Mercenary Armies and Mineral Wealth
by Pratap Chatterjee
Covert Action Quarterly magazine Fall 1997
The two British men might have been mistaken for businessmen
as they walked through the Peninsula hotel just outside Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea (PNG) this past February. Few in that South Pacific
country noticed them and no one would have guessed that the heavy
suitcases they carried were filled not with business papers but
with cash. Nor could one blame bystanders, halfway across the
world at the small airport in Yopal in the Andean foothills of
eastern Colombia, for overlooking two black boxes carried by another
pair of Brits.
Like their colleagues in PNG, these men were not your average
businessmen or tourists. All were former members of the Special
Air Services (SAS), an elite British fighting force. Several had
participated in covert assassination operations against the Irish
Republican Army (IRA) in the 1980s.
These men are part of a growing number of slick new corporate
security operations around the world linking former intelligence
officers, standing armies, and death squad veterans. In unholy
alliance, they go into battle for new bosses: the mineral industries,
which range from multinational corporations to small oil and mining
entrepreneurs. Elizabeth Rubin, a contributing editor of Harper's
magazine, recently summed up this new phenomenon of armies for
hire: "It's not just a military machine. Behind it is the
old colonial structure, only now it's dressed up in a sort of
multinational corporation, with suits and Sat phones instead of
Jeeps and parasols."
This militarization of the mineral industries is really a
result of three phenomena. The advent of new technologies such
as computer-aided satellite mapping and the use of cyanide to
extract gold have turned formerly marginal operations into potential
moneymakers. The collapse of the Soviet empire and the signing
of the global free trade agreements have opened up countries like
Angola that were previously off-limits to Western multinationals.
And, lastly, the availability of capital and the mitigation of
risk have been ensured by the new push from the international
financial institutions, such as bilateral and multilateral agencies
including the World Bank and the US Export-lmport Bank. They are
eager to provide cash and political risk insurance for private
resource extraction projects pretty much anywhere in the world.
Tim Spicer, one of the two former SAS men in the South Pacific,
was soon to regret his quiet discussion at the Peninsula Hotel.
He had met with two senior government officials about buying a
copper mine owned by Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining titan,
on the island of Bougainville. Less than a month later, dressed
in crumpled jeans, Spicer was led into a Papua New Guinea court.
His suitcase, bulging with $400,000 in cash, was produced as evidence
of his contract with the disgraced government to provide a mercenary
force to take over the copper mine. His mission had been to defeat
a small group of separatists who had shut down the copper mine
for almost a decade. When news of Spicer's contract became public,
ordinary citizens and local army officers took the law into their
own hands. The rioting closed shops, banks and schools and sealed
off major roads until truckloads of police armed with automatic
rifles eventually dispersed the enraged populace with tear gas
and rubber bullets.
The two unnamed former SAS officers in Colombia fared better.
Their black boxes -full of guns and ammunition-were waved through
the checkpoint run by a colleague Bill Nixon, a former British
intelligence officer, whose new job is providing security at the
private airport owned by Bntish Petroleum (BP). All three mercenaries
were on contract to BP to help train the Colombian police-notorious
for their human rights abuses-to protect the Dele-B oil rig. The
oil company interpreted security concerns broadly: According to
a recently surfaced report commissioned by the Colombian government,
BP collaborated with local soldiers involved in kidnappings, torture,
and murder. The unpublished document alleges that the oil company
compiled intelligence-including photos and videotapes of local
people protesting oil activities, and passed the information on
to the Colombian military, which then arrested or kidnapped demonstrators
Most of the men running the mercenary-for-hire operations
tend to operate behind the lines, preferring to employ other men-local
or imported hired guns -to carry out on-the-ground operations.
Both the Colombian and Papua New Guinean contracts were handled
out of London offices run by yet more former SAS officers. Spicer's
boss was ex-SAS officer Anthony Buckingham, the second man at
the Peninsula Hotel meeting in February. Buckingham is one of
the shadier operators in the security business, who runs a mini
conglomerate of mercenary, oil, and mining companies out of discreet
offices at Plaza 107, 535 King's Road in the up-market south London
neighborhood of Chelsea.
