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Plan to deploy British mercenaries in Somalia

1 December 2010 9,062 views One Comment

By Ann Talbot.

British mercenaries are to be deployed in Somalia, according to the London-based Sunday Telegraph. The Telegraph, which is well informed on military matters, revealed last week that the Foreign Office has been in talks with a firm that employs former members of the Special Boat Service (SBS).

The ex-SBS men will work with local warlords to take control of the coastline along the strategic shipping route that runs around the Horn of Africa. Ostensibly the plan is an anti-piracy measure responding to the kidnapping of a British couple who were travelling in the area on their yacht. In reality, it expresses the renewed drive to colonial expansion in this vital area.

The SBS is the naval version of the Special Air Service (SAS). Traditionally, the SBS has specialised in amphibious operations, but it has been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In both cases the SBS has been used to capture or assassinate leading members of the resistance.

It is thought that a joint SAS/SBS squadron has been formed. The move would reflect the greater emphasis successive British governments have placed on the role of the Special Forces. They are seen as a cost effective way of increasing the UK’s global reach and participating in US-led wars of aggression. While the recent UK defence review made cuts in conventional forces, it recommended increasing the funding for Special Forces. Overseas aid was also protected in the coalition government’s austerity measures. This was advertised as a humanitarian measure, but the funding for the mercenary operation in Somalia will come out of the aid budget.

Drum Cussac, which claims to be “the market leader in anti-piracy and maritime security consultancy”, is to supply the mercenaries. It already provides armed security for commercial vessels off the Horn of Africa and operates in the West African offshore oilfields. It is run by Jeremy Stampa Orwin, a former British army officer who served in the Scots Guards. A previous firm he ran shared offices with Sandline International, the company that became notorious for its role in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone. It shipped some 35 tonnes of weapons to Sierra Leone when a United Nations arms embargo was in force. Stampa Orwin has insisted that while the two companies sometimes collaborated they were separate entities.

Sandline was established by Simon Mann and Tim Spicer, both former Scots Guards officers. Mann was imprisoned for his part in a failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in which it has been alleged that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son, Mark, was involved. Mann was released in November 2009 on humanitarian grounds.

Many of the personnel from Sandline subsequently worked for Aegis Defence Services, which Spicer set up in 2002. Aegis won the contract to supervise all the private security services in Iraq. Effectively, Spicer was in command of the second largest armed force in Iraq. The Pentagon cleared Aegis after a video was posted on the web showing its employees firing at Iraqi civilians. Their action was found to be within the rules for the use of force by civilian contractors.

The proposed use of mercenaries in Somalia reflects a growing trend by both the US and UK to rely on private contractors in addition to their own armed forces. The experience of Iraq has shown that these firms operate entirely beyond the reach of the law and with no concern for civilian lives.

The decision to use mercenaries in Somalia reflects the impasse that has been reached. The US-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has proved ineffectual. Despite armed support from an African Union force (AMISOM) the TFG has failed to gain control of the capital Mogadishu. Large parts of the country are in the hands of al Shabaab, an Islamist militia. Increasingly, European governments are exploring the possibility of negotiating with elements in al Shabaab.

Uganda, which supplies the bulk of the troops for AMISOM, is pressing the UN to impose an air and sea blockade on Somalia that will prevent al Shabaab from shipping in weapons and exporting the commodities that pay for its military operations. The US is reluctant to take this route or to allow Uganda to increase its forces in Somalia. There is a danger that a larger African Union presence would risk antagonising Eritrea and bringing Ethiopia back into the conflict. Neighbouring Sudan is in negotiations with al Shabaab. Under these circumstances the long-running Somali conflict may become a more generalised war throughout the entire Horn of Africa region.

The British plan is an attempt to mobilise local forces that will not antagonise Somalia’s neighbours. In its present straitened economic condition Britain is finding it difficult to continue to play a role on the world stage with conventional forces. But as one of the most experienced of colonial powers Britain is searching for new methods of working that will allow it to maintain its position as America’s most loyal partner.

One Comment »

  • Abdi Farah said:

    The problems in Somalia has been caused by the international community (US, UN,AU and Arab League), all these groups have completely destroyed the somali people and society.

    The Ugandan and Burindi troops have been in Somalia for the past 4 years, what have achieved- shelling, killing and firing mortars at civilians, resulting in the death 4500 civilians in the past 18 months alone. They have also caused severe injuries (mental and physical) to nearly 20,000 to 30,000 civilians.

    They have refused to patrol the check points in and outside of Mogudisho, and just remain around the air port, Villa Somalia and the coastal areas. The criminals ( Al Shabab) enter the city daily, and fire gunshots, AMISOM respond by indiscriminate heavy shelling and firing mortars into residential areas and markets. They are basically committing a genocide against the inocent Somali women and children and also are prolonging the war so they continue to get funding so they can continue the industrial mass killing of civilians.

    70% of the 1.5 million Mogudishu have fled the city, the remaining 350000 to 450000 are living a miserable and inhuman existance- women are giving birth in the streets, are in constant fear of being gunned down by Ugandan or Burindi troops or by AL -Shabab.

    The worst thing to do is for the UN to enforce Air and Sea Blockade on Somalia; this will completely devastate the Somali people, and will make the situation in peaceful Somaliland and Puntland worse also. Again, this shows UN, AU, international community and Ugandan dictator deciding the fate of Somalis without even consulting them or listening to their views. Al Shabab and its financiers are not going to obey and follow the rules, it will just weaken the Somali goverment and affect the poor voiceless somali women and children.

    They have enforced UN arms embargo on Somalia, but Al shabab are armed to teeth with all sort of military equipments, but the Somali goverment is not allowed to have an army or military equipments.

    They basically want to keep the Somalis in the same situation the are in- displaced, weak, poor, destitute, chaos, war, death and destruction.

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