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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma
Musah, Abdel-Fatau and J. ’Kayode Fayemi, (eds.)

Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2000
336pp. Index. Hb.: 45.00; ISBN 0-7453-1471-6. Pb.: 15.99; ISBN 0-7453-1476-7.



Published as part of the Center for Democracy and Development's Conflict Management and Peace-building Programme, Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma succeeds in exposing the mercenary trade as a menace to African security and stability. The authors argue that while mercenaries are not the root cause of instability in Africa, they do influence conflict profoundly. The first chapter traces the relationships between the nature and dynamics of conflicts in Africa since the anti-colonial revolution. According to 'Kayode Fayemi, the external interventions (i.e. mercenaries) in African conflicts that do not address root causes actually escalate internal violence. The author implores the reader to take a multi-dimensional look at the consequences of military intervention in African conflicts. In Chapter 2, Kevin O'Brien presents a clear picture of African conflict resolution in the 1990s and exposes the magnitude of mercenary intervention. Chapters 3 and 4 provide case studies of mercenary activity in Sierra Leone's civil war and address the role of soldiers of fortune in the final hour of Mobutu Seko Seko's kleptocracy in Zaire. Chapters 5 exposes the dark side of mercenary outfits in internal African conflicts and is especially critical of PMCs (private military companies). The next chapters include a close scrutiny of the OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenaries and Civil Conflict and an analysis of the concept of 'security.' The book concludes by examining alternatives to mercenary intervention and explores the link between instability in one state and wider regional security. By examining the issue from multiple dimensions and levels, the contributors of this work strongly emphasize that mercenaries are "both instruments and perpetrators of violence" (p. 259). As such, mercenaries can never supplant nor supplement multilateral conflict management. However, mercenaries are becoming important internal political players, are linked to crime, narcotics transfers and illegal arms transfers, and must be addressed as part of the work toward security and stability in Africa. Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma lends a rich dimension to the ongoing debate of private military intervention/mercenaries in African conflicts.


Stephanie Donlon, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University



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