Mercenaries the world over...

 "Traditional" mercenaries are individuals and groups who have military skills directly applicable to combat and immediate combat support.

"A mercenary is a criminal. He acts not out of altruistic motives, but to earn money in exchange for his tactical and strategic skills and his handling of weapons and explosives." Enrique Ballesteros

Post Cold War demobilization left thousands of trained soldiers unemployed. In the nations of the former Soviet bloc and similarly with members of the disarmed South African forces that supported the apartheid government, many faced a choice between becoming mercenaries or going hungry. Military Security companies are involved in conflicts throughout Africa. Former employees of Executive Outcomes are reported to be fighting on both sides in the Angolan civil war. Ukrainian troops have been reported fighting for the rebels in Angola and Sierra Leone. Russian pilots have flown for both sides in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war. French and Israeli mercenaries and North Koreans have been spotted in the Congo.

Sandline International, trained, armed and led forces fighting for the civilian government. Sandline and Executive Outcomes, a South African-based firm composed mostly of ex-commandos who worked for the former apartheid government, are typical of a new breed of private security firms hired by governments to fight for them.

Eight years of warfare in Sierra Leone officially ended in July 1999 with the signing of a pact that provided amnesty for war crimes and caused Sierra Leone's president, Ahmed Kabbah, to take eight of the rebels into his Cabinet. Unfortunately, rebel forces continue to fight; attacking villages within Sierra Leone -- looting, burning houses, raping women and mutilating civilians…

 

Collapse of a Patrimonial system...

Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in 1961. A patron client system then evolved as the new government bought the loyalties of ethnically diverse strongmen, who's allegiance and followers were need for effective exercise of power in a nation struggling to unify various ethnic groups under one state. To undercut potential political challengers and in order to maintain their own self-enriching enterprises, Sierra Leone rulers weakened government bureaucracies and manipulated access to resources. Since independence, state-society relationships in Sierra Leone have been likened to neo-patrimonalism, in which state resources are constantly and recklessly appropriated by a ruling elite composed of politicians, educated groups, bureaucrats and military personnel. By the end of 1985, the diamond industry, which had previously composed twenty five percent of the country's Gross National Produce, was run with tax exemption, by associates of the then president, Siaka Stevens (ruled 1967-85). The successive president, Joseph Momoh, who was elected through what is believed to have been a staged election, lacked sufficient popularity amongst independent strongmen to end the private control of Sierra Leone wealth that was enjoyed by Steven's cronies.

Widespread public disenchantment with the failing state, corruption and lack of opportunity followed, as state institutions, crippled by the loss of official revenues, failed to provide state services. In 1991, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF); mainly composed of Sierra Leone dissidents and Liberian fighters loyal to Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, under the leadership of Foday Sankoh, began to terrorize civilians, thus exploiting the governments inability to protect its citizens. This insurgency, tacitly supported by Liberian warlord Charles Taylor was the beginning of the civil war. Momoh increased his army from 3,000 to 14,000 in response to the RUF attacks. However, soldiers went unpaid as Momoh, cut off from international funding because of budget deficits, failed to finance his expanded army.

Twenty-six year old Valentine Strasser, one of the young officers left in charge of battle operations as unpaid army generals 'led' from the rear, and several other officers marched into Freetown on April 29, 1992, overthrowing Momoh. Strasser however, found himself in a more desperate situation than Momoh. Not only was he unable to finance a loyal and consequently efficient army, but he was also unable to deliver his popular promises, made especially to young Sierra Leoneans, to renew state services. With the increasing violence of civil war and political instability, the mechanisms for regulating society through a patron-client system failed. Social strife, an economic crisis and resultant poverty diminished the resources of patrons, rendering them unable to control disorder. The loss of legitimacy of the government resulted from the decrease in accountability to their clients; the society. Prosperity through criminal activity and force (violence) became the norm. The state itself not only failed to protect the population from crime but itself became indirectly responsible for the violence, through its abuse of power and position.

Private Security.
In April 1995, president Valentine Strasser called in South African based, Executive Outcomes (EO); a private military security company. The protracted civil war had created the market opportunity for yet another player in the diamond trade, in the form of mercenary intervention.

 

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