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against the Russian military, highlights one of the challenges of engaging mercenaries or private military contractors of any hue, including thugs, to help a state prosecute its wars and police actions. Prigozhin, a long term ally of the Russian strong man Vladmir Putin, rose to prominence after his mercenaries helped Russia to raise its flag in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in April this year following a long and bloody battle. Emboldened by its successes, Prigozhin began to accuse Russia’s top military chiefs of being responsible for the failures and setbacks in the Ukrainian conflict. The feud reached new heights on Saturday, June 24 2023, when Prigozhin alleged that
. Prigozhin then claimed his fighters had crossed from the occupied eastern Ukraine into the Russian border city of Rostov-On-Don and that they would fight anyone who tried to stop them. They later began an audacious march to Moscow, capital of Russia, before suddenly turning back – arguing that it did not want to see the spilling of Russian blood. Wagner, is understood to have fought in Syria, the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Sudan, and Mozambique.
Asari Dokubo, an ex-militant and leader of the defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, has been in the news recently. A loquacious and attention-seeking supporter of President Tinubu during the campaigns, he visited the Presidential Villa recently and not only had a photo Op with the President, but was also given a rare and ill-advised privilege of hosting a press conference at the State House behind Nigeria’s Coat of Arms. In that press conference Dokubo took on the Nigerian military and accused their high command of being behind oil bunkering in the Niger Delta region. He also claimed that his “men” and not the Nigerian military were responsible for securing the Abuja-Kaduna road and other hot spots in the country. As he put it: “There is a full-scale war going on and the blackmail of the Nigerian state by the Nigerian military is shameful. They said they do not have enough armament and people listen to this false narrative. They are lying. They are liars. I repeat they are liars because I am a participant…
WatchGuard International. There was a dramatic growth in the number and size of PMCs at the end of the Cold War with the exodus of some six million military personnel from Western militaries. Some of the better known PMCs include Blackwater and Vinnell Corporation (USA), G4S and Keeni-Meeny Services (United Kingdom), Lordan-Levdan (Israel), Executive Outcomes (South Africa) and Wagner Group (Russia). Though there was a United Nations Mercenary Convention in 1989 banning the use of mercenaries, which came into force on 20 October 2001, (as of August 2021, the convention had been ratified by 37 states, and signed but not ratified by 9 states), several countries continue to use different forms of PMCs, whose duties could differ depending on who hires them.
One of the criticisms of PMCs is that there are issues of oversight in their operations and of control and subordination to authorities. We see this insubordination to formal authorities playing out in the Wagner conflict with Russian military leadership and in the recent attacks on the Nigerian military by Asari Dokubo. What is shocking is the rather tepid response to Dokubo’s attacks on the military and the state turning a blind eye even when he was brandishing an AK47 and threatening an ethnic group. This raises the question of the nature of Asari Dokubo’s contract with the Nigerian state, (if such exists) and whether like
The modern State, according to the German sociologist Max Weber, “is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” The outsourcing of aspects of security to PMCs questions this monopoly – as we have seen from the outbursts of both
situations of armed conflict, the return to public order can be achieved only if the state’s legitimacy is restored and not if PMCs claim that they restored security for the state. Besides, since mercenaries have vested interests in the perpetuation of conflicts in order to remain in business, even if they succeed in helping to restore order in one conflict zone, they will surely want to open another conflict zone to remain in business. In essence since outsourcing aspects of security to violence entrepreneurs carries the risk of the PMC doing a Prigozhin
that should be properly thought through by any government.
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