When Few Stood against Many: Explaining Executive Outcomes’ Victory in the Sierra Leonean Civil War

Defence Studies

Volume 13, Issue 2, 2013

When Few Stood against Many: Explaining Executive Outcomes’ Victory in the Sierra Leonean Civil War

By

Scott Fitzsimmonsa*

In November 1996, one of Africa’s cruelest insurgent leaders, Foday Sankoh, conceded defeat and agreed to sign a peace treaty with the Government of Sierra Leone to halt that country’s then-seven year long civil war. Sankoh’s decision to stop fighting was not born out of a sense of goodwill toward his government or a shift in his political objectives. Rather, he agreed to make peace because his thousands-strong insurgency, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), had been soundly defeated in a series of clashes against Executive Outcomes (EO), a mercenary force that fielded a mere 250 personnel. Seeking to explain this turn of events, a number of scholars have alleged that the mercenaries prevailed because they had access to more and better weapons than the RUF and, thus, made up for their lack of men with superiority in materiel. 1 Christopher Wrigley, for instance, argued that Executive Outcomes defeated the RUF, ‘because it relied on sudden strikes made possible by its helicopters, which provided both transport and covering fire’. 2 Abdel-Fatau Musah, similarly, argued that EO succeeded in Sierra Leone because its ‘air power’ allowed it to deal, ‘telling blows to the RUF on several fronts’. 3 Referring not only to EO’s air assets, but also to its armored infantry fighting vehicles, Elizabeth Rubin concluded that the RUF, ‘were overwhelmed by EO’s superior firepower’. 4 Jacob Akol, likewise, concluded that, ‘the RUF were overwhelmed by EO’s firepower’. 5 These opinions are well-known to the mercenaries who took part in this conflict, one of whom acknowledged that, ‘the world thinks that Executive Outcomes was successful because of the use of overwhelming technology and superior firepower’. 6

This conventional wisdom does not fit the facts of this conflict because, as is discussed below, not only did the RUF field weapons that were capable of countering those fielded by EO, but the insurgents also fielded a far greater quantity of weapons than the less numerous mercenaries. In other words, the mercenaries were not only outnumbered, but also outgunned, and yet they still prevailed. Taking this into account, this paper offers an alternative explanation for the outcome of this conflict – the normative theory of military performance. In brief, this theory argues that EO defeated the RUF because the mercenaries maintained a military culture that encouraged them to fight very well at the tactical level while, in contrast, their materially superior opponents did not. The mercenaries, therefore, prevailed because their military culture encouraged them to perform a range of tactical behaviour that their more numerous but tactically inept opponents could not counter.

This article first introduces the normative theory of military performance and situates it in the literature on military performance. It then provides a brief overview of the relevant stage of the Sierra Leonean Civil War and the balance of material capabilities fielded by the combatants. Following this, it describes the military cultures maintained by EO and the RUF and undertakes a detailed application of the theory’s predictions regarding how these military cultures should have influenced the combatants’ tactical behaviour. Finally, this article concludes by discussing policy implications that flow from the results of this analysis.

The Normative Theory of Military Performance

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The central assumption of the normative theory of military performance is that the behavioural norms that make up an armed force’s military culture influence the tactical behaviour of its personnel, which, in turn, influences their military performance – that is, their ability to defeat their opponents. 7 The core logic of the theory is that a materially inferior military force must be highly flexible and adaptable if it is to undertake the range of military tasks required to defeat materially superior opponents. Norms encouraging the pursuit of a wider range of tactical behaviour, such as personal initiative, should, therefore, increase a force’s prospects for achieving military victory. Specifically, the theory reasons that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, decentralized decision-making, personal initiative, technical proficiency, and group loyalty should exhibit a wider range of tactical behaviour than forces that do not strongly emphasize these norms. Moreover, it reasons that military forces exhibiting a relatively broad range of tactical behaviour are more likely to defeat their opponents in military conflicts than military forces exhibiting a relatively narrow range of tactical behaviour, all else being equal.

The normative theory of military performance makes several specific, testable predictions about how the behavioural norms contained in a combatant’s military culture should influence the tactical behaviour of its personnel. First, the normative theory of military performance predicts that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and decentralized decision-making should demonstrate significant tactical innovation. Tactical units within these forces should routinely seek tactical advantages over their opponents by, for instance, using maneuver warfare, and not rely exclusively on simple frontal assaults when attacking or counterattacking. 8 Conversely, the theory predicts that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and decentralized decision-making should demonstrate little tactical innovation. Tactical units within these forces should generally use very simple tactics, if any, such as full-frontal assaults, straight at their opponents, when attacking and counterattacking. 9

The theory also predicts that, to the extent that the members of military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency are willing to familiarize themselves with the functioning of military technology, these forces should be adept at using hand-operated weaponry, such as rifles, bazookas, anti-aircraft guns, and dismounted artillery. 10 Specifically, the marksmanship of the personnel in these forces should be quite good. 11 Conversely, the theory predicts that, to the extent that the members of military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency are unwilling to familiarize themselves with the functioning of military technology, these forces should not utilize hand-operated weaponry very well. Specifically, the marksmanship of personnel in these forces should be quite poor. 12

In addition, the theory predicts that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and technical proficiency should be adept at using their ground combat vehicles. These forces should capitalize on both the maneuverability and firepower of their ground combat vehicles. 13 Moreover, vehicle crews in these forces should be able to fire the vehicles’ weapons accurately. Conversely, the theory predicts that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and technical proficiency should not utilize their ground combat vehicles very well. These forces should generally use their ground vehicles as static roadblocks rather than mobile fire support platforms. 14 Moreover, vehicle crews in these forces should generally not be able to fire the vehicles’ weapons accurately. 15

Pilots fighting for a materially inferior mercenary force, an insurgency, or even the military force of a developing state are not likely to have the benefit of a complete intelligence picture of their targets, the highly detailed mission plans that a solid intelligence picture would permit, or self-guided munitions. 16 On the contrary, these pilots are likely to have to maneuver their aircraft into advantageous firing positions and identify targets on an ad-hoc basis before attempting to hit these targets with unguided munitions. 17 Accomplishing these tasks demands that pilots possess a high degree of creativity and personal initiative as well as the technical proficiency to safely operate their aircraft and its weapons under combat conditions. 18 Taking this into account, the theory predicts that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency, creative thinking, and personal initiative should have little difficulty conducting air-to-ground attacks. Air-to-ground attacks conducted by these forces should demonstrate adaptation to the specific tactical threats being addressed and should generally hit their intended targets. 19 Conversely, the theory predicts that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency, creative thinking, and personal initiative should have considerable difficulty conducting air-to-ground attacks. Air-to-ground attacks conducted by these forces should demonstrate little or no adaptation to the specific tactical threats being addressed and should generally not hit their intended targets. 20

Moreover, the theory also predicts that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging group loyalty should maintain strong unit cohesion, manifested in consistently cooperative behaviour between group members. 21 In other words, members of these forces should feel that the other members of the force can and will help keep each other alive and accomplish their assigned tasks. Therefore, members of these forces should demonstrate discipline in the face of enemy fire and not simply abandon the force without authorization. Conversely, the theory predicts that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging group loyalty should maintain weak unit cohesion, manifested in consistently uncooperative behaviour between group members. Individualistic members of these forces should tend to feel little loyalty and obligation to their fellow members, which, in turn, should reduce their will to fight. Therefore, members of these forces should demonstrate little discipline in the face of enemy fire and desertion should occur relatively frequently.

