Once they appeared to be everywhere. Backed by South Africa’s apartheid government, they attempted to overthrow the government in the Seychelles – more than once. How many now remember the ‘froth blowers‘ on 1981?
There was the ‘Wonga‘ coup attempt in the Equatorial Guinea in 2004 involving the Mrs Thatcher’s son, Mark Thatcher. This went badly wrong, but it clearly had a substantial impact on the Nguema family – who have been inpower since independence in 1968.
The current dictator, Theodor Obiang Nguema has held power since 1979. The family runs the country as a feifdom. Nguema junior (Teodorin Obiang) had $16 million worth of cash and luxury goods seized from him in Brazil – no doubt small change for him.
President Nguema has complained of attempts to outs him: most recently in January 2018. At least 30 armed men from Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic were arrested late last month, a minister said. They were found with rocket launchers, rifles and ammunition just over the border in Cameroon.
Equatorial Guinea takes mercenary issue to UN
The government of Equatorial Guinea has now raised the issue at the UN.
In February, under the agenda item “Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations”, the Security Council will hold an open debate on the AU initiative on Silencing the Guns in Africa.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea is expected to chair the meeting.
Where’s the evidence?
A report by the UN entitled “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” the 21 page document brings the evidence together.
The Working Group has documented the human rights violations instigated by mercenaries, foreign fighters and PMSCs, (private military and security companies) including summary executions, enforced disappearances and abductions, arbitrary detention, sexual and gender – based violence and slavery, to name a few. The 2013 conflict in the Central African Republic, one of the worst humanitarian crises to date, resulted in thousands of deaths and about 380,000 persons were internally displaced, while 450,000 refugees fled to neighbouring countries.
Their 2014 report suggests that both sides in the CAR civil war which pitted President Patasse against Francois Bozize turned to external fighters to try to win.
According to information received by the Working Group, François Bozizé reliedheavily on additional fighters to depose Angé-Félix Patassé in the 2003 conflict. He hired mercenaries from Chad, with the promise of compensation. Bozizé’s fighters also included former army soldiers and young people. Approximately 500 or 600 men formed that faction and were referred to as “liberators”. President Patassé reportedly had the support of around 1,500 members of the national army, as well as around 100 Libyan soldiers and 500 rebels fighting with Abdoulaye Miskine, the Chadian leader of the armed group known as the Front démocratique du people centrafricain.Patassé also reportedly hired a French mercenary and hundreds of Congolese mercenaries under the command of Jean Pierre Bemba of the Mouvement de libération du Congo. Reliable estimates of the number of mercenaries and foreign fighters are difficult to obtain . An international commission of inquiry led by the United Nations estimated that at the start of the 2012 – 2013 conflict, there had been around 1,600 fighters with Séléka and, by the time Djotodia dissolved the group in September 2013, there had been around 3,500 armed fighters operating under the Séléka banner.”
The case of the Central African Republic is strong – but how different is it from Somalia, where AMISOM has drawn in forces from Uganda, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Burindi, Kenya and Ethiopia. Of course they have an African Union mandate, but how are they seen by most Somalis?
In Comoros, where there was no armed conflict, the Working Group found that after 20 years of repeated coup d’ états, most of which were violent and instigated by mercenaries, the country was seriously hindered from developing politically, economically and socially. PMSCs also work alongside mercenaries in creatinginsecurity as was the case in Honduras, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia. In thesecountries, PMSCs engaged in killings, forced evictions, torture, sexual violence andacts of threats against local populations including peasants.
Clearly these and other conflicts (like Syria) have drawn in foreign fighters. Russians are involved in the current crisis in Sudan. How much of this is resolved in next month’s UN debate remains to be seen.