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 as "subversives."

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 Beers buyers.

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 many companies.

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 phenomenon."

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.


Sierra Leone

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 left.

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 food."

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 punch.

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 Stock Exchange.

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 adds.

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 Occidental.

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 market.


Pratap Chatterjee is an environmental writer researching gold mining companies for Project Underground, a Berkeley, CA-based human rights and environmental group.

New World Order