These specific predictions outline observable causal relationships between the military cultures maintained by military forces and the tactical behaviour exhibited by their personnel. However, given that warfare is an interactive form of behaviour, the normative theory of military performance reasons that the interactive clash of both combatants’ tactical behaviour is the primary determinant of military victory or defeat in an asymmetric conflict. Specifically, the normative theory of military performance predicts that the materially inferior combatant in an asymmetric conflict, which mercenary groups frequently are, should only be able to defeat its materially superior opponent if the materially inferior combatant exhibits a relatively broad range of tactical behaviour and the materially superior combatant exhibits a relatively narrow range of tactical behaviour because this should allow the materially inferior combatant to exploit the weaknesses and counter the strengths of the materially superior combatant and, through this, defeat it.

This theory builds on scholarship on the influence of military culture on military performance, particularly the work of Martin van Creveld, John Nagl, and Kenneth Pollack. In Fighting Power, Creveld provided one of the first comparative studies of how the military cultures of two opposing armed forces – the American and German armies of World War II – influenced the behaviour of their soldiers on the battlefield. 22 However, despite its value as a pioneering study on the effects of culture on military behaviour, this book did not attempt to present a coherent theory of how a military’s culture should influence the tactical behaviour of its personnel and how this, in turn, should influence the ability of its personnel to defeat their opponents. Like Fighting Power, Nagl’s Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, which examined the military cultures of the British and American armies to ascertain why they adopted different approaches to fighting insurgencies, demonstrated the value of comparative cultural analysis. 23 Unlike the normative theory of military performance, however, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife largely focused on how a military’s culture can influence its ability to learn and adopt new approaches to warfare rather than on how a military’s culture can influence the tactical behaviour of its personnel.

Finally, like the normative theory of military performance, Pollack’s doctoral dissertation, ‘The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness’, put forward a coherent theory and set of predictions regarding how a military’s culture should influence the behaviour of its personnel and their military performance. 24 However, because Pollack’s theory focused on the affects of a fairly unique military culture – the Islamic military culture maintained by some Arab armed forces – it was only intended to explain the outcome of wars involving Arab states. In contrast, the normative theory of military performance offers broadly applicable predictions about how a military force’s degree of emphasis on a fairly general set of behavioural norms should influence the tactical behaviour of its personnel. This theory is, therefore, not intended to be limited to a narrow subset of military forces; rather, as this article demonstrates, it may be used to explain the outcome of conflicts involving a range of armed actors, including, but not limited to, mercenary forces and insurgencies.

The Sierra Leonean Civil War

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Many of the leading works on mercenaries, whether directly focusing on these actors or employing them as illustrative examples, uses Executive Outcomes’ involvement in the Sierra Leonean Civil War as an empirical point of departure. 25 In other words, this case forms the basis of many scholars’ understanding of mercenaries and their role in modern warfare. This suggests that explaining the outcome of this conflict holds great potential for developing knowledge that will be useful to the broader academic community. Therefore, applying the normative theory of military performance to this case allows this article to make both a theoretical and an empirical contribution to the literature of international politics by simultaneously establishing the explanatory power of this theory and providing a coherent theoretical explanation for the outcome of this conflict.

The Sierra Leonean Civil War began in May 1991 when Foday Sankoh, a former corporal in the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), led the Revolutionary United Front rebels in an invasion from Liberia. With the backing of Liberia’s Charles Taylor, who sought to destabilize Joseph Mohmoh’s regime in retribution for its support for anti-Taylor elements in Liberia, the RUF quickly forced the SLA to relinquish large parts of Sierra Leone, including numerous civilian settlements and diamond-producing areas. 26 These actions reflected Sankoh’s dual goals of becoming the president of Sierra Leone and enriching himself through the illegal diamond trade. 27

Fearing imminent defeat, a group of SLA officers, led by Captain Valentine Strasser, staged a coup in May 1992. This failed to alter the course of the war; consequently, in January 1995, Strasser chose to hire a force of 58 Gurkha mercenaries commanded by Robert MacKenzie, an American soldier of fortune with extensive experience in African conflicts. 28 Although originally contracted to train an elite commando unit for the SLA, the Gurkhas were quickly pressed into combat against the RUF. The force initially achieved some victories against the rebels but, on 24 February, it fell victim to an RUF ambush and MacKenzie was killed. Suddenly leaderless, the mercenaries promptly quit the conflict.

Facing certain annihilation at the hands of the 4,000-strong RUF, Strasser turned to EO to defeat the rebels on behalf of his government. 29 The South African mercenary firm had already developed a formidable reputation during its successful campaigns in Angola against the materially superior União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, and its owners were keen to pursue new business opportunities. It deployed a vanguard force in May 1995, which expanded to approximately 250 personnel at the height of the conflict in 1996. 30 From the outset of its deployment, the firm went on the offensive, forcing the RUF away from Freetown, the Kono diamond areas, and virtually all of the territory it had captured since the war began. 31 With the RUF reeling from numerous defeats at the hands of EO’s personnel, Sankoh opted to sign a peace treaty with the government on 30 November 1996, which ended that stage of the Sierra Leonean Civil War. 32 The conflict late reignited, however, after the mercenaries left the country.