The Colombian deal was assigned to another security firm,
Defense Systems Limited (DSL), a slightly more upscale operation
with offices overlooking Buckingham Palace. DSL has a contract
with British Petroleum's security division, which in turn is run
by more former military types -Mark Heathcote, a former Bntish
intelligence officer, and Tony Ling, a former SAS commander. Heathcote,
Ling, and Nixon all worked undercover in Northern Ireland, where
the SAS specialized in assassinating Irish Republican Army guerrillas.
Today, men like these provide "security" services
to companies and governments in Colombia, Guyana, and Venezuela
in South America; to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone
in West Africa; to Angola and Namibia in Southern Africa; to former
Zaire in Central Africa; to Sudan and Uganda in East Africa; to
Papua New Guinea and Indonesia in the Pacific; and to Kazakhstan
in Central Asia. Many of these recruits are veterans of South
Africa's Battalion and Civil Cooperation Bureau, which were the
most notorious units of the old apartheid forces until elections
brought a multi-racial government to power a few years ago.
There is little evidence (other than slick public relations
material) that these men are any different from soldiers of fortune
like "Mad Mike" Hoare, "Black Jacques" Schramme,
and Bob Denard, mercenaries who drank hard, womanized, and wreaked
havoc throughout Africa in the wars that followed independence
from colonial rule. In the 1950s, for example, Harry Oppenheimer,
the South African chair of De Beers, defeated his competitors
in Sierra Leone by enlisting Sir Percy Sillitoe, one of Bntain's
top counterespionage agents during World War Il. Sillitoe hired
soldier and launched an all-out diamond war. The mercenaries laid
booby traps, mined border crossings, and ambushed diamond traders
until finally they were persuaded to sell their wares to the De
Military action, private or public, to support mineral extraction
permeates the history of the Americas. From the devastation of
the Inca in Peru by Pizarro in his search for gold in the 1530s
to the US Army massacres of the Sioux in South Dakota in the 1870s
as prospectors swarmed into the region; to the forced march of
the Navajo from Arizona to New Mexico at the same time; to the
1960s when the Peruvian military bombed the Matses indigenous
peoples in the Amazon on behalf of Mobil, the pattern remains
consistent. Jeff Moag, from the Washington-based National Secunty
News Service, says that the financing of the mercenaries by the
mineral industries amounts to nothing less than "a new colonialism."
And the men who enforce it, like their predecessors, are the prostitutes
of war who sell themselves to any company, faction, or government
with ready cash to pay
In fact, Martin Van Creveld, a war theoretician, believes
that future armed conflicts around the world will resemble the
old ones. He argues that conventional nation-states are disappearing
and that future "war-making entities" will look much
as they did in the feudal past-tribes, city states, religious
associations, private mercenary bands, and commercial organizations
such as the East India Company in the time of the British empire.
"As used to be the case until at least 1648, military and
economic functions will be reunited," Van Creveld writes.
In such times, he predicts, "much of the day-to-day burden
of defending society against the threat of low-intensity conflict
will be transferred to the booming security business, and indeed
the time may come when the organizations that comprise that business
will, like the condottieri of old, take over the state."
Privatizing Militarism: New Super Pinkertons
The most infamous mercenary army contracted by the new colonialists
is Executive Outcomes (EO), which provided Buckingham and Spicer
with soldiers-for-hire in Papua New Guinea. But EO's most famous
campaign was in Sierra Leone in May 1996 by Sierra Rutile, an
Ohio-based titanium company, and Branch Energy, one of Buckingham's
The EO mercenaries arrived in Sierra Leone better equipped
than most armies in Africa, with Russian helicopter gunships,
a radio intercept system, two Boeing 727s to transport troops
and supplies, an Andover casualty-evacuation aircraft, and fuel-air
explosives. Used with devastating results by the US in the Gulf
War, fuel-air explosives- one step below nuclear weapons in power
-suck out all available oxygen upon detonation, killing all life
within a one mile radius.
The pilots, according to Martha Carey, an American who worked
for Doctors Without Borders, "were racist killers with no
interest in the country" Carey reported that during the early
days of the mercenary presence in Freetown, she had only to see
the EO helicopters flying over her house to know that it was time
to rush to the hospital and prepare for an influx of wounded.
The real mission of the mercenaries, she charged, was to gain
control of Sierra Leone's substantial diamond wealth. And indeed,
the operation left EO with a lucrative security contract financed
by the profits earned by the diamond mines.
