Who Is Really Protecting the Upper Nile Oilfields and Why?.
By Tito Tut Pal,
August 04, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — Most people only know the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Sudanese rebels are fighting alongside the government of South Sudan. Little is publicly known about these other armed actors whose actions, until now, have not been made public. The “Dogs of War”, “Soldiers of Fortune”, “Corporate Warriors”, “Private Military Companies” (PMC) or simply known as mercenaries have been fighting in South Sudan oilfields for more than a year now.
PMCs pride themselves in getting the job done on behalf of their employer. These are usually former soldiers from countries who get hired and fight for money in other countries. They usually well-equipped and have access to array of military hardware including aircrafts.
PMCs’ main area of engagement have been to prop up failing regimes. That’s what happened in Angola, Sierra Leon, Papua New Guinea (PNG) Iraq and now South Sudan. Their presence and participation in South Sudan was recently confirmed by The Independent, a daily newspaper in Uganda where mercenaries are trained, paid and deployed by the Juba regime the oilfields.
These profit-seeking PMCs are trained and transported from a private airfield called Kajjansi Airfield, a few kilometres from Entebbe, Uganda’s powerhouse where President Yoweri Museveni is based.
It is a stark revelation but not surprising. The government was losing control of the oilfields under the contracts of large international company contracts. It’s a formula usually invoked by countries and companies who found themselves in losing power and economic servitude. However, history teaches us that private military actors often exacerbate than improve war situations.
In May 2015, Bloomberg Business revealed that ex-Black Waters Private Military Company boss, Erik Prince has signed a contract with Salva Kiir’s government to protect oilfields and jet in arms and weapons. Erik, a former Navy Seal soldier, presided over the Black Waters’ activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kiir’s contract with Prince is of course disguised as providing “logistics” to oil companies operating in Unity and Upper Nile States. Anyone who have read about Black Waters will know their true business and why and how they do it.
PMCs fighting others’ war is not new. The past known cases included both regional and international firms who operate outside the acceptable conduct of war, subjected to the international laws of armed conflict. Particularly, the American and British Private Security/Military Companies whose use of private fighters have had a significant impact on several civil wars. The legal and ethical dilemmas, and how to bring an end to this immoral practice have always dogged law and policy makers.
The secrecy in which these companies operate makes it impossible to fully know the scale of what they have already done in South Sudan. We however know what they did in the past and the trail of societal destruction they left behind. Those that immediately comes to mind includes former Black Waters, Executive Outcomes (EO), Sandline International (SI) and Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI). Some of these companies have since changed their names or spun-off from their main syndicates to help maintain their undercover operations.
In 1990s, the Sierra Leon’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was a rebel army that defeated the national government and took control of the country’s major export industry, the titanium oxide and bauxite mines. Faced with embarrassing and costly defeat, the government contracted EO to engage in open military campaign to reclaim the mine sites.
The same company was also contracted by Gulf Chevron and Sonangol to secure mining areas from the UNITA rebels, a movement that was fighting the central government in Angola. EO entered the war but didn’t bring the war to an end or claimed the entire oilfields. Instead, they caused a lot of damage to the integrity of Jose’ dos Santos government. They also negatively added to the already difficult ethnic tensions, which was the main cause of the conflict.
Sandline International (SI), sometimes referred to as EO’s sister concern were part of companies linked to Heritage Oil and Gas. They are a web of establishments with links from Canada through Europe and Australia with primary interest in mining businesses. Their mining agreements usually include clauses that involve fighting, taking control the mining fields on behalf of whoever promise them a mining deal or millions of cash money.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), SI was hired by the government of the day after it lost control of mining areas, resulting into huge loss of export earnings. SI was contracted to provide direct military combat to reopen the mines. The operation spectacularly failed due to a strong resistant from within the PNG and across the region led by Australian government. It’s an operation that brought to light the dirty activities of these new warriors protecting the interest of the ruling elites and a network of vested interests in natural resources.
And we all remember the notoriety caused by the Black Waters in Fallujah during the second Iraq War. These thugs operated under their own rules and respect no boundaries. Their actions are partly blamed for the level of Islamist radicalisation spearheaded by groups that have since evolved to what is now known as ISIS.
Soldiers for Hire, as the name suggests are highly despised. In South Sudan, the involvement of the UPDF have angered the SPLM/A –IO and their associated fighters including the feared White Army. It has also been a source of hindrance believed to be stalling the peace talks in Addis Ababa. To add insult to injury, the presence of mercenaries trained and transported from Uganda into the theatre of war is definitely unfavourable to the peace effort.
The world need to know about these unscrupulous agreements the government of South Sudan is getting into every day. And as they did in the past, the UN and AU must call for their removal from the theatre of war immediately.
In many countries, being a mercenary is illegal. Some nations have their own customised laws that governs such trade. Anyone fighting for private fortune are not accorded the international legal protection under the Geneva Convention. If caught they can be charged for criminal offences under the domestic laws of that country or even of their country of origin.
PMCs often take advantage of failing regimes and pressure governments to auction off part of the country’s natural resources. It was evident in Sierra Leon when Ahmad Tejan Kabbah failed to meet the contractual agreement, EO seized control of the natural resources and sell them to a subsidiary company.
As the opposition forces continue to threaten the last remaining functioning oilfield, even skirmishes around the area could force the mining companies to shut down the production, rendering governments bankrupt. We could see what happened in Sierra Leon and Angola; natural resources taken over by these mercenaries and/or ethnic cohesions eroded. Their presence is an unnecessary interference in the search for lasting peace in the country.
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