The overall balance of personnel and weapons in this conflict certainly favoured the RUF. Indeed, as mentioned above, EO employed approximately 250 mercenaries in Sierra Leone at peak strength, and initially fielded only 80 personnel. 33 The RUF, in contrast, fielded approximately 4,000 fighters. 34 The RUF also outnumbered the mercenaries in every engagement during the conflict, sometimes by a factor of 20-to-one. 35 The anti-infantry weapons fielded by the combatants were of approximately equal quality. Both combatants relied primarily on AK-47s and mortars, but the rebels supplemented these weapons with AK-74s, Lee-Enfield 4s, FN FALs, SLRs, Mauser 98ks, and G-3 rifles. 36 Both sides also had access to machine guns and RPG-7s. 37 Nevertheless, because it fielded a greater quantity of fighters, the RUF also fielded a comparatively large quantity of anti-infantry weapons. 38 As a result, mercenary units armed with fewer than one hundred rifles and a handful of mortars, machine guns, and RPGs routinely took on rebel units armed with several hundred rifles and dozens of heavier anti-infantry weapons. 39

The mercenaries were unique in fielding ground combat vehicles, including two old BMP-2 armored infantry fighting vehicles, equipped with 30mm cannon, 7.62mm machine guns, heavily buckled armor, well-worn tracks, and virtually exhausted engines, as well as fewer than ten unarmored Land Rovers, armed with 12.7mm machine guns and grenade launchers. 40 However, the RUF’s supply of anti-vehicular weapons, which included hundreds of RPGs, rifles, grenades, mortars, and machine guns as well as anti-tank mines, dwarfed EO’s small fleet of ground combat vehicles. 41 Finally, EO fielded a small air force of two Mi-17 ‘Hip’ transport helicopters, which were armed with twin PKM machine guns; one Mi-24 ‘Hind’ ground-attack helicopter, which was armed with a 12.7mm gatling gun, 57mm rocket pods, a 30mm grenade launcher, and two 7.62mm door-mounted miniguns; and an unarmed Cessna, which was used as a spotter plane and radio relay station. 42 To combat these assets, the RUF fielded numerous kinds of assault rifles, which could pierce the thin skin of the Mi-17s at close range; 7.62mm and 12.7- mm machine guns; 23mm antiaircraft guns; a small number of surface-to-air missiles; and hundreds of RPGs, which were stockpiled, in part, for use against EO’s helicopters. 43 Therefore, similar to the balance of anti-infantry weapons and ground vehicles/anti-vehicular weaponry, the mercenaries fielded some unique air assets but the rebels fielded a comparatively large quantity of weapons that could have blasted these aircraft out of the sky.

The Combatants’ Military Cultures

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Creative Thinking

EO placed strong emphasis on creative thinking. 44 Cobus Claassens, a commander of EO’s airmobile Fire Force of light infantry in Sierra Leone, argued that all of the mercenaries were encouraged to think creatively about the tactical situations confronting them in order to adapt their plans and behaviour to best suit the requirements of these situations. As he put it:

The South African way of thinking was to state (identify) a problem and then to go through an appreciation, a military appreciation that will provide you with several solutions to solve the problem, and then you are left on your own (to implement your preferred solution). South African military training pretty much unconsciously found a way to engender creativity… Once you have appreciated all the factors – enemy, own forces, terrain, the weather – you’ve considered every single factor that there could be… in your plan, then you often get to the best solution for the problem. 45

From this it is clear that, like EO’s force in Angola, creative thinking formed one of what Duncan Rykaart, who served as the firm’s first senior commander in Sierra Leone, called the, ‘interlocking principles’, that guided all EO operations. 46

In contrast to the military culture of EO’s force in Sierra Leone, the RUF actively discouraged creative thinking among their troops. Instead, the RUF stifled creative thinking by socializing its personnel into believing that magic, not innovative tactics, would allow them to prevail over any enemy. In particular, the force socialized its troops to believe that magical powers had been conferred on them, drawn from voodoo, which would make them immune to bullets. RUF troops were specifically told that they had been made ‘invisible’ to bullets, meaning their enemies’ bullets would either miss them or flow harmlessly off their skin, like water. 47 Captured RUF troops spoke freely about these beliefs. 48 Claassens, who lived in Sierra Leone for over a decade, suggested that encouraging blind faith in magical powers was fairly easy because, in his words, ‘that was a very dark part of Africa and these things have weight’, to superstitious, and often very young, RUF recruits. 49

Decentralized Decision-making

EO’s force in Sierra Leone also placed strong emphasis on decentralized decision-making. 50 As in the South African security units that contributed personnel to EO, the firm’s junior officers and enlisted men were encouraged and expected to make command decisions on their own, rather than seek authorization from their superiors. 51 As Claassens recalled, ‘in our war in Namibia… you would find that a platoon commander… would be given a piece of land half the size of England to patrol and dominate with his 30 men. And he had to figure out, after being given a block on a map and enough ammunition to sustain his men… how to do this. This is how I grew up.’ 52 Claassens argued that this same emphasis on decentralized decision-making was present in EO. For instance, he recalled that, ‘Our (senior) command element’, encouraged, ‘the guys on the ground’, meaning junior officers and senior enlisted men, to make tactical-level decisions on their own. 53

In contrast to the mercenaries, the RUF did not strongly emphasize decentralized decision-making. Rather, Sankoh encouraged extreme centralization of command authority with the RUF. 54 Junior personnel were not encouraged to make decisions on their own. 55 Sankoh made it clear to his subordinates that he would not accept any deviation from his orders. Indeed, he had anyone who questioned his orders executed, often immediately and in public. For example, when a fresh recruit questioned why the RUF had been ordered to kill and maim civilians and steal their property, Sankoh ordered him shot on the spot. According to one witness of the event, ‘no one… uttered a word again’. 56 Timothy Sherry, a member of the RUF, confirmed that members of the force believed that, ‘it is not possible for anyone to disobey his [Sankoh’s] command’. 57

Personal Initiative

EO’s force in Sierra Leone also strongly emphasized personal initiative. 58 For instance, Claassens argued that the elite South African security units that contributed personnel to EO shared a belief in George S. Patton’s maxim that, ‘a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan next week’. 59 As Claassens put it, ‘you should make a plan until you think it can work and then go for it. Stop niggling the details. Stop trying to make a perfect plan because you will never get to the end of it’, and head out to implement it by engaging the enemy at the earliest opportunity. 60 He recalled that, by the time the Sierra Leone operation began, in May 1995, the members of the force were already socialized into taking initiative: ‘We were well-motivated. It was a question of “do the job or get killed.” The self-motivation got you out of bed every morning… because that made us what we were’. 61 This last statement suggests the mercenaries considered personal initiative to be among the most important elements of their military culture. Other members of the force, from senior officers to pilots, shared this belief in the importance of taking the initiative. 62

