‘Secure and stable Africa is in very few people’s interests’ – Eeben Barlow, the mercenary leader

Eeban Barlow is the founder of Executive Outcomes, a South African private military company (PMC) that fought against rebel groups in Sierra Leone and Angola. Sophie Shevardnadze spoke to Barlow about the role of mercenaries in Africa and why private armies are so unappealing to international organisations and NGOs.

“It appears the mantra that African solutions for African problems is a very good sound bite in theory, but in practice, we are not allowed to practice it,” Barlow said. 

While private military companies aim to “end the conflict as quickly as possible, not to prolong it,”organisations, such as the United Nations and numerous NGOs, seek otherwise, Barlow said. “Us ending conflicts could, therefore, negate the roles they play in Africa.” 

“Many of these foreign forces in Africa are here not to solve problems, but to ensure that the problems continue,” Barlow went on. As long as the conflicts continue, “certain deals” can be struck with governments to get access to resources, such as diamonds, gold and oil. 

Although some African governments “wish” for PMC services, they are “continually threatened that if they make use of us, it will be to their disadvantage.” These threats, Barlow said, come from “beyond Africa.” 

“It’s really just a proof to us that a stable and secure Africa appears to be in very few people’s interests,” he said.