working as a rag man / paparazzi. what a joke, and then to level accusations and spread puke accross the tabloids using his "background" in the scorpions is a hoot. i am guessing he forgot to mention the DUI charge? it seems you have attracted a new Peter Hasseldine? from SCORPION to cockroach. shame what a monumentous fall from grace.
Mike Da Silva. (ex EO) and i never saw a diamond or anything resembling a mine while i worked in Cabo Ledo or Longa.

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

Something that has been nagging at me is the relative size of the various funding streams. Much has been said about gold, diamonds and now oil but what is the relative size of funding coming from illegal drug trade and even poaching?

It just seems that smuggled diamonds and gold are the classic high profile items stereotyped by the news but drugs are readily accessible to all levels of society. With very detrimental effects on societies resisting decay.

Just pondering how huge the cartels are worldwide, and who may really be in their pay to keep the prices up to fund the engines of despair.

Great thread as usual here.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

People like him are indeed sad specimens of life, Mike. But, my info gathering on him is escalating and I will soon be able to publish a lot of information about him and his activities. I am also led to believe that he was the source of the so-called “Browse Mole” report – you may recall that spectacular piece of rubbish?

His reporting might be more objective if he added to his by-line: “Arrested for drunk driving, disgraced Scorpion and leak of Browse Mole report”. That way people might be able to make a more informed decision on his credibility as a journalist.

Ironically, the only Angolan diamonds I saw were those that we found on smugglers – and none of them ended up in my possession – or in the possession of EO.

Rgds,

Eeben

Tango said...

Hi Eeben,
Thanks for yet another great article and information.
This might not be 100% related to your report but i cannot believe that is as reported in the Sunday times is true!
What more can one say ?
Regards
Tango

MORE than 27000 police officers on active duty have failed the firearms proficiency test - making them a danger to their colleagues and the public.

This is according to a draft performance audit report by the SAPS internal audit unit dated December 14 2011.

The audit was conducted to assess the quality of training provided to police officers.

Yet, despite this, many still carry official service weapons.

According to the report, 27329 (or 17%) of the 157704 police officers who underwent training to comply with the regulations of the Firearms Control Act, which took effect in 2004, failed firearms proficiency tests.

A further 55429 members still have to be trained in accordance with the new legislation.

There are 213133 operational members, including 59955 active reservists, in the SAPS.

The firearms test which the policemen failed is similar to that which ordinary citizens have to pass in order to obtain a firearm licence.


"If there's that number not competent, then, in terms of the law, they can't carry weapons," Mkhwanazi said.


Findings in the 40-page report, based on an audit on training in the police force, included:

A total of 7578 of the 16123 operational members in the Eastern Cape have not yet been trained; and,

448 of the 1019 police members who failed firearms proficiency tests in the Western Cape were declared "untrainable" because of medical reasons or as a result of being declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The definition "untrainable", a policeman told the Sunday Times, is also used for those who cannot even pick up a rifle or continually fail to hit a target during shooting practice.

The Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) - the body tasked with issuing "learner achievement" certificates to members of the SAPS who pass proficiency tests - confirmed that only 3570 certificates were awarded since 2010.

.

The majority of those who failed the tests, according to the report, were operational members "who were supposed to carry their official firearms on a daily basis".

The audit team said despite "ample legislation" indicating what was expected of the police's top
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, would not comment, as he said the issues were of an "operational nature".

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Although I don’t have the figures, the financial yields by these cash cows are huge, John.

South Africa, like several other countries, is becoming a hub for drugs in transit to Europe and other markets. When busts are made in SA, they are usually large and run into millions of SA Rands. That is only those that are made known. I am also aware of some airfields being used in Africa as transit areas/refuelling stops for flights coming in from South America outbound for Europe. Ironically, nothing is being done to actively close these routes, shoot the aircraft out of the sky or confiscate the aircraft and contents.

I think the cartels are financially very powerful and getting stronger by the day. It would be very interesting to know who in high places is in their employ or debt.

I still believe these activities can be stopped but we need to move away from the politically correct approach and become far more aggressive, offensive and pre-emptive.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good to hear from you again, Tango.

Yes, I read the report with complete “shock and awe”– and to think that the average citizen needs to have his competency confirmed and his licence issued by these guys. It does beggar belief.