The G.O.D.s of Greed: Gold, Oil, and Diamonds
Violent scenes like the ones that horrified Carey accompany
the mercenaries wherever they go. But to understand the forces
behind these operations, it may be better to travel back a quarter
century to visit three distinctly different men, whose lives have
been shaped by their single-minded pursuit of three minerals-gold,
oil, and diamonds.
The first man, a quiet, urbane, Cambridge graduate, left Britain
to study business at Stanford in the late 1960s. John Browne grew
up in Iran and other countries where his father worked for BP
"It was a colonial existence more than anything else. People
lived in these strange expatriate camps, and everyone was connected
with the oil business in some way," he later said, recalling
that he loved the excitement of the foreign travel. Over the last
two decades, Browne slowly but surely worked his way up in BP,
based first in Alaska and then the North Sea. In 1989, he became
head of exploration for BP, steering the company to successful
oil strikes in the Caspian Sea.
The second, Robert Friedland, a charismatic young student
from Chicago, got an early start in dubious trafficking at Bowdoin
College in Maine in the late 1960s, where he ran an LSD smuggling
business out of a college dormitory until he was busted by local
undercover cops. He later moved to a hippie commune in Oregon
where he found an abandoned mine. "I crawled in and I was
scared because it was wet and cold, and here and there the walls
had caved in, and all I had was this funky old flashlight. But
I grokked it immediately-Gold! " he once told a reporter,
describing his first infatuation with the yellow metal. Two decades
later, another of Friedland's mines in Colorado was the site of
the most expensive clean-up in this country's mining history as
the cyanide-laced waste from one of his mines killed all life
in a 17-mile stretch of the Alamosa river.
The third man was a Mauritian-born diamond buyer, Jean-Raymond
Boulle, who was working for De Beers, the South African multinational
in Sierra Leone and the Congo at the end of the 1960s. The Congo,
which had just been renamed Zaire (and had since taken the name
the Democratic Republic of Congo), was being run by the iron hand
of Mobutu Sese Seko. The US-backed dictator had taken over the
country in 1965, after a bitter war fought by South African mercenaries
recruited and paid for by the CIA.
While Browne climbed the corporate ladder, the other two men
led more colorful lives. Friedland spent time in India, Switzerland,
Canada, Singapore, and finally Australia, while Boulle lived in
Belgium, Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, Belize and eventually Monaco.
In the course of his travels, Friedland befriended the families
of the rich and powerful. In Indonesia, he established joint ventures
with the sons of Indonesian dictator Suharto; in Burma, he linked
up with Reggie Tun Maung- the vice president of his holding companies-who
just happens to be married to the daughter of Maung Maung Khin,
deputy prime minister of the current military junta; and in China,
Friedland donated a tenth of the assets of his joint venture to
a disabled people's organization run by Deng Pufang, the son of
Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese premier.'
For his part, Boulle also courted power. During his stay in
Arkansas, when he was beginning to explore in the Crater of Diamonds
State Park, he met with the governor. "I spent a little time
with Gov. Clinton explaining to him that this could be important
to his state and to the nation," he says.
Boulle and Friedland met through a common interest in prospecting
for diamonds off the Atlantic coast of Namibia. They struck it
big time in January 1994 when they staked out what they originally
thought was a major diamond property in Labrador. A year and a
half later, Friedland and Boulle sold this property-which turned
out to have a huge nickel deposit-to Inco, the world's largest
nickel producer for $4.3 billion Canadian. In the next 12 months,
the two parted ways, but by then, each was the richer by several
hundred million dollars. Meanwhile, in April 1996, Browne was
appointed chief executive of British Petroleum under chairman
Peter Sutherland, the former Irish head of the World Trade Organization.
As they gained wealth, the three mineral barons had more to
protect. At about the same time, they all started hiring men like
Buckingham, Spicer, and Nixon to put down local protests that
might interfere with their exploitation of gold, oil, and diamonds.
On April 30, 1996, BP finalized a deal with DSL to dispatch
trainers to Colombia to help the local police "defend"
the company oil installations and beef up BP's existing contracts.
The oil company's contracts with the army for protection eventually
became a minor political sensation in Britain.'
Meanwhile, in the US, Boulle put up $10 million in early April
1996 for Sierra Rutile, an Ohio-based company that was struggling
to re-open the world's largest rutile mine in Sierra Leone. The
West African facility, a major source of titanium dioxide, had
been shut down by rebels in January 1995. The company used this
cash, plus money it had borrowed earlier from the World Bank,
the London-based Commonwealth Development Corporation, and two
US federal agencies-the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
and the Export-lmport Bank-to pay EO to quell the troubles.
