Who and What are the Modern Mercenaries?
The modern mercenaries hired for service in Africa are for the most part highly skilled and trained soldiers. “The new mercenaries are mostly young, white Western veterans of their countries’ elite armed forces—such as the United States Green Berets and Britians Special Air Service.”
A list of forty-four mercenaries captured in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of the Seychelles—an island chain in the Indian Ocean east of southern Africa illustrates the typical nationalities of those employed for African campaigns. “The 44 mercenaries included 23 South Africans, nine Britons, five Rhodesians, two West Germans, one Irishman, one American, one Australian and one Austrian.”
“The typical mercenary adopts his lethal trade out of boredom, joblessness or rightist political views . . . misses the excitement and discipline of military life and seeks a quick fortune.”
These are men, usually combat seasoned, who have enjoyed a tour of active duty and seek a means to continuing the trade because they enjoy the challenge and experience.
The modern mercenary does see a just cause. In most cases money is not the primary motivation. Robert K. Brown, founder and publisher of ‘Soldier of Fortune’ magazine says, “Ninety-nine percent of the people who have contacted me about mercenary work are motivated by ideology.”
He further states, “ . . . they’re looking for a chance to get back at the Communist some place else in the world.”
The modern mercenary may be employed in a variety of common positions between combat jobs. He may be an actor, photographer, writer or teacher.
Today’s mercenary employed in the African States has financial gain as his main motivation. He is willing to fight and kill a designated enemy strictly for money.
“He is not a national of the country for which he is fighting nor is he connected with the cause of those with whom he is fighting.”
Further, “he has no racial connections with those whose cause he is fighting or those he is fighting against.”
He is one who fights for fightings sake, sometimes armed with a twisted political point of view.
The modern mercenary is fed reason with the spoon of his employer. Promised rank, honors, superior weaponry and an inferior enemy, he ventures into battle believing that all of the odds are stacked greatly in his favor.
“And so, from the inadequate, the discarded, the cruel, the bully, the unimaginative, the fantasist, the racist, and above all the greedy, are recruited human resources to make the war machine work.”
The modern mercenary is available to anyone who can afford him.
What are some of the factors in Africa which nurtures the resurgence of mercenaries there?
(1) No single nationalist movement for the immediate transfer of power.
The decolonization of Angola provides a primary example of an African State’s lack of a single nationalist movement for which to transfer immediate power. When Lisbon pulled its troops out of Angola in 1974, “a quadritite transitional government was set up consisting of (1) FNLA (The National Front for the Liberation of Angola), (2) UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), (3) MPLA (The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and (4) Portuguese representation by a High Commissioner.”
There was no decisive authority. Each faction began competition for complete control. The result was civil war.
Supported with arms by the Soviet Union, “the Marxist MPLA Angolan Government, with the strong surrogate support form Cuba and Eastern Europe, has come out largely on top”
in the fight for dominance at this writing.
In see-saw battles for control of Ongiva, Angola’s southern most city, “Jonas Savimbi’s pro-Western Unita Movement also took the town a couple of times, usually in conjunction with another indigenous movement, the FNLA—unlike Unita, FNLA didn’t balk at using European and American mercenaries if convenient, but they were generally no match against the better trained and equipped Luanda force(the MPLA), invariably bolstered by the Cubans and East Germans.”
(2) Individuals wishing to keep or come to power.
The Congo became independent in June of 1960. Tshombe became President of Katanga, a secessionist state set up outside of the Congo State. Tshombe hired mercenaries to aid in maintaining the State of Katanga as a separate pro-Western State. This effort failed. He later became Prime Minister of the Congo where he again employed mercenaries to help stamp out the radical revolutionary movement which became known as the Simba Revolt, which was not loyal to the Western powers. This effort also failed and he was imprisoned.
Pro-Western mercenaries continued to work on behalf of Tshombe, trying to bring him back to power. “Thus Tshombe and the mercenaries worked for the same objectives: secession of Katanga, disunity of the Congo and the establishment of a pro-western government serving the interests of the monopolies.”
(3) Ideological conflicts—Communism ss Socialism and Democracy One of the major justifications for the use of mercenaries is to halt the spread of Communism. As most mercenaries employed for service in Africa cling to Western ideals, they see themselves as agents of anti-communism.
“As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, its policy in Africa is extremely clear. We want the African peoples to be totally free from colonialism and neo-colonialism and we do not want a single region or territory where colonialism, racism or apartheid rules to remain on the African continent. The rendering of aid and support in every possible way to peoples who have freed themselves from colonial dependence is an integral of Soviet foreign po1icy.”
(4) Inter-African interference
There is a strong Libyan presence in Chad at this time. There is a relative peace since President Goukouni Oueddei came to power with the aid of heavily armed Libyan troops. Fear runs rampid throughout Africa, especially in the neighboring Sudan and Senegal, that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi will have a destabilizing affect on the whole area.
“Already there are known to be several European organizations recruiting mercenaries to fight for one side or another.”
“At one stage there were a hundred mercs, most of them of West German and French origin, waiting to go in from Cameroun.”
A Colony is a body of people living in a new territory but retaining ties with the parent state. Decolonization is the breaking of those ties.
Racism was an inevitable product of decolonization, in many cases, because the colonizers were white Europeans who held all or most of the power. Independence in Africa saw many black majority movements seek or come into power. There were those who employed mercenaries(soldiers who fight for pay in foreign armies) in order to keep the white governments in power.
How does Inter-African Governments, Western Governments and other World Bodies view Mercenaries and their Activities in Africa?
The United States, Great Britain, Belgiun, France, The United Nations, The Organization of African Unity, and many other countries and organizations condemn mercenaries and their activities. There are laws and initiatives that define mercenary activity as criminal and set fines and penalties. The practice of recruiting and enlisting mercenaries is considered a crime with fines and penalties.
One example is the United States Code. Section 959 of Title 18, headed ‘Enlistment in foreign service’ states, “Whoever, within the United States, enlists or enters himself, or hires or retains another to enlist or enter himself, or to go beyond the jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or entered in the service of any foreign prince, state, colony, district or people as a soldier or as a marine or seaman on board any vessel of war, letter of marque, or privateer, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than three years or both.”
Whether more stern or less, the laws on the books of most Western countries and African states prohibit the use, recruitment and enlistment of mercenaries. A 33-member Committee, which met for the first from January 20 until February 13 and is formally known as the Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of an International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, was established by the General Assembly. “In the general debate, speakers pointed out that the time had come to elaborate a convention to stop mercenaries, . . . and that their activities should be condemned as constituting interference in the internal affairs of other States.”
There has been little cessation of mercenary activities. The mercenary is, at this time, employed in Africa, Indo-China and the Middle East. Perhaps in the future we will hear of more men dressed in black, wearing camouflaged grease paint, descending quietly from ropes and trees thinking—AIRBORN-DEATH FROM ABOVE.