But, the reason organised crime is allowed to flourish and be as supportive as it is in some instances to terror groups, is simply due to the fact that law enforcement, world-wide, seems to have become something more spoken of and deeds less visible. Africa is NOT the exception to the rule. Look how many policemen in the UK have lost their firearms as well...

I remain convinced (and I am not a conspiracy theorist!) that much of what we see and what is legislated is to (wittingly or unwittingly) give the bad guys an advantage. Just look at the AQ woman on the run – apparently she has an SA passport.

The article you mention is indeed a wake-up call. I only hope that some hear the bell.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

Eeben, maybe "EO" could offer training to our police service before they shoot themselves in the foot. oh , but then again the hacks will say that you are trying to manufacture a coup within the security apparatus, which at current arent that much of an apparatus. i feel safe knowing that there are cops strolling around out there with automatic R5 assault rifles and dont have a clue in hell on how to use them! maybe the uber ex scorpion will be able to pin this report on you as well. i truly hope you out this lame duck (or is it a case of 5th avenue cold duck?) so the world can get an even representation of the super sleuth/ drunk driver/ art afficianado. i must tread carefully with this gem of a man as i recently wrote on my blog of some of the people i met and used to socialise with at a restaurant who ended up being the driver in the Kebble debacle. i used to know peripherally Faizel "Kappie" Smith and we would drink and shoot the breeze( nothing else of course). he was a great guy but now the uber scorpion may just try and say i am involved in the illegal trafficking in Kryptonite or something lame. i however have no fear and i have reached catharsis with my wild past and laid it bare for all to see. i was a small peanut in the big granola bar of life. i look forward to taunting the ex scorpion as was done with your erstwhile chum patrick "pie in the sky" hasseldine.
i do however believe that EO could train the police services and make them an efficient unit. i shudder at the thought of 20thousand plus maniacs running around "protecting us" and have not passed a basic competency test! its ludicrous and a stain on the upper eschelons of the police management.they should be fired!
a case of cut the funding to the upper management and utilise the funding on better training the field operatives (the beat cops). africa is a corrupt cauldron. to think our deposed chief of police jackie selebe was in bed with a known drug dealer and embarresingly to the knobs at interpol was even head of that organisation while receiving cash and 5000 rand loafers from glen agliotti. the world is a joke!
what EO did was stop suffering and bring about peace through defining wins on the battlefield and forcing the biligerents to accept peace. that same ethos would work well in training the menagerie that is the SAPS and SANDF. EO`s "mandate" is still current in today`s arena. the misapropriation of state funds must be cut and monitored and the staffers trained to perform a professional service to the community they are entrusted in serving. the management are raping the coffers and enriching themselves and that is most likely where it would be problematic to get into training the police and SANDF. the gravy train will have to be totally derailed and all passengers thereon investigated. possibly the entire cabinet from the tea lady up right to the top! the ex scorpion will mentally gesticulate and salivate that those offering training are proposing to usurp power and take over the reign of power. in conclusion. Eeben for president. you got my vote.
mike da silva (small peanut)

Luca Zatarra said...

Thanks for the welcome Eeben,

You're absolutely right, every denied cent to them is important. I do believe you're spot on with hitting the funding, especially since these networks have become so non-hierarchial and globalised. These are people who are ahead of the curve in the globalisation process. I came across a study by the UNODC that studied 40 crime groups in 16 countries and found that only 13 were based on shared ethnic characteristics, 10 on social characteristics and the rest had no shared social characteristics. Collaboration between groups is not so surprisingly even less dependent on shared identities. What drives these people is, as has already been pointed out, money. Lots of armed political groups get a taste for money and sometimes it is very hard to discern where the line is crossed between sheer profit driven criminal groups and politically motivated revoulutionary groups for those people who choose to see the world through their own naive eyes or through the ones of their paymasters - i.e lots of journos(FARC being a case in point).

sadly you're probably right in that the will to stop it is lacking.

When it comes to stopping it at the borders I believe that the italians have got it somewhat right with a military branch that has police duties (carabinieri) along with special operations units within that branch. But the bloody purge of the mafia in the end of the 80's -beginning of the 90's just drove them into mainstream society and made them harder to detect, sort of like an organisational reform meant to weed out problems but that ends upp hiding the people that constitute the problem instead. Strike at the key points (key persons - who may or may not be leaders in a non-hierarchial network) and cut their sources and they will be confused and immobilased long enough for some of them to die out.