In contrast to the members of EO, the RUF did not strongly emphasize personal initiative. In fact, Sankoh worked to stifle personal initiative among his subordinates. For instance, he did not encourage his subordinates to launch operations on their own initiative. 63 Moreover, his propensity to execute anyone who even questioned his orders probably stifled any willingness among his subordinates to show initiative because the risk associated with displeasing their supreme commander, by deviating from his stated plans, was likely too great for most members of the forces to contemplate. 64 As one RUF official put it, Sankoh sought to cultivate ‘mindless’ personnel, who would not take initiative, but rather, ‘do exactly what you ask’, of them and nothing more. 65

Technical Proficiency

EO’s personnel in Sierra Leone strongly emphasized technical proficiency. 66 This involved encouraging the members of the force to undertake regular training with the weapons and vehicles they would have to use during the conflict. 67 For example, although the firm’s South African pilots, including Arthur Walker, Carl Alberts, Juba Joubert, and others, had extensive experience flying Western helicopters during their careers with the South African Defence Force (SADF) and Soviet-made Mi-17 ‘Hips’ during the firm’s operations in Angola, they were encouraged to spend several weeks familiarizing themselves with the Soviet-made Mi-24 ‘Hind’ gunship that they needed to operate in Sierra Leone. 68 Moreover, Claassens recalled that, whenever the firm’s ground troops captured an unfamiliar weapon from the RUF, they, ‘would do some cross training’, including target practice, to learn how to use it effectively. 69 He stressed that, after a few weeks of operating in Sierra Leone, he no longer had to actively encourage his men to undertake training because he believed that they already recognized the value of becoming proficient with the weapons they would need to use during the conflict.

In contrast to the mercenaries, the RUF did not strongly emphasize technical proficiency and did not encourage their personnel to conduct technical training to enhance their ability to utilize their weapons. Multiple first-hand observers confirm that RUF recruits were not encouraged to train themselves in the proper use or maintenance of their weapons. 70 Although new recruits went through an indoctrination process that they called ‘basic training’, this did not involve encouraging the recruits to learn how to use their weapons effectively. 71 On the contrary, the process involved strongly encouraging recruits to observe and take part in deprivations against civilians, including beatings, rape, mutilations, torture, and murder. 72 In effect, the RUF’s training process sought to transform recruits into sadistic ‘killers’ rather than trained ‘soldiers’. 73

Group Loyalty

Finally, EO’s force in Sierra Leone strongly emphasized group loyalty among its personnel. 74 Claassens argued that the firm’s emphasis on group loyalty, whether instilled through direct statements about its importance by a senior commander or through organized sporting events between various mercenaries, was ‘hugely’ present within the force. 75 Barlow, likewise, recalled that EO’s force in Sierra Leone attempted to bolster a strong sense of group loyalty by proudly displayed the firm’s unofficial motto: ‘Fit In or Fuck Off’. 76

In contrast to the mercenaries, the RUF did not strongly emphasize group loyalty. Members of the force were made aware of this from the moment they joined, since almost all were conscripted against their will during rebel raids on civilian settlements. 77 During these raids, any potential recruit who offered concerted resistance could be executed in front of the rest to demonstrate that there was no possibility of escape. This also informed the new recruits that their new commanders considered them expendable and would murder them on a whim. 78 Anyone who subsequently tried to leave the force was also immediately and publicly executed, without discussion or attempts at reconciliation, as a warning to the others. In addition to these threats, the RUF compelled their disloyal personnel to remain with the force by constructing a kind of social prison that few recruits felt they could escape from. For example, many conscripts were forced to kill their own friends and families, thus severing their prior personal ties, before being taken away to an RUF base camp. 79 Moreover, upon their arrival at a camp, new recruits were often tattooed and/or branded with RUF words or symbols because these markings would forever identify them as rebels and, therefore, make them worthy of summary execution should they attempt to desert the force and reenter normal society. 80

Applying the Normative Theory of Military Performance to the Sierra Leonean Civil War

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The vast majority of the predictions put forward by the normative theory of military performance, regarding how the combatants’ military culture should influence their tactical behaviour, were supported by the available evidence on this conflict. This section analyzes each of the theory’s predictions in turn.

Tactical Innovation

The normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and decentralized decision-making should demonstrate significant tactical innovation. Tactical units within these forces should routinely seek tactical advantages over their opponents by, for instance, using maneuver warfare, and not rely exclusively on simple frontal assaults when attacking or counterattacking. This prediction was supported. EO’s personnel relied on maneuver warfare throughout the conflict by deploying units in locations that provided them tactical advantages. For instance, EO positioned units to herd and trap RUF troops so that they would be easier to kill or force out of an area. This involved deploying several groups of mercenaries around a battlespace and using one or more of these groups to drive rebel infantry toward the other groups. 81 Herding tactics served to both trap the rebels and force them to fight an enemy force closing in on multiple sides. The mercenaries used this tactic, for example, when they assaulted an RUF camp near Gandorhun. 82 During this assault, the mercenaries deployed several infantry teams as stopper groups around the camp to trap the rebels inside. 83 When they were in position, the firm’s mortar team shelled the camp to panic the rebels right before the firm’s Mi-24 launched an air-to-ground attack to herd the rebels toward the stopper groups. The operation killed approximately 40 rebels, and motivated many others to surrender as soon as they encountered EO’s infantry. 84

At other times, EO’s Fire Force employed tactics intended to confuse and disorient large groups of RUF fighters by assaulting them with small teams approaching from multiple directions. According to Claassens, ‘there would be only five or ten guys on a team moving in but we would come through the forest and sometimes we would choose routes that would they [the RUF] would not expect us [to take]… We would often take a quick stab, just ten guys moving toward the camp, engaging the enemy and pulling back.’ 85 Following this, another group of ten soldiers would assault the rebels from another direction, followed closely by still another small group of infantry. Then the first group of infantry, which would have repositioned itself in the interim so that its next attack would come from another unexpected direction, would start the cycle again.

EO’s tactics constituted a considerable innovation over the style of warfare that had prevailed in Sierra Leone before its arrival. As Singer rightly describes, ‘Whereas the previous style of warfare prior to EO’s arrival had been road-side ambushes and quick withdrawals, EO… mandated the constant pursuit and punishment of the rebel force, whenever it came into contact … and sought to engage the RUF in stand-up battles that the rebels were loathe to face’. 86 Indeed, by controlling the movements of the RUF fighters, EO deprived them of the insurgents’ central advantage: the ability to engage in combat only at times and locations of their choosing. These tactics also allowed EO to kill large numbers of rebels in single engagements.