The other major backer of EO in Sierra Leone was Branch Energy,
headed by Anthony Buckingham. Already an old Africa hand, the
Bnt had spent the previous ten years helping the Canadian company,
Ranger, run oil exploration operations in Angola.
Michael Grunberg, Buckingham's financial adviser, introduced
his boss to Friedland just before Friedland began to withdraw
from active partnership with Boulle.
In September 1996, Buckingham and Friedland announced their
setup of DiamondWorks. That collaboration set the stage for the
new mineral extraction colonies in places as far-flung as Angola
in Southern Africa and Sierra Leone in West Africa, the Venezuelan
Amazon and Southern China.
Some of the stories of the many military campaigns currently
being waged around the world on behalf of these three men and
the industries they lead are told in the country studies below.
But they are by no means the only major players. There are at
least a few dozen others in the mineral industries, men like "Jim
Bob" Moffett, the maverick ex-college football player from
Texas, who runs the biggest gold mine in the world, and Brian
Anderson, the outgoing chief of Shell Nigeria, who are responsible
for some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses committed
in the world today Indeed, Millius Palawiya of the London-based
NGO (non-governmental organization) International Alert, says
that mercenaries today cast themselves in the respectable mold
of free market businessmen championed by ex-British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher. "They use the Thatcherite language of
private enterprise, efficiency and investment," he says.
And now the governments of the new free market-driven world
have even begun to court them. No less a luminary than Kofi Annan,
the United Nations secretary general, has consulted DSL on how
to protect the refugees on the border between Zaire and Rwanda,
while the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagons spy
arm, invited Tony Spicer and other EO figures to a major conference
about private armies on June 24.
Many activists, however, have taken an opposite stance. In
June, the London-based Africa Research and Information Bureau
(ARIB) launched a campaign against new mercenary operations in
Angola, Sierra Leone and Sudan. "Mercenaries are a serious
threat to stability in Africa. We must get rid of the mercenaries
from the face of Africa," says Kayode Fayemi of ARIB. Indeed,
if history is any thing to go by, inviting private armies into
Africa will only serve the interests of those who hire them: the
extraction of re sources for profit by any means necessary, and
with little regard for the human or environmental consequences
Other activists say that those concerned by cultural, economic,
and environmental devastation wrought by the mineral industries'
need to become more aware not only of those exploiting the planet's
wealth, but of those consuming it. Danny Kennedy, an activist
with the Berkeley-based environmental and human rights group,
Project Underground, says: "As people in countries drive
more and buy more oil, or wear more gold and diamonds, indigenous
peoples will continue to be killed and pristine places will be
destroyed. Only by building a movement of affected communities
and educating these consumers can we hope to reverse this terrifying
The task is enormous not only because of the wealth and power
of the mineral industries, but also because the privatization
of their security functions on the international scene is only
one part of a much larger phenomenon. Here in the United States,
prisons, policing, and even welfare are being turned over to corporations.
Wealthy people around the world are hiring private security firms
which use everything from brute force to sophisticated electronic
surveillance systems to keep the unemployed and the poor away
from their enclaves. Meanwhile, ivory tower economists argue about
the merits and demerits of free trade, forgetting that the debate
cannot simply be restricted to cheaper minerals, food or clothes-it
is also about the trade in everything from guns to death itself.
Increasingly and openly, governments and corporations are joining
together to pillage public resources. When both are armed to the
teeth and obsessed by profit, war, inequality and environmental
devastation be come inevitable.
In the 1960s, this former Portuguese colony in Southern Africa
became a major battleground between superpowers which financed
rival factions, each seeking to oust its Portuguese master. The
war between the Cuban/Soviet-backed MPLA and the US/South Africa-backed
UNITA and FNLA was fueled by covert financial assistance and continued
even after independence in 1975. By the time the US finally recognized
the Angolan government in 1993- more than two decades after the
rest of the world-much of the country lay in ruin and the infrastructure
had been eroded. In September 1994, the Angolan government hired
EO for an initial contract of $40 million. Branch Energy put up
some of the money to protect the diamond mining town of Lunda
Norte and the coastal oil fields of Soyo where Heritage Oil and
Gas has concessions. Heritage, like Branch Energy, is controlled
by Buckingham. The EO mercenaries launched a series of attacks
on the UNITA rebels in the north eastern part of the country.
