The rise in mercenaries fighting on the front line in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East is a frightening return of the ‘Dogs of War’, according to a new report published today by War on Want.
While the Nigerian government has secured the services of South African mercenary troops from the apartheid era to fight the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in the north of the country, Colombian mercenaries are fighting alongside Saudi forces in Yemen.
The report, Mercenaries Unleashed: The brave new world of private military and security companies, reveals how this vast private industry, now worth hundreds of billions of dollars, is dominated by UK companies reaping enormous profits from exploiting war, instability and conflict around the world.
Private military and security companies (PMSCs) burst onto the scene 15 years ago, following the declaration of a ‘war on terror’ and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
John Hilary, Executive Director at War on Want, said:
“Private military contractors ran amok in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving a trail of human rights abuses in their wake. Now we are seeing the alarming rise of mercenaries fighting on the front line in conflict zones across the world: it is the return of the ‘Dogs of War’.
“For too long this murky world of guns for hire has been allowed to grow unchecked. In letting the industry regulate itself, the government has failed: only binding regulation will do. The time has come to ban these companies from operating in conflict zones and end the privatisation of war.”
It is not just on land that PMSCs are rife. The use of private armies in the maritime industry is booming, and British companies are again at the forefront, providing services to oil corporations seeking to secure assets along major sea lanes.
The report explains how PMSCs are increasingly exploiting a legal loophole when it comes to use of arms in international waters. Making use of floating armouries (ships harboured at sea and stacked with rifles, ammunition, night vision goggles and other military grade equipment) they are able to operate freely without fear of legal repercussions.
There are 20 such armouries currently on the Indian Ocean. The UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has issued 50 licences for floating armouries operating in Indian Ocean & Gulf of Aden.