Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gaddafi's mercenaries: Who are they, where are they from?


A mercenary is a person who fights or kills for money. They are sometimes referred to as "guns for hire," private armies, soldiers or warriors.
They have a long history going back all the way from the Middle Ages when Italians hiredcondottieri or Contractors, to King Henry II’s suppression of England rebellion in the 12th century, to modern era's America's private military contractors such as Blackwater or Xe, DynCorp and Triple Canopy.
When everything seems to be difficult to defeat Libya's strongman Moammar Gaddafi, there is an avenue that may be worth considering to pin him down: the mercenaries.
The country's army had turned away from him and joined the protesters, needless to say, it's natural that a Libyan will not attack and kill a fellow Libyan.
In a report by the ABC News, Gaddafi's mercenaries are black Africans, spoke French and were identified by wearing yellow hats.
"They are from Africa, and speak French and other languages," said Libya's emissary to India Ali al-Essawi who resigned this week.
Gaddafi employed foreign mercenaries who come from sub-Saharan states such as Chad, Congo, Mali, Niger, Sudan and even Eastern Europe, according to The Guardian.
However, Nairobi-based Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group said, "Congolese are not known to be very efficient soldiers or fighters. I’m not even sure there is such a thing as Congolese mercenaries on the market."
Vircoulon continued by saying that the Libyan leader developed a vast military network in the continent. Gaddafi is the only Arabic leader who had an African policy. There was even a time that the dictator dreamed of a United States of Africa--an acronym that would rival America's name.
Libya has long been supporting foreign militaries as explained by Vircoulon.
"The Libyan regime used to be a training area for a lot of rebel groups in the Sahel region," a place in North Africa. He has got a huge network of contacts across the continent…so that’s the reason why you have all these people who were actually very used to flying to Libya to get a bit of money and [go] back to their country. Even Nelson Mandela flew to Libya to get money in 1994."
War-torn countries have produced an ample supply of unemployed military and paramilitary personnel who are willing to do anything given the right price.
An Al Jazeera report mentioned that ads offering prospective mercenaries to as much as $2,000 appeared in Guinea and Nigeria to come to the Libyan dictator, who has been shopping for private armies starting from West Africa, according to the NPR.
It is practical for the strongman to hire foreign contractors designed to kill. It is cheaper to hire them for a single, specific mission than housing and feeding the army--even with increased pay.
Mercenaries will also not hesitate to attack on people they share no country, tribal or social affinity.
According to reports, that is one reason why the military defected to the civilians--foreign armies firing on fellow Libyans angered the Libyan army.
Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, chairman of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries explained that there is no accountability with mercenaries whose goal is only for profit.
"Whereas if you are a foreigner and you have been recruited as a private soldier, you don’t have anything to lose. Except if Gaddafi doesn’t win, you will lose your job and your money."
Details of this story here.
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