With the advantage of having fought alongside UNITA under the
South African government, they easily routed the rebels.
Last year, apparently at the urging of military advisers to
the Clinton administration, Angola was convinced to publicly cancel
the mercenary contract. Branch Energy and EO, however, immediately
circumvented the government. EO simply set up new shell companies
and signed new security contracts with individual members of the
Angolan ministry of defense. The company put in additional strategic
infrastructure, bought an llyushin 76 aircraft, and installed
a powerful telecommunications system in the diamond regions linked
to the Johannesburg telephone exchange.
Meanwhile, the Upper Cuango diamond concession in UNITA-held
territory has been awarded by the government to the Dutch-based
International Defense and Security (IDAS), another mercenary army,
which has turned over the exploration contracts to a company controlled
by Jean Raymond Boulle.
The government has also begun talks with UNITA to convince
it to sign a combined peace and diamond trading agreement (the
Angolan diamond trade is estimated to be worth $1 billion a year).
In mid-May, to convince the rebels to do business, the Angolan
army launched a new offensive in Lunda Norte, capturing several
towns and villages in UNITA-held territory By July, some 8,000
people had been forced to flee their homes. Elisabeth Rasmusson
of the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Assistance, warns:
"We have got to get some help to these people very soon or
a lot of these people are going to start dying."
The decision of Angola to rely upon a mercenary army raises
important questions for developing nations at the end of the cold
war. Without Cuban and Soviet military support-and with the US
unwilling to lend military assistance-how should a country such
as Angola defeat an outlawed Cold War relic such as UNITA? Developing
countries are faced with a dilemma. A conventional standing army
diverts tremendous resources from civilian needs, hinders development,
and increases the risk of coups by military officers. On the other
hand, resorting to mercenary armies in time of crisis risks encountering
a wealthier adversary who can bid for a larger force. The increasing
cost of arms expenditures and the permanence of armies for hire
are forcing such choices on already beleaguered nations.
This West African country was set up by former slaves from
Nova Scotia in the 18th century and became part of the British
empire until its independence in 1961. EO touts Sierra Leone as
an example of success after an EO mercenary force stopped the
civil war, forced out the military dictatorship, and installed
a government that held elections. EO's claim crumbled earlier
this year when the new government was ousted as soon as the mercenaries
Until recently, one of Sierra Leone's biggest single sources
of income-the titanium ore mine run by Ohio-based Sierra Rutile-was
shut down by rebels in January 1995. The company responded by
calling in the Gurkha Security Guards, a company led by Robert
MacKenzie, son-in law of the late CIA deputy director Ray Cline.
MacKenzie was killed in an ambush and the Gurkhas-abiding by the
terms of their contract-refused to take offensive action.
A few months later, in April, Sierra Rutile teamed up with
Branch Energy to bring EO to the country with the blessing of
Valentine Strasser, the military ruler of the country In return,
the mercenaries were guaranteed $15 million a month in profits
from diamond mines in Kono, the eastern part of the country, near
the border with Guinea. Once in the country, EO employed traditional
Sierra Leonian hunters as scouts and brought in two of apartheid-era
South Africa's most highly decorated air force pilots. When the
pilots told the Sierra Leone military commander that they were
having difficulty distinguishing between the rebels and civilians
camped under the impenetrable canopy of vines and trees, the reply
was, "Kill everybody." So they did.
By June 1995, the rebels and renegade soldiers had scattered
into the hills and all that remained in Kono's towns were dogs
and vultures feeding off the corpses strewn about the streets.
In February and March 1996, less than a year after the mercenaries
landed, Sierra Leone went to the polls for the first presidential
elections in 28 years. The new government lasted a year until,
under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, it terminated
the EO contract and was promptly overthrown in a coup. To make
matters worse, a Nigerian peacekeeping force has started air strikes
against the new military government.
