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UBC Theses and Dissertations

More than mercenaries? : mercenaries, Sierra Leone, and the rise of private military companies Coufal, Leonard


The rise of Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the mid 1990s suggests a significant threat to the states' traditional control of force. The impact of these companies on Africa has yet to be fully investigated, and their roots in Africa's mercenary past are often ignored or misunderstood. Sierra Leone's experience with three companies, Gurkha Security Guards (GSG), Executive Outcomes (EO), and Sandline International provides an ideal setting in which to both explore and pinpoint the transformation of freelance mercenaries into modern PMCs. At the center of this debate is Peter Singer's suggestion that modem PMCs are something more than mercenaries. Globalization, private authority, and legitimacy theories provide both guides to such a study and explanatory tools helpful in understanding this radical development. While most observers rightly conclude that such companies are not a direct threat to the state's central role in international relations, or to its control of force, they nonetheless suggest a significant realignment of international relations. EO's success in both Angola and Sierra Leone came amid the company's all-out bid for legitimacy as a private provider of security on the African continent and on the international scene as well. In the final analysis, PMCs did gain significant acceptance, authority, and legitimacy in Sierra Leone, but whether this will transfer to a future for mercenaries in Africa is not decided yet. Most indicators suggest that large-scale PMCs will return as security providers in Africa. Because of this, these companies are indeed more than mercenaries.

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