Rgds,

Luca

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are so correct - they are way ahead of the curve, Luca. The sad thing is that we have allowed them that space of manoeuvre and now find ourselves unable to close them down. The other side of the coin is that money buys influence and influence brings power – which leads to more money. More money can buy them into office to assume power – or at least some of it. Currently, they have the will to continue, regardless of the outcome – we don’t.

The Italian Carabinieri relented despite reprisals by the Mafia. But, they never wrested the initiative from them and simply gave them time to go “underground” ie legitimise themselves into mainstream businesses. But, eventually, some are still exposed and justice seems to be done.

I agree – it is time to take on the high value targets along with their sources of funding with very serious intent. However, we often simply look at crime as not being a serious threat to the vital and national interests of the state, but it is, especially when it aids and abets groups who aim to overthrow governments and who will resort to any means in order to do so.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

People like him aren’t worth the time and effort to get upset about, Mike. As mentioned, I will get the necessary info on him as some stage. But, he is the type that will link you to someone who was once in a company that had links to a cellular company that is now in Iran and therefore you support the Iranian government – or some similar rubbish.

Whereas there is undoubtedly corruption in Africa, not everyone is corrupt. Also bear in mind that it was not the corruption in Africa that led to the world’s economic meltdown and collapse of banks. I have met many senior African military officers who are as concerned about corruption as we are.

Thanks for your vote Mike, but I have NO political ambitions.

Rgds,

Eeben

Luca Zatarra said...

On the points that Michael and you made above, relating to police in SA and UK, this story surfaced a couple of days ago, don't know if you've seen it?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/02/police-privatisation-security-firms-crime?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Luca.

Yes, it surfaced a few days ago but is no doubt a talking point of great interest. That said, many SA Police duties are already in the hands of private security companies. This includes tasks such as guarding and protecting police stations as well as a host of anti- hijack companies, private security companies patrolling suburbs and so forth. A lot of them dress the part and carry firearms but I do not know how well they are trained.

I do think that the recent reporting on the SAPS’ inability to handle their firearms is something that must be blamed on the current system of vetting and training. If policemen are unable to execute their tasks, it points to sub-standard training – and not necessarily to the policeman on the ground.

I am not too sure of how much legality these private companies carry – perhaps someone such as Tango who knows the legal and law enforcement systems better than I can help out here?

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

i have the need to quote unequivically and reiterate that i mentioned your tenure as president in pure jest, just before some dilly journo decides to go off on a tangent and start rumours that you are punting at the big seat. "to any journalists" out there i was jst joking and making a gag. Eeben Barlow has made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that he has no political aspirations. it was just a joke. so please dont go off half cocked like our police force. many thanks. mike da silva( just want to clear up anything i may have said before some wing nut runs with a fantastic "scoop".

i truly enjoy the depth that your blog goes to and your straight forward answers to questions posed. thanks. mike.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Ha-Ha!! And there I was thinking my time in the great office had your blessing, Mike!

Rgds,

Eeben

Luca Zatarra said...

The training is definately to blame in most cases. That does relate to another potential problem with the shipment of illegal goods to the European market countries. When the Soviet Union ended and all those well trained former special forces and intelligence people went into organised crime it created an opponent with an extreme amount of know-how. Same goes for serbians, you can't throw a rock in Europe without hitting a former serbian sf or paramilitary turned oc member. Greece is making huge defence cuts, and Italy will probably be close behind. There will be a alot of well trained people without jobs in the two countries that acts as major entry points for illegal goods. The greek mafia mey well become the new russian. With the monopoly on violence being the most important trait for a state it is incredible that police forces are not given more training when their opponents gets savvier with every new crumbling country. In Afghanistan ISAF is training new afghan police in three weeks and then expect them to force multiply but there are not enough manuals for the three week veterans to use.

It is indeed so that money buys influence and influence brings power. Seems to me that in a lot of places "the invisible hand" moves resources away from the police and the question of who stands to gain is simple enough to answer.

