Dogs of war lay down weapons

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EXECUTIVE OUTCOMES, the controversial firm of mercenaries, announced yesterday that it was to lay down its weapons and stop intervening in Africa's myriad wars.

After a decade of adventures from Angola to Sierra Leone, and Kenya to Papua New Guinea, the company said that a new found sense of law and order across the continent no longer "justify our efforts", an excuse that most military analysts found hard to swallow.

More likely is the reason that the South African-based company realised it would fall foul of recent legislation introduced by the Mandela government aimed at curtailing the involvement of South Africans in mercenary activities.

"We have had some good times and we are proud of what we have achieved," said Nico Palm, EO's director. But, he added: "Over the past two years the majority of governments in Africa have endeavoured to secure and maintain law and order. The nature of these efforts do not justify our involvement. I have got a family and after ten years we had enough of it."

With wars raging across Africa, EO's excuse seemed lame. Indeed, its business may well find its way to the London-based Sandline International Ltd, the military consultancy at the centre of the "arms to Sierra Leone" controversy earlier this year.

Both companies are said to have links with the British businessman Tony Buckingham, a former Special Boat Service officer.

But a spokeswoman for Sandline said yesterday that it had no links with EO and it was "business as usual" for the London-based company. Tim Spicer, the former Army officer who runs Sandline, was not available for comment.