Privatising war, by 'The Executives'

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The Independent Online
A security company with links to Britain and the former apartheid regime in South Africa is emerging as one of the most powerful economic and military forces in sub-Saharan Africa. Executive Outcomes is at the leading edge of a post Cold War trend - the privatisation of war.

It is a limited company registered in Britain and South Africa, with operations across the African continent. It is known to operate in Angola, Sierra Leone and Uganda. There are also indications that it is seeking clients in Latin America and Asia.

Detractors see it as a private army securing concessions for private capital. The Director-General of the South African Foreign Affairs Department, Rusty Evans, calls it a "dangerous criminal and destructive force in Africa". Others see it as the only solution to peace in areas of anarchy and bloodshed. Father Andrew Mondeh, a Catholic priest in Koidu, Sierra Leone, says: "The South Africans have saved Koidu . . . Now we can live again." Whether Executive Outcomes is a peacemaker or a corporate Cecil Rhodes, it has turned Africa's instability to profit.

It recruits from some of the most combat-experienced soldiers in the world, including former members of the apartheid regime's notorious 32 Battalion and Koevet and former British officers. Its security services range from mechanised infantry and armour to naval and air force training. A brochure says it can provide "the most professional training packages currently available to armed forces, covering aspects related to land, air and sea warfare". The company has used a senior ex- Foreign Office official to broker deals and has ties to influential personalities in Britain. It is known to have fielded more than 500 soldiers and could probably field double that number with ease. It has a polished executive front with smart offices in London and Pretoria.

Executive Outcomes has shown it can deliver. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had reduced much of Sierra Leone to anarchy when an Executive Outcomes company arrived. A month on, 500 rebels lay dead and the remaining force scattered. The company was also instrumental in Angolan government forces' success over the rebel Unita in 1994.

Executive Outcomes sees itself as a political. A recent letter from its managing director said: "Private military aid in certain meritorious situations might be the only hope for some states already ravaged by the vested interests of politicians." A recent South African intelligence assessment concluded that the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) may be forced to offer it a contract for peace-keeping continent-wide.

The company is the advance guard of a corporate network that includes mining, oil, and construction companies. A South African source said an Executive Outcomes contract last year was worth at least $43m (pounds 29m).

Nick van der Berg, a representative of Executive Outcomes, said: "We receive phone calls every day from potential clients, and not just in Africa."

The new enforcers, Section Two