Turning now to the RUF, the normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and decentralized decision-making should demonstrate little tactical innovation. Tactical units within these forces should generally use very simple tactics, if any, such as full-frontal assaults, straight at their opponents, when attacking and counterattacking. This prediction was supported because, throughout the conflict, the rebels relied almost exclusively on a single tactic to engage the mercenaries: establishing an ambush position from which they would launch a full frontal assault, straight at their opponents. 87 Multiple accounts of the conflict confirm that the mercenaries faced up to a dozen ambushes/full-frontal assaults each day, launched by groups of rebel fighters that were up to 20 times larger than the opposing mercenary units. 88 One could have expected that the sheer volume of these assaults should have worn down the mercenaries’ will and capacity to continue fighting. However, as discussed above, this tactic ultimately failed because EO’s personnel proved able to quickly respond to the attacks, which greatly reduced their effectiveness.

Use of Hand-operated Weapons

The normative theory of military performance predicted that, to the extent that the members of military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency are willing to familiarize themselves with the functioning of military technology, these forces should be adept at using hand-operated weaponry, such as rifles, bazookas, anti-aircraft guns, and dismounted artillery. Specifically, the marksmanship of the personnel in these forces should be quite good. This prediction was supported, for, after taking the time to familiarize themselves with all the hand-operated weapons they had been issued or had captured during the conflict, the mercenaries proved to be very accurate shots. Several accounts of the conflict refer to the mercenaries’ ability to lay down, ‘very accurate’, fire during contacts with the rebels, using all manner of hand-operated weapons. These include accounts of the mercenaries hitting and killing large numbers of RUF fighters with fire from AK-47s; 7.62mm light PKM machine guns and 12.7mm heavy machine guns, which were deployed with the ground forces and on the firm’s two Mi-17s; and 60, 81, 82, and 120mm mortars. 89 The firm was particularly adept with mortars: ‘we’d hurl a few mortars at where we thought they [the RUF] might be. Our guys had a lot of experience with this stuff and they were accurate. They’d sometimes get them spot on. Then the rebels would disappear into the jungle and there would be no resistance.’ 90 The firm used these weapons to hammer groups of fleeing rebels and to besiege rebel camps. For example, EO’s infantry trapped several dozen rebels inside their camp near Gandorhun while the firm’s mortar team systematically eliminated them from afar. 91 EO’s ability to use hand-operated weapons effectively was essential to their success in Sierra Leone because, in virtually every contact with the rebels, they were severely outnumbered. In other words, because the mercenaries fielded comparatively few weapons, they had to ensure that a comparatively high proportion of their shots hit useful targets.

Conversely, the normative theory of military performance predicted that, to the extent that the members of military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency are unwilling to familiarize themselves with the functioning of military technology, these forces should not utilize hand-operated weaponry very well. Specifically, the marksmanship of personnel in these forces should be quite poor. This prediction was supported. Due to their general lack of emphasis on technical proficiency, the RUF rarely conducted training to learn how to use their hand-operated weapons and were, consequently, terrible shots. Indeed, accounts of the conflict, along with the EO’s very low combat casualties, indicate that the RUF rarely hit their opponents. 92 The reasons for this were fairly obvious to the mercenaries on the receiving end of this inaccurate fire. For instance, one mercenary observed that, ‘Most of the rebels would fire their weapons like cowboys … from the hip …. Or they’d shoot at us from cover, holding their AKs above their heads. Consequently, they were usually way off target. And when they did hit anything it was luck, not design. We ended up blowing them away.’ 93 The rebels were no more adept with anti-aircraft weapons. Although always on guard for accurate anti-aircraft fire, EO’s helicopter pilots found that they could operate quite safely above hundreds of rebel troops, including those equipped with heavy anti-aircraft machine guns, because the rebels simply could not hit the aircraft often enough to bring them down. 94

Use of Ground Combat Vehicles

The normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and technical proficiency should be adept at using their ground combat vehicles. These forces should capitalize on both the maneuverability and firepower of their ground combat vehicles. Moreover, vehicle crews in these forces should be able to fire the vehicles’ weapons accurately. These predictions were supported in this case because, although EO only fielded two very old BMP-2 armored infantry fighting vehicles, armed with 30mm cannons and 7.62mm machine guns, and fewer than ten unarmored Land Rovers, armed with 12.7mm machine guns and grenade launchers, the mercenaries used them to great effect against the rebels. 95 The BMPs were used to spearhead rapid infantry assaults, often with one or both vehicles assigned to support a particular team of infantry, on several RUF-held settlements, including, for example, Waterloo, Bo, Baiama, Moyamba, and Kono. 96 Moreover, despite their weaker firepower and lack of armor, the mercenaries favoured the Land Rovers for close infantry support because they could maneuver around a battlespace more easily than the heavier BMPs. 97 Furthermore, the Land Rovers were often favoured to pursue and cut down groups of RUF fighters, particularly after failed rebel ambushes or after the BMPs’ cannon fire motivated a group of rebel fighters to retreat. 98 During these engagements, the mercenaries fired the vehicles’ weapons accurately, which caused hundreds of rebel casualties during the conflict.

Conversely, the theory predicted that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging creative thinking, personal initiative, and technical proficiency should not utilize their ground combat vehicles very well. These forces should generally use their ground vehicles as static roadblocks rather than mobile fire support platforms. Moreover, vehicle crews in these forces should generally not be able to fire the vehicles’ weapons accurately. These predictions are not applicable to this case because the RUF did not employ ground combat vehicles against EO’s personnel.

Air-to-Ground Attacks

The normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency, creative thinking, and personal initiative should have little difficulty conducting air-to-ground attacks. Air-to-ground attacks conducted by these forces should demonstrate adaptation to the specific tactical threats being addressed and should generally hit their intended targets. This prediction was supported in this case. Flying two Mi-17 ‘Hip’ transport helicopters and one Mi-24 ‘Hind’ gunship, EO’s pilots offered crucial support to the firm’s ground operations by engaging rebel troops with accurate rocket, machine gun, and gatling gun fire. 99 They were able to do so effectively because, as predicted, they combined a strong emphasis on technical proficiency, which motivated them to train hard to learn how to use unfamiliar Eastern Bloc equipment, with an equally strong emphasis on creative thinking and personal initiative. 100

For instance, although initially taken aback by the conditions of fighting a war in heavily forested Sierra Leone, which were radically different from those present above the wide-open grasslands of southern Africa, EO’s pilots quickly set to work analyzing these conditions and determining how to best modify their own behaviour to effectively adapt. One pilot recalled, for example, that discussions about air-to-ground tactics took place on a daily basis, as pilots and ground commanders worked through problems encountered during the day’s operations. 101 One important tactical innovation that developed out of these discussions was that the firm’s ground troops began to provide a steady stream of updates to the pilots about the location of nearby rebel fighters, which helped the pilots and gunners target their weapons accurately through the triple-canopy jungle. 102 The firm’s ground troops also began launching flares toward groups of rebel fighters, again, so that the air crews could accurately target them through the thick foliage.

