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Howard's End: Mercenaries Better Than U.N. Troops

The days of countries contributing U.N. Peacekeepers might be numbered because Private Military Companies (PMC's) are seen in a Green Paper report to the British Parliament as being more cost effective and doing a better job. Maree Howard writes.

A much-awaited Green Paper report to the British House of Commons dated February 12, has been released which has reviewed the activities of a range of mainly Western-based private companies that provide security and military training to governments and people around the world.

The report said that as many as 100 such companies, including those from the U.S., Britain, Israel and South Africa are active in Africa alone.

The PMC's range from companies that secure oil pipelines in Algeria, to those that train the Saudi military, to those who guard important people or are involved in regional wars.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently stated that he considered sending in mercenaries to "separate fighters" from Rwandan refugees in the Great Lakes region in Africa.

The British Green Paper states that soldiers for hire may have a role to play in "securing peace."

This represents a huge change in thinking because during the 1990's the U.N., the British Government and the U.S. administration officially frowned on mercenaries - soldiers serving for pay in foreign armies or at the behest of private firms.

One such firm, Executive Outcomes (EO), is now reorganising itself and is said to be considering a military contract to help the Islamic Government in Khartoum wage war on the Christian civilians in the south of the nation.

Scoop readers will recall that is was EO who waged war in Angola and Sierra Leone. It kept peace, albeit temporarily. EO went into Sierra Leone on behalf of the diamond and gem interests held by powerful private British-owned business interests.

Sandline is another PMC (who shares an office in London with EO) who tried to re-open one of the world's largest copper mines in Papua New Guinea.

Often the PMC's work alongside Government's and corporate elites and are given either cash payments or mining rights in exchange for training government forces or defeating so-called rebel groups holding lands that house mineral and/or oil wealth.

The British Green Paper said that mercenary armies had a far better human rights record than U.N. peacekeepers.

U.N. forces have been documented as having spread AIDS in Cambodia by having unprotected sex with prostitutes, engaged in paedophilia in Africa and roasted a black man over a fire while serving in Somalia. The Canadian unit implicated in the burning episode was disbanded by the Canadian Government.

The Green Paper says " It is at least possible that if the tasks of the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone were put out to tender, private companies would be able to do the job more cheaply and cost effectively. There may be a case for examining this option."

The U.N. itself has already started using mercenary companies in ancillary roles providing equipment and security in various U.N. operations around the world.

The elite mercenaries, the Ghurkas from Nepal, guard the Sultan of Brunei and French Legionnaires are stationed at Djibouti, just an eye-blink from the strategically vital Suez Canal.

The U.S. firm Vinell, the Green Paper said, has been training the guard of the Saudi royal family, but no other details were reported.

British firm Defense Systems Ltd provides security for installations as well as force training in Sudan.

The South African firm, Eric SA, has provided oil pipeline security for Algeria.

The report lists a range of options for regulation of PMC's in the interests of British national security but it also warned that banning such companies would hurt Britain's defence industry.

Psst! - Wanna but an army or start a revolution? There's a PMC just waiting to hear from you - but it's hardly the Kiwi-way, is it?

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