This is a guest article by author D. Alan Johnson. His latest book Asgaard is set in Africa and looks at the role of Private Military Contractors. David himself is a Military Contractor and has been since 1988. We were talking recently about life in general, and the world as a whole. I invited him to offer his thoughts – SimonÂ
For the last 65 years Africa has been plagued with wave after wave of mercenaries. On the African continent no fewer than 27 brush wars flared up between 1963 and 2004. These wars violently impacted over 70 percent of the continentâ€™s population.
The recent struggle centered in the Lake District of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi and joined by forces from Angola, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania is the biggest war since Hitler rolled his tanks across Poland.
A major factor in each of these conflicts has been the white mercenary. Originating in Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, the United States, South Africa, and Switzerland, these soldiers have swung the outcomes of battles and changed the course of history. Whether you think them good or bad, no one can argue their effectiveness and impact on the continent.
Why have mercenaries prospered in Africa and not in other parts of the world? Why donâ€™t we see mercenary armies in other war torn areas of the globe such as East Asia or South America?
While there is no one answer to this question, we can see how two factors have combined to make Africa a breeding ground for violence and mercenary activity.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Abundant Natural Resources
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Tribalism Is Impeding the Growth of Nationalism
Itâ€™s difficult to talk separately about these factors.
While many of these wars are tribal or religious, most are fought over natural resources. And those wars fought for minerals and timber and oil would never have come about with a group of strong national governments.
Canada is perhaps the richest country on earth in natural resources, including the next resource to come to prominence, fresh water. But Canada has no wars over her resources. The same corporations that hire mercenaries to fight for gold and diamond mines in Africa own gold and diamond mines in Canada, extracting those minerals without violence.
Without the rule of law and effective police forces, huge swaths of Africa are still under the rules of â€œMight Makes Right.â€
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Colonialism has impacted every continent. Africa is just the latest.
Asia, North and South America, and Australia were all once colonies. In every colony except Canada and Australia there was a time of warfare after freedom.
For North America, it took a hundred and twenty years to settle down into a peaceful country. We had revolution, then Indian Wars, the war with Mexico, a horrific Civil War, and finally another Indian War before we could call ourselves a peaceful nation.
South America went through hundreds of years of violent revolutions. Viet Nam, China, and Korea all had wars after throwing off the yoke of their European masters.
Africa is going through those same growing pains. If we but step back and look at the progress of the last fifty years in Africa, we can see some real progress.
Unlike a few years ago, there is now cell phone coverage over all major and most of the mid-sized cities. Even in places like Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, there are new concrete expressways and broadband internet.
Africa has her own unique problems. AIDs has decimated the armies and police forces of Central Africa. The senior commanders are in their 60â€™s and 70â€™s, while the line soldier is 20 years old. The entire middle has died of HIV and malaria.
This fact alone will cause the mercenary business to flourish for at least another twenty years as they replace that lost generation. Since it is inevitable, we must make sure that they are a force for good, and peacekeepers more than pillagers.
But Africa is changing before our eyes, and I hold out hope that it will emerge as South America did, as a mostly peaceful and prosperous continent.
During this transition period, we need keep from being too judgmental, since we are not so wise; our own continent having gone through a long period of war. And we need to leap frog the Dark Continent into the 21st Century.
D. Alan Johnson
Author of Asgaard