The human rights situation continued to deteriorate, with
reports of an increase in armed robberies and dozens of summary
executions in July Also, the World Food Program alleges that the
army has started "systematic and violent looting of relief
Meanwhile, Sierra Rutile has raised $10 million in new funds
from Jean-Raymond Boulle and has applied for a new $17 million
loan from the World Bank, ostensibly to expand the mine. The loan
proposal has been condemned by Friends of the Earth, which says
that the company has violated Bank resettlement and environmental
guidelines. And in late July, Spicer flew to meet with investors
in Vancouver, Canada, to discuss "strategy, logistics and
training" to "convert 40,000 militia into an effective
fighting force" in Sierra Leone.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
This Central African country, a former Belgian colony, and
then Zaire, was ruled by Mobutu Sese Seko, who took over the country
in 1965 after the five years of bitter civil war that followed
independence. Mobutu, one of the most brutal dictators of our
time, was supported for decades by the CIA until his government
fell to Laurent Kabila earlier this year.
Jean-Raymond Boulle pulled off one of the most spectacular
mineral deals of the year this March when his company- America
Mineral Fields-signed a $ 1 billion agreement with Kabila's rebel
troops to develop a zinc mine at Kipushi, a cobalt extraction
operation in Kolwezi, and cut a deal to sell diamonds in the mineral-rich
eastern province of Shaba. As part of the agreement, he lent Kabila
a leased jet.
Within weeks, Kabila, apparently backed by Angolan, Rwandan,
and Ugandan troops and support, routed Mobutu Sese Seko and ended
his 32-year rule. Recent reports from South Africa show that Mobutu
turned down two offers of help- from EO of South Africa and Military
Professional Resources Incorporated-for lack of funds in the crucial
last days of battle .
Boulle started his career as a diamond buyer for De Beers,
the South African diamond moguls, in Zaire in the late 1960s,
just after US-financed South African mercenaries helped defeat
another mercenary backed government led by Moise Tshombe of Shaba,
and installed Mobutu. Ironically, his new deal with Kabila, who
also hails from Shaba, beat his old employer, De Beers, to the
Although Kabila was hailed as a conquering hero, his past
belies that image. He has been accused of running brothels, drug
trafficking and kidnapping. The Babembe people Kabila ruled in
the late 1960s accuse him of burning alive at the stake those
he suspected of betraying him or of using witchcraft. Kabila also
forced the Babembe to mine gold to fund his planned revolution.
Today the UN is attempting to investigate allegations that Kabila's
troops massacred 400,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees in the forests
of eastern Zaire.
Papua New Guinea
The eastern half of the South Pacific island of New Guinea,
Papua New Guinea (PNG), was a British and German colony and then
an Australian protectorate until 1975. That year, both PNG and
the outlying island of Bougainville, some 500 miles northeast
of the capital, Port Moresby, declared independence. PNG quickly
took over Bougainville, where an Australian company, CRA, had
begun to mine copper in 1972.
In 1989, local landowners shut down the Panguna mine to protest
the environmental destruction it caused and to demand independence.
This February, the PNG government-which had received about 44
percent of its revenue from the mine-paid Sandline International
$36 million to rout the Bougainvilleans. Prime Minister Sir Julius
Chan allegedly tried to pay for the contract by illegally trading
in the near-defunct Bougainville Copper Ltd. on the Australian
In early March, Chan sacked the military commander, Brigadier
Gen. Jerry Singarok, for denouncing the contract with Sandline
and arguing that the money would be better spent on his own troops,
who were desperately underpaid and ill-equipped. Riots ensued
after soldiers loyal to Singarok led protests and were joined
by at least 2,000 civilians. The soldiers arrested and deported
a number of the mercenaries, sparking a popular demand for Chan
to resign-although he recently returned to power after a lengthy
public inquiry At the hearings that followed disclosure of the
contract, Sandline operative Timothy Spicer revealed one aspect
of the mercenaries' campaign. "Operation Oyster" was
to wage a psychological campaign against the Bougainvilleans with
the help of a light air craft. "It has a tape recorder and
a speaker system that is an incredibly powerful system and can
broadcast from the aircraft to the ground," he said. Singarok
testified that PNG's commitment to paying Sandline $120 million
a year would have caused the Panguna mine to be effectively mortgaged
to the mercenaries until the army revolt scotched the whole operation.
Sudan and Uganda
Neither of these former British possessions-unlike Angola
and Zaire-was targeted for more than routine US interference.
Both of these East African countries have had significant internal
problems. Sudan has only had 11 years of peace since independence
in 1956 and is currently controlled by a fundamentalist Islamic
dictatorship. Uganda has suffered two dictators and is now ruled
by the autocratic Yoweri Museveni.
