About Me

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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. Until recently, I was a contributing editor 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.

Friday, September 13, 2013


As no two fragile or failed states are the same, there can be no universal template to bring about positive change or a reversal from the brink of collapse to a stable and prosperous state. Rather, it requires a series of coordinated actions and activities to bring about this change.

However, when studying fragile or failed states, there will be certain common characteristics that these states share. In my previous posting, I listed several of the common characteristics we have witnessed within certain fragile states we have worked in.

When I look at the concept of a state in Africa, I view it as a group of people (usually an ethnic, cultural or religious majority) positioned to rule as a government within a defined territory and implementing a defined constitution. Whether or not we view that constitution as “good” or “bad” does not detract from the fact that that grouping of people exercise influence over those who reside in that territory.

In turn, this influence - whether positive or negative - can spill across national borders and impact on the region. An example of influence impacting on a region is the current instability witnessed in the Great Lakes region and its effect on several neighbouring states.

We should not sugar-coat problems simply to be politically-correct. Nor, I believe, should we try to be politically-correct when large tracts of Africa are in crisis as we only deceive ourselves and do a disservice to Africa. It does, however, depend on who is defining the state as either fragile or failed and who stands to gain what from the state in question’s collapse.

Africa has many examples of states bordering on fragile and/or failed. It also has numerous examples of states that are transitioning from a failed/fragile state to a more palatable revolutionary government. However, some fragile or failed states have the resources to turn the tide but are hampered from doing so by corruption, tenderpreneurship and local, regional and international influences and pressures, some overt and some not so overt.

As decolonisation wound down, many government departments found themselves unable to cope with the lack of service-savvy administrators. This void was rapidly filled by family and friends of the ruling-party who had no training in what to do and/or how to do it. This resulted in a decrease/collapse of essential services, including education. As governments changed, so too did the personnel in these institutions. This lack of continuity and experience has ultimately resulted in a lack of a professional civil service coupled to a lack of accountability.

I firmly believe the much-used/abused term of “nation-building” – when it has been passed to the armed forces to accomplish - is nothing other than a blame-shifting exercise where politicians do not want to take responsibility for their actions and instead try to implicate the armed forces in the failure that will follow.

Rebuilding a fragile or failed state is not the responsibility of the armed forces. The armed forces, in support of the law enforcement agencies, need to create a climate of stability and security to enable government departments and agencies to fulfil their missions.

A common sight in a fragile state…

Therefore, assuming the state is not engaged in a civil war, rectification requires inter alia the following:

1.     Strong political will that drives ever-improving governance
2.     Reassessment of Grand/National Strategy, National Security Strategies and Policies
3.     Cross-party political communication to reach consensus
4.     Strong national will
5.     An acceptance of accountability
6.     Popular support ie recognition of government legitimacy
7.     Development of national pride/patriotism
8.     Refocused monetary and fiscal policies
9.     Attractive, secure foreign investment opportunities
10.  Establishment of industries (creating job opportunities)
11.  Increased and improved service delivery
12.  Increased productivity
13.  Increased and improved (objective) law enforcement
14.  An objective judiciary
15.  Improved international perceptions/relations
16.  Increased effectiveness of - and pride in - the armed forces
17.  Increased effectiveness of intelligence services
18.  A combination of the above. 

In order to efficiently manage themselves, these states ought to:

1.     Identify and neutralise internal threat-drivers
2.     Work at neutralising external threat-drivers
3.     Avoid appointing substandard and incompetent “advisors”
4.     Continually re-evaluate national strategy and adjust where necessary
5.     Increase legitimacy of state
6.     Focus efforts to reduce/eradicate corruption
7.     Find a balance between austerity measures and reduce unnecessary government spending
8.     Implement, develop and expand affordable economic and political reforms
9.     Increase efficiency in terms of service delivery
10.  Reduce violent and non-violent political actions
11.  Target programmes aimed at increased education and poverty reduction and so forth.

It can be argued that many fragile and failed states in Africa only have themselves to blame for the situation they find themselves in – as they allowed it to happen whilst fostering a culture of non-accountability. However, on closer inspection, a portion of the blame can be laid before the door of regional and international forces.

Unless Africa takes responsibility for itself and its leaders become accountable to the people they govern, states will continue to find themselves on the cusp of fragile or failed - or civil war - and the legacy left to our children will be shameful. However, there is no quick fix – only hard work, dedication and positive commitment and drive.

But, Africa needs to start somewhere before it is too late.