I've ranted enough now, thanks for an entertaining and insightful blog!

Rgds

Luca

Claire said...

Eeben. I have been following your blog for some time now and I have wondered this. How much aid, be it food or monies, sent from governments or church groups for that matter end up supporting these African conflicts. I get the feeling that people here do not think that Africans can support themselves, even the ones that were born here in North America for that matter. I fear that we have done harm than good. Lance

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Because there is very little to no control over those donated funds, I suspect that a lot of this aid ends up in the wrong hands, Lance. I recall when I was a soldier in the SADF coming across “food aid” that had been donated to the enemy at that time – coming from Europe.

Yes, people believe that Africa is incapable of taking care of itself. This is the richest continent in terms of natural resources yet its people remain the poorest. How does one explain that?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think we all rant at times, Luca, especially when it is something that has a profound effect on our lives and our morals.

As we witness several European states close to collapse, we also see the massive riots that act as a cover to crime. But it goes further to me when some of these illegally gotten gains end up in the wrong hands and pose a direct threat to life of innocent people. Look at what happened in Libya and how it is now claimed a lot of hardware is finding itself crossing borders to be sold on to terror groups who can now escalate their violence. Was this never considered? And if so, what was done to curb it??

Now we see the war graves of soldiers who gave their lives in WW2 to free these people being desecrated by the people who have now been “freed” in Libya. You can bet your bottom dollar that these same grave defilers will go on to cause more mayhem where they can.

This brings me back to the original point I was trying to make. If we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by all the “oppressed” and give military aid and money to effect regime changes ie assisted coup d'etats, and allow crime to flourish, do our leaders really think this money will be used to give us all good homes? Or will we continue to turn a blind eye and allow these actions to destroy what we want to defend?

As for training – I have seen enough so-called training given to armies in Africa to make me sick. Not only is it mostly substandard, it sets the tone for future behaviour. But then again, who wants to see a strong disciplined African army? Sadly, without strong armies, there is no security – but a lack of security ensures a cheap resource chain.

The longer we wait, the stronger they get and the more leverage we give them.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jim Stewart said...

Hello Eeben and your followers, from Australian whose work has taken me to Africa since 1995.

I bought your book 'EO: Against all odds' when transiting Jo'burg and reading it changed my outlook on so many things. Perhaps the most important change was my realisation of the extent of the threat your way of doing business to so many driven by money and power.

I have often thought of contacting you but until now my motivation was not enough. What changed may surprise you. It was the flip side of your source of funding article. By that I mean how do we fund more of the sort of work done by EO and promoted on your blog?

My hopes rose when I read your: "crimes got worse when young children were forced to kill their parents and elders as they were coerced into joining rebel or terror networks. This was conveniently not reported." That is because my 17 y/o grand-daughter is one of the millions of people drawn by 'Invisible Children' to support the Kony 2012 campaign. When I asked her just how her donation might lead to Kony's arrest she said "a sniper"! While I was impressed, I expect this answer implied a US trained & funded sniper among the 5000 AU troops reported as hunting for Kony.

But what if African communities like those wanting to end Kony's reign of terror, could be directly funded by charities? Sounds crazy, but is it?

I could type more, particularly about the probable media and "official" reactions to such charities, but this is intended to get you and others to consider how else could such work as identified by your articles be funded in a way that bypasses, or at least discredits negative media and "official" reactions?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visit to the blog, Jim – as well as for buying my book.

Well done to your grand-daughter!

There are many charities and organisations that mean well but sadly, have a very poor understanding for Africa and its complex problems. Invisible Children have done good work in Uganda and DRC but I also believe the video-approach they followed was possibly not the best way to go about it. Whereas they certainly made people aware of Kony – they also shifted the spotlight onto themselves in a not-so-positive manner from some quarters. But what remains an irony to me is that Kony and his LRA had offices in some European countries in the not-too-distant past, something few wish to mention – but now want to also jump on the bandwagon.

All problems have solutions but the problem charities will face if they wish to use private organisations are three-fold: They will have to face the wrath of many NGOs who do not wish to see an end to the conflicts (this is how they make their money – end the conflict and their right to exist diminishes) and secondly, they will be sanctioned by the UN/governments who do not want private organisations to achieve what they cannot – or will not. Finally, the media who appear to have come to a conclusion that they ought to dictate strategy to end conflicts and wars will do everything in their power to attack both the charity and the PMC.