When allowed access to the sole Mi-24 in Sierra Leone, EO made very effective use of this formidable gunship. 103 The tactical innovations noted above allowed EO’s Mi-24 pilots and gunners to consistently hit their intended targets, which were often in very close proximity to the firm’s own ground personnel. 104 In addition to these close air support missions, the ‘Hind’ crews also took it upon themselves to locate and engage targets of opportunity, such as rebel camps or groups of rebel fighters on the move. For example, in one notable incident, a ‘Hind’ crew stumbled upon and decimated a large group of rebels that was attempting to cross a river to escape the firm’s advancing ground forces. 105

Conversely, the normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging technical proficiency, creative thinking, and personal initiative should have considerable difficulty conducting air-to-ground attacks. Air-to-ground attacks conducted by these forces should demonstrate little or no adaptation to the specific tactical threats being addressed and should generally not hit their intended targets. This prediction is not applicable to this case because the RUF did not possess armed aircraft.

Unit Cohesion

Finally, the normative theory of military performance predicted that military forces that strongly emphasize norms encouraging group loyalty should maintain strong unit cohesion, manifested in consistently cooperative behaviour between group members. To put it differently, members of these forces should feel that the other members of the force both can and will help keep each other alive and accomplish their assigned tasks. Therefore, members of these forces should demonstrate discipline in the face of enemy fire and not simply abandon the force without authorization. These predictions were supported this case. EO’s ‘cohesive’, ‘disciplined’, soldiers, who reportedly never, ‘shirked from combat’, are among the most oft-noted features of the conflict. 106 For example, during an ambush in which many of Claassens’ men were wounded or killed by a much larger RUF force that was deployed on top of a high road cutting, several mercenaries at the rear of Claassens’ convoy charged through the hail of bullets and RPG rounds to drag their beleaguered colleagues to safety. 107 Other members of the force rushed to climb the road cutting and engage the rebels with grenades at close range, which put the ambushers to flight. Moreover, the mercenaries were never routed during contacts with the RUF, despite being outnumbered up to 20-to-one in some engagements. 108 Rather, in the very few instances where the firm chose to retreat from a contact, its employees conducted organized withdrawals to defensible positions and either adopted a circular laager formation, where the men and vehicles faced out toward their attackers, or awaited relief or extraction by their colleagues. 109

Furthermore, only a few mercenaries chose to quit the Sierra Leonean conflict before their contracts had expired. This occurred, most notably, following the above-described ambush below a high road cutting, where the force suffered two deaths and seven wounded. 110 However, as during EO’s earlier conflict in Angola, the mercenaries who chose to leave did not simply flee the battlefield and race for the Liberian border. Rather, those who left did so in an orderly fashion by tendering their letters of resignation to the force’s senior officers and leaving at an authorized date and time on one of the firm’s own aircraft.

Conversely, the normative theory of military performance also predicted that military forces that do not strongly emphasize norms encouraging group loyalty should maintain weak unit cohesion, manifested in consistently uncooperative behaviour between group members. Individualistic members of these forces should tend to feel little loyalty and obligation to their fellow members, which, in turn, should reduce their will to fight. Therefore, members of these forces should demonstrate little discipline in the face of enemy fire and desertion should occur relatively frequently. These predictions were supported in this case. First, the RUF demonstrated little discipline during contacts with the mercenaries. On the contrary, the rebels fled almost every engagement with the mercenaries, often only seconds after a contact began. 111 Moreover, unlike the mercenaries’ organized withdrawals, the rebels usually fled in a confused rout. Beyond this, RUF personnel developed an infamous reputation for their, ‘gross indiscipline’, and deprivations against civilians, both on and off duty, including, but not limited to, theft, rape, severing limbs, and murdering expectant mothers. 112

Finally, the most detrimental effect of the RUF’s lack of emphasis on group loyalty was that, as soon as the mercenaries entered the conflict and began defeating RUF units, large numbers of rebel troops, up to 1,000 at a time, opted to desert and surrender to the government or flee to Liberia. 113 Although the mercenaries killed several thousand rebels during the conflict, these mass desertions also helped drive Sankoh to negotiate with the Sierra Leonean government for they served as undeniable evidence that his movement was rapidly falling apart.

Broad Prediction of the Theory: The Mercenaries Should Have Defeated the Revolutionary United Front

The normative theory of military performance reasons that the interactive clash of both combatants’ tactical behaviour is the primary determinant of military victory or defeat in an asymmetric conflict. Based on this, the theory predicted that the materially inferior combatant in an asymmetric conflict, which EO was in this case, should only have been able to defeat its materially superior opponent if the materially inferior combatant exhibited a relatively broad range of tactical behaviour and the materially superior combatant exhibited a relatively narrow range of tactical behaviour because this should have allowed the materially inferior combatant to exploit the weaknesses and counter the strengths of the materially superior combatant and, through this, defeat it.

This broad prediction of the theory was supported by the evidence in this case. 114 In sum, the mercenaries strongly emphasized the norms that the theory predicted would increase their range of tactical behaviour, and, as expected, they exhibited a broad range of tactical behaviour during the conflict. At the same time, the RUF generally did not strongly emphasize these norms, and, as expected, their personnel exhibited a very narrow range of tactical behaviour. As a result, the mercenaries were able to defeat the RUF by performing a range of tactical behaviour that the rebels simply could not adapt to and counter.

Conclusion

Jump to section

The applicable predictions made by the normative theory of military performance were well-supported by the evidence in this case. These findings suggest that the potential clients of mercenary forces, including governments, international organizations, corporations, and non-governmental organizations, should attempt to ascertain the military culture of the mercenary forces vying for their business before deciding whether to hire a particular force. This process should involve analyzing existing accounts of the force’s development and activities in conflict zones, and conducting interviews with multiple members of the force at all rank levels – from the force’s senior commanders to its lowliest foot soldiers. During interviews, potential clients should pose direct questions regarding how the force’s personnel are encouraged to behave and also solicit personal accounts illustrating how the force’s personnel actually behaved in earlier conflicts, which should help guard against the possibility that interview subjects will merely parrot a list of preset talking points. Through this process, a potential client should be able to determine the norms of behaviour emphasized within the force, which, should provide a good indication of how the force will behave on the battlefield and, in turn, its ability to successfully achieve the client’s military objectives.