In the Sudan, Arakis, a small, new Canadian oil company, recently
finalized a billion dollar agreement to exploit the Al Muglad
Rift Basin on the seam line between the Arab North and the black
African South. In the last nine months, Arakis and the government
have worked hand in hand in a relationship that "is self-evidently
symbiotic," writes Martin Cohn, the Toronto Star's Middle
East reporter, who recently visited the drilling site. "The
oil camp opens its doors to military men as well as nomads. Arakis
services broken military trucks, provides electricity lines to
their barracks and even pipes in water to army camps," he
The Dinka and Nuer, the two major ethnic groups in the south,
are refusing to cooperate with the project, as is the National
Democratic Alliance. This coalition unites all the Northern and
Southern military groups fighting the government that has ruled
since 1989. Amnesty International has condemned the Khartoum military
dictatorship for its massive human rights abuses, including the
deliberate and arbitrary killings of villagers, the abduction
of scores of children, and torture of suspected government opponents.
The situation has worsened in the last few months as fighting
has increased. The rebels, led by John Garang, have advanced into
the eastern provinces, through which Arakis' 940-mile-long pipeline
to Port Sudan is due to be laid. The rebels allege that Arakis
has hired white South African mercenaries to protect its new project.
The concession is expected to bring in annual revenues of
$1 billion, or a tenth of Sudan's present gross national product.
Initially, Arakis' main potential partner in the venture was Occidental
Petroleum. This California company won a special exemption from
the Clinton administration to do business in Sudan, despite an
economic embargo placed on the country for its sponsorship of
terrorism. Although Khartoum vetoed Occidental's participation
late last year, the US company's influence is still felt through
its close association with Arakis. On July 30, James Taylor, then
Occidental's executive vice president for international exploration,
joined the Arakis board. The previous week, Arakis had appointed
a new pipeline manager named David Hunter, who used to work for
On the other side of the border in northern Uganda, General
Kaleb Akandwanaho, better known as Salim Saleh, half brother of
autocratic ruler Yoweri Museveni, who has close economic ties
to mercenary ventures. He owns shares in Buckingham's Branch Mining,
which in turn has shares in a joint venture to explore for gold
in Kidepo national park. Saleh, who is currently in charge of
the fight against Ugandan anti-government rebels in the north
of the country, also controls 45 percent of Saracen Uganda, a
subsidiary of EO. Saracen, which is based in South Africa, also
employs Craig Williamson, a former spy who has admitted killing
people in southern Angola with a parcel bomb.
Colombia has spent the last few decades in a state of semi-civil
war with leftist guerrilla groups. A major source of violence
is the thriving cocaine trade, which forms a key component of
the national economy and employs powerful paramilitary death squads.
British Petroleum and its partners last year signed a three-year,
$60 million agreement with Colombia's Ministry of Defense, under
which the army agreed to supply a battalion of 150 officers and
500 soldiers, including an elite mobile unit, to monitor construction
of a 550-mile-long pipeline to the Caribbean coast.
The Colombian army recently introduced a US-designed counterinsurgency
strategy of dirty war, known locally as "quitarle agua al
pez" or draining the fish tank. The phrase comes from the
counterinsurgency strategy of draining the "sea" to
kill the "fish." Instead of fighting the guerrillas,
then, the army and pro-government paramilitary death squads target
people they consider sympathizers. These same army officials are
currently under investigation for human rights abuses and alleged
involvement in the death of six peasant leaders who protested
the oil giant.
In addition, last April BP signed a reported $5 million contract
with PONAL, the Colombian National Police, to create and dispatch
a unit of police to protect company rigs. In 1996 alone, the Colombian
ombudsman received 169 reports of police involvement in murder,
disappearances, and threats. Wearing Colombian police uniforms,
a BP team of DSL soldiers has been secretly training the national
police at the rig sites. The course includes counterguerrilla
tactics, such as lethal weapons handling, sniper fire, and close
quarter combat. Amnesty International researcher Susan Lee charges
that: "Given the well-documented role of the police in human
rights abuses and the lack of accountability and controls on the
Colombian armed forces-BP practices are extremely dangerous and
certainly open to abuse."
The Amnesty report also details environmental damage caused
by BP The company's oil exploration has devastated a protected
forest, polluted a river, and damaged several bridges and the
only road local people can use to transport their products to
Pratap Chatterjee is an environmental writer researching gold
mining companies for Project Underground, a Berkeley, CA-based
human rights and environmental group.