That said, it can be done if those who wish to make a difference are not concerned about making themselves targets for attack by the media, NGOs and the UN.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jim Stewart said...

Thanks Eeben, for your encouraging and prompt reply.

My immediate thoughts are on the power of the Internet and how lessons from 'Invisible Children' might be developed to fund projects to cut sources of funding to criminal cartels. At the same time I expect that your blog and its readers are only part of the answer.

I agree with you that it can be done if those wishing to make a difference are not concerned about making themselves targets for attack by the media, NGOs and the UN.

While organisers of 'Invisible Children' may be reflecting on their predicament, I have no doubt that the millions of young people have discovered that "Courage is contageous". They are looking for and will follow courageous leaders who emerge from the Kony 2012 drama.

Hopefully these leaders will be Africans like you and those who supported your original successes against all the odds.

Finally, on a related topic, what good may come of the Mali turmoil since Tauregs originally funded by Gaddafi have returned home with his weapons and ammunition? Is there a way to prevent criminal cartels exploiting the turmoil?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The power of social media is incredible, Jim. But, just as it can be used for good, it can also be used for bad in that it is a powerful tool for misinformation as well. That said, I suspect that it has already caused massive damage to the media and furthermore, allowed criminal actions by members of some PMCs and the UN to be exposed. To me, that is a good thing.

I am aware of some blogs that go all out to expose crime and criminal actions. There is a Mexican blog that has declared its own war on the drug cartels and that is really good – and a brave thing to do. As you correctly state “Courage is contagious”. However, simple exposure is not enough as it rarely gets followed up. After exposure, drastic and decisive action should follow but I also need to be careful in what I say as another blog has claimed that I am using my blog simply to find a “merc job”.

I believe we have allowed crime to flourish and have paid too much attention to the human rights of criminals. As far as I am concerned, they don’t deserve any human rights when they conduct violent criminal actions against innocent people and children.

Many of the conflicts in Africa have criminal undertones and relate to economic improvement, expansion and control. Many of them are in fact criminal in origin but develop over time into what is regarded as an “insurgency”. This in itself is disturbing as counter actions are often half-fought – and half fought wars are never truly ended or won. Sadly though, they use the word “democracy” and suddenly they are viewed as “good” and supported by outside governments with very little regard of the future implications.

I don’t think the Mali situation holds any good for the West African region. Mali was until the coup, regarded as a fairly democratic state. A coup as you know causes a power vacuum that is open to exploitation by criminal gangs. When religious tensions exist in such a climate, it becomes a powder keg waiting to explode. This opens the way to arms and drug smuggling, human trafficking, resource smuggling and more. Given Mali’s proximity to countries such as Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Ivory Coast and even Nigeria, I suspect that part of the fall-out will result in increased tensions in the region as well as an increase in crime and with a real possibility of more conflict.

Can it be stopped or reduced: Yes it can but we need to dig deeper, find the underlying causes and take corrective action. Sometimes the correct action includes rapid force to contain it and eliminate it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jim Stewart said...

I've waited to see if other readers would pick up on my exchange with Eeben last month. I can't say I'm surprised at the silence but it confirms the need for more than blogging to get action against violent sources of funding to promoters and perpetrators of African violence.

As I wrote before it needs leaders who understand how to harness the power of the Internet together with television. Organisers of 'Invisible Children' have opened the way [and my continue to lead] but surely others have been, and will be, inspired.

I still hope this blog can inspire some already living with threats of [and actual] violence. What about those within Red Cross and Red Crescent?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whereas many bloggers can harness the power of their blogs to create an awareness of situations, you are spot-on with saying that it requires more than awareness to achieve a positive result, Jim.

Many leaders do not understand the power of social media but social media in itself can achieve little unless there is dedicated and determined action to achieve a positive result. It is, in my opinion, only awareness coupled to action that can and will achieve anything. Sadly though, many governments talk of action but do not translate it into deeds.

Insofar as NGOs are concerned, there are some that do extraordinary good deeds but there are also those that piggy-back on conflict with the realisation that when the conflict ends, so too does their income.

Rgds,

Eeben