The United Nations Security Council has been urged to pay greater attention to mercenary activities in Africa in the same manner in which it’s addressed questions of terrorism or piracy in the region.
At the behest of Equatorial Guinea that currently holds the Council Presidency, the body held an open debate on mercenary activities as a source of insecurity and destabilisation in Africa.
The leadership of both the United Nations and the African Union also called for the strengthening of the International Legal Framework in order to address the scourge.
The meeting was presided over by Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who himself came to power through a coup in 1979. He told the gathering his country had suffered five attempts at mercenary incursions in the last 24 years – and at the heart of those attempts – the country’s natural resources.
“We would like to alert this solemn body that mercenary groups continue to act with total impunity in Africa putting in danger the security and stability of entire countries. We would like the UN and in particular the Security Council and the friends and partners of Africa to confront this phenomena of mercenaries just as they do with other phenomena such as terrorism or piracy because these three phenomena are equivalent.”
Most notably, a coup attempt on Equatorial Guinea in 2004 was thwarted when a group of British financed mercenaries, that included several South Africans, were arrested in Zimbabwe before they could a carry out the plot.
“The sole activity of mercenaries it enough to set us back in this process of development and of course could lead to a spilling of blood among brethren. This is why the government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea strongly condemns the existence of mercenary activities on the African continent.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called mercenary activities a serious concern.
“The presence of mercenaries and other foreign fighters worsens conflict and threatens stability. Some mercenaries go from war to war, plying their deadly trade with enormous firepower, little accountability and a complete disregard for international humanitarian law. Mercenary activities undermine the rule of law and perpetuate impunity. They abet the illegal and inequitable exploitation of a country’s natural resources. They provoke large-scale displacement and inter-communal tension.”
Guterres called for countries to ratify the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries adopted by the General Assembly in 1989.
For the strengthening of bilateral, regional and international cooperation while urging countries to examine the political, economic and social factors that give rise to mercenary activities in the first place.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat joined the meeting via video-conference from Addis Ababa.
“It is clear that we have to strengthen international instruments as they relate to this phenomenon. We need to speed up the signature and ratification of existing instruments as well as to ensure their effective implementation. And I am very concerned that the International Convention Against Recruitment, Use, Funding and Training of Mercenaries has only been signed and ratified by a limited number of UN member countries.”
South Africa’s 1998 promulgation of the Foreign Military Assistance Act – later replaced with the Prohibition of Mercenary Activities Act – made the country among the first in Africa to address such illicit activities.
Ambassador Jerry Matjila says, “My delegation stresses that it is the obligation of all states to take all necessary measures to eradicate mercenary activities wherever they may occur. In this regard, this Council should encourage all member states to commit to prevent their nationals and foreigners in their respective territories from engaging in mercenary activities.”
Matjila also raised concerns about the blurring of lines between private security companies and mercenary acts on the continent.