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Shadow companies and the privatization of violence.



Simon Mann, the leader of the botched “Wonga Coup” claimed that the use of Private Military Contractors or “Mercenaries” would bring about an efficient end to ISIL. Private Military Comapnies (PMCs) are often hired by the government of a nation (usually First World) and/or corporate entities for “security and protection” purposes. However, major drawbacks associated with the use of mercenaries include, no formal ties to a sovereign nation, lack of legal responsibility and repercussion and most importantly and lack of oversight from government organizations resulting in atrocities committed by individuals belonging to these companies.

The first appearance of modernized private military companies began during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the year 1995 in which the desperate government of Sierra Leone turned to the private military company Executive Outcomes which was made up of former soldiers from South Africa, Angola and Rhodesia. In just seven  months, Executive Outcomes had driven rebel forces out of most of Sierra Leone and recaptured the diamond mines that had previously been held by the rebels all for a price of $1.8 million a month. Since then, the use of private military companies as well as the size of private military companies has greatly expanded.

During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the Iraqi Insurgency (2003-2011), 1 in every 1000 combatants was a private security contractor.

Private security contractors typically come from military or elite law enforcement backgrounds due to a heavy reliance on firearms use and frequent combat engagements. The average salary for a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier is $30,000 a year, whereas a private security contractor working for a high profile company such as Academi (Blackwater), Aegis or DynCorp can make at least $70,000 a year with the average salary per year being $120,000.

Entities that hire and use Private Military firms include corporations such as the shipping industries sailing through the Horn of Africa to the governments of sovereign nations. One of the largest customers of private security firms is the U.S. State Department for roles such as security at embassies and armed escort and response.

However, private military companies lack government oversight and are often the center for controversy regarding human rights abuse. Multiple videos have surfaced depicting private contractors indiscriminately killing civilians with an indifferent attitude.

Additionally, private security companies are often utilized as a form of “dirty” action by the governments of recognized nations. In 2004, Sir Mark Thatcher contacted Simon Mann and asked him to bring several combatants to Equatorial Guinea in order to start a coup against the government there and overthrow President Obiang. The group was stopped and arrested and while most of the group had been acquitted and extradited back to their home countries, Mann was ordered to serve a 34 year sentence in Equitorial Guinea until his pardon and extradition in 2009.

Due to the lack of government oversight as well as the notion that these organizations can be used by anyone provided that they have the money to do so, the question is; Should these companies even be allowed to exist at all? If so, why? What role do we have in regulating these entities?

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