Archive for September, 2009


September 2nd, 2009

Peacekeeping Privatized: Mercenaries and the future of humanitarian intervention

The fighting in Sierra Leone ended rather abruptly, considering three years of civil war had been resolved in little more than a month. In Freetown, the British Parachute Regiment had secured the international airport and was busy evacuating British nationals. Just offshore a powerful British naval task force, one of the largest assembled since the Falklands War, waited in support. While international media was riveted by British efforts to prop up the failing UN peacekeeping mission, British forces were not acting alone. On land, deep in the interior of the tiny West African nation, another army was busy mopping up the shattered remnants of Liberian President Charles Taylor’s proxy child militias. This army wore no patches revealing identity and belonging, and while it was fighting under the banner of Sierra Leone, it was beyond the reach of that government’s jurisdiction. This army was in fact Executive Outcomes of South Africa, one of the first private military companies (PMCs, better known as mercenaries) to offload responsibilities from militaries that were either too weak (such as Sierra Leone) or too expensive (such as the United States) to go it alone. It is likely that PMCs will see more business in civil wars and humanitarian operations. So the question is: if Executive Outcomes was so effective in ending the fighting in Sierra Leone, could another mercenary firm provide better security for Darfur?

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