Potential clients should also resist the temptation to hire a mercenary force based solely on the length of its personnel and equipment rosters. Nothing in this article suggests that a military force’s capacity to field numerous personnel and copious amounts of hih-quality military equipment is unimportant. Indeed, all else being equal, a large and well-equipped military force will probably stand a better chance of winning a conflict than a small and poorly-equipped force. Nevertheless, this article found that the combatants’ norm-influenced tactical behaviour played a more important role in determining the outcome of their conflict than the combatants’ relative material capabilities. Therefore, even though materialist factors will probably be easier for a potential client to measure and evaluate than a mercenary force’s military culture, they should not serve as a potential client’s primary basis for deciding whether to hire a particular mercenary force.

Notes

1 Peter W. Singer, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP 2003) p.106.

2 Christopher Wrigley, ‘The Privatization of Violence: New Mercenaries and the State’ (London: Campaign Against Arms Trade, March 1999) p.10.

3 Abdel-Fatau Musah, ‘A Country Under Siege: State Decay and Corporate Military Involvement in Sierra Leone’, in Abdel-Fatau Musah and J. ‘Kayode Fayemi (eds.), Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma(Sterling, VA: Pluto Press 2000) p.89.

4 Elizabeth Rubin, ‘An Army of One’s Own’, Harper’s, Feb.1997, p.48.

5 Jacob Akol, Burden of Nationality (Bangalore, India: St Paul Communications 2006) p.162.

6 Author of Article, Interview with Cobus Claassens (George, SA: 22 Aug. 2007).

7 Behavioural norms are collectively held ideas prescribing appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Military cultures are collections of behavioural norms maintained by an armed force concerning the optimal means to fight wars. In formulating these definitions, this article has drawn on the discussions of norms and military culture in Jeffrey Legro, ‘Military Culture and Inadvertent Escalation in World War II’, International Security 18/4 (Spring 1994) p.109; Edgar Schein, ‘Organizational Culture’, American Psychologist 45 /2 (Feb. 1990) p.110; Adam Stulberg, ‘Managing Military Transformations: Agency, Culture, and the US Carrier Revolution’, Security Studies 14/3 (July–Sept. 2005) p.495; Elizabeth Kier, ‘Culture and Military Doctrine: France between the Wars’, International Security 19/4 (Spring 1995) pp.69–70; James March and Johan P. Olsen, ‘The Institutional Dynamic of International Political Orders’, International Organization 52/4 (Autumn 1998) pp.943–69; Audie Klotz, Norms in International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1995); Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1996) p.22; Theo Farrell, ‘Constructivist Security Studies: Portrait of a Research Program’, International Studies Review 4/1 (Spring 2002) p.50; Nina Tannenwald, ‘The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of Nuclear Non-Use’, International Organization 53/3 (Summer 1999) p.439.

8 Kenneth M. Pollack, ‘The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness’, (Cambridge, MA: Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1996) p.66; William S. Lind, ‘Maneuver’, in Franklin Margiotta (ed.), Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare (Washington DC: Brassey’s 1997) p.662.

9 Pollack (note 8) p.66.

10 Timothy Lupfer, ‘Tactics’, in Franklin Margiotta (ed.), Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare. (Washington DC: Brassey’s 1997) pp.1022, 1031; Allan Millett, Williamson Murray, Kenneth Watman, ‘The Effectiveness of Military Organizations’, International Security 11/1 (Summer 1986) p.62.

11 Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948–1991 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press 2002) p.564.

12 Pollack (note 8) p.73.

13 Robert Leonhard, The Art of Maneuver: Maneuver-Warfare Theory and Airland Battle (New York: Ballantine Books 1991) p.33.

14 Ibid. p.49; Pollack (note 8) p.73.

15 Leonhard (note 13) pp.49, 109.

16 James Corum and Wray Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists (Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press 2003); Pollack (note 8) p.69.

17 Arno Mohl, ‘Army Aviation’, in Franklin Margiotta (ed.), Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare, ed. (Washington DC: Brassey’s 1997) p.87; Pollack (note 8) p.69; Timothy Kline, ‘Close Air Support’, in Margiotta, Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare, p.180.

18 Mohl (note 17) p.87; Pollack (note 8) p.69.

19 Kline (note 17) p.179.

20 Pollack (note 8) p.69.

21 Millett et al. (note 10) p.66.

22 Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power: German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945 (London: Arms and Armour Press 1983).

23 John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (,: Chicago UP 2002).

24 Pollack (note 6).

25 See, for example, Guy Arnold, Mercenaries: The Scourge of the Third World (New York: St. Martin’s Press 1999); Abdel-Fatau Musah and J. ‘Kayode Fayemi, Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma (Sterling, VA: Pluto Press 2000); Fred Rosen, Contract Warriors: How Mercenaries Changed History and the War on Terrorism (New York: Penguin Books 2005); Singer; Deborah D. Avant, The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security (Cambridge, UK: e CUP 2005).

26 J. Anyu Ndumbe, ‘Diamonds, Ethnicity, and Power: The Case of Sierra Leone’, Mediterranean Quarterly 12/4 (Fall 2001) pp.94–5; Alfred B. Zack-Williams, ‘The Political Economy of Civil War, 1991–1998’, Third World Quarterly 20/1 (Feb.1999) p.147.

27 Ndumbe (note 26) pp.945; Danny Hoffman, ‘Disagreement: Dissent Politics and the War in Sierra Leone’, Africa Today 52/3 (Spring 2006) p. 5; Anthony Clayton, Frontiersmen: Warfare in Africa Since 1950 (New York: Routledge 1999) pp.195–6.

28 Alex Vines, ‘Gurkhas and the Private Security Business in Africa’, in Jakkie Cilliers and Peggy Mason (ed.), Peace, Profit or Plunder? The Privatisation of Security in War-torn African Societies (Johannesburg, South Africa: Institute for Security Studies 2000) p.130.

29 Eeben Barlow, Executive Outcomes: Against All Odds (Alberton, SA: Galago Publishing 2007) p.388; Paul Richards, ‘War as Smoke and Mirrors: Sierra Leone 1991–-2, 19945, 19956’, Anthropological Quarterly 78/22 (Spring 2005) p.395.

30 Barlow (note 29) p. 388; Author of Article (note 6).

31 Ken Silverstein, Private Warriors (New York, NY: Verso, 2000) pp. 164-165.

32 Herbert Howe, Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001) p.201; David Shearer, Private Armies and Military Intervention (New York: OUP, 1998) p.50; David J. Francis, ‘Mercenary Intervention in Sierra Leone: Providing National Security or International Exploitation?’, Third World Quarterly 20/2 (April 1999) p.327; Ian Douglas, ‘Fighting for Diamonds: Private Military Companies in Sierra Leone’, in Cilliers and Mason, Peace, Profit or Plunder? (note 28)e pp.182–3.

33 Author of Article (note 6); Barlow (note 29) pp. 325, 327, 388; Al J. Venter, War Dog: Fighting Other People’s Wars (Havertown, PA: Casemate Publishers 2006) pp. 64, 533; Musah (note 3) p. 89; Vines (note 28) p. 132; Jim Hooper, Bloodsong: An Account of Executive Outcomes in Angola (London: HarperCollins 2003) p. 219. Some commentators have exaggerated the total size of the anti-RUF combat forces by suggesting that up to 14,000 SLA troops and 15,000 Kamajor hunters assisted the mercenaries during its combat operations in Sierra Leone. This is an inaccurate view of both the size of these forces and, of greater importance, the ratio of forces in the conflict because SLA troops were cowardly and incompetent fighters, who very rarely took part in fighting against the rebels. While the Kamajors were more active participants, their efforts were focused on gathering intelligence on RUF units and bases and occupying former RUF bases and towns after they were captured by the mercenaries. In other words, the Sierra Leonean troops did not have a decisive influence on either the outcome of the conflict or all but a handful of battles. Barlow (note 29) pp.336, 356, 365–6, 370–1, 374–5; Venter (note 33) pp.480, 514–15, 541–42, 545; Howe (note 32) pp. 200–4; Hooper (note 33) pp. 218, 223.

34 Howe (note 32) p.200; Barlow (note 29) pp.336, 370–1; Hooper (note 33) pp. 218, 228, 245, 248; Venter (note 33) pp.478–82, 514–17, 533–6; Author of Article (note 6); James R. Davis, Fortune’s Warriors: Private Armies and the New World Order (Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000) p.137; Globalsecurity.org, Revolutionary United Front (RUF), (Globalsecurity.org, 2005) <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/ruf.htm> p. 3; Herbert Howe, ‘Private Security Forces and African Stability: The Case of Executive Outcomes’, Journal of Modern African Studies 36/2 (June 1998) p.313; Ibrahim Abdullah, ‘Bush Path to Destruction: The Origin and Character of the Revolutionary United Front/Sierra Leone’, Journal of Modern African Studies 36/2 (June 1998) p.226; Richards (note 29) p.395.

35 Author of Article (note 6); Davis (note 34) p.137; Hooper (note 33) pp.218, 228, 245, 248; Barlow (note 29) pp. 336, 370–1; Venter (note 33) pp. 478–82, 514–17, 533–6.

36 Author of Article (note 6); Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre 2007) p.24; Clayton (note 27) pp.197–8; Richards (note 29) p.390.

37 Davis (note 34) p.137; Beah (note 36) p.24; Eric G. Berman, ‘Arming the Revolutionary United Front’, African Security Review 10/1 (2001) p.9; Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) pp. 54, 64, 391, 465, 487, 491, 508; Musah (note 3) p.89; Avant (note 25) p.87; Howe (note 32) p.202; Francis (note 32) p.327; Richards (note 29) pp. 387, 390, 395; Lansana Gberie, A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (London: Hurst & Company 2005) p.93; Hooper (note 33) pp.221–2, 245, 250.

38 Berman (note 37) pp.8–9; Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) p.517; A. Zack-Williams and Stephen Riley, ‘Sierra Leone: The Coup and Its Consequences’, Review of African Political Economy 56 (March 1993) p. 94.

39 Author of Article (note 6); Hooper (note 33) pp. 218, 228, 245, 248; Barlow (note 29) pp. 336, 370–1; Davis (note 34) p.137; Venter (note 33) pp.478–82, 514–17, 533–6.

40 Author of Article (note 6); Singer (note 1) p.112; Barlow (note 29) pp. 328, 388; Gberie (note 37) p.94; Davis (note 34) p.137; Francis (note 32) p.327; Venter (note 33) pp. 465, 467, 472, 477, 517; Hooper (note 33) pp.220, 224–5, 245.

41 Beah (note 36) p.24; Venter (note 33) p.508; Richards (note 29) pp.387, 390; Clayton (note 27) pp.- 197–8; Berman (note 37) pp.8–9; Zack-Williams and Riley (note 38) p.94.

42 Davis (note 34) p.137; Author of Article (note 6); Barlow (note 29) pp. 325, 334, 369; Venter (note 33) pp. 54, 64, 391, 487, 491; Yekutiel Gershoni, ‘War without End and an End to a War: The Prolonged Wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone’, African Studies Review 40/3 (Dec. 1997) p.68; Richards (note 29) p.395; Gberie (note 37) p. 93; Hooper (note 33) pp. 221–2, 245, 250.

43 Clayton (note 27) pp. 197–8; Zack-Williams and Riley (note 38) p.94.

44 Piet Nortje, 32 Battalion: The Inside Story of South Africa’s Elite Fighting Unit (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2004) p.74; Peter Stiff, The Covert War: Koevoet Operations Namibia 1979–1989 (Alberton, SA: Galago Publishing, 1999) p.59; Peter McAleese, No Mean Soldier: The Story of the Ultimate Professional Soldier in the SAS and Other Forces (London, UK: Cassell, 2003) pp.204, 211; Jan Breytenbach, The Buffalo Soldiers: The Story of South Africa’s 32 Battalion, 1975–1993 (Alberton, SA: Galago Publishing 2002) pp.198, 211; Author of Article, ‘First Interview with Des Burman’ (Cape Town, SA: 24 Aug. 2007); Venter (note 33) p.390.

45 Author of Article (note 6).

46 Venter (note 33) p.390.

47 Richards (note 29) p.387; Hooper (note 33) p.239.

48 Venter (note 33) pp.500, 519; Glenn McKenzie, ‘Unruly Militia Defends Sierra Leone’, Associated Press, 5 July 2000; Globalsecurity.org (note 34) p. 2; Singer (note 1) p.113.

49 Author of Article (note 6).

50 Venter (note 33) p.392; Barlow (note 29) p.189; Author of Article (note 44).

51 Davis (note 34) p.138.

52 Author of Article (note 6).

53 Ibid.

54 David Keen, Conflict & Collusion in Sierra Leone (New York: Palgrave 2005) p.44.

55 Richards (note 29) pp.388–9; Gberie (note 37) p.62.

56 Gberie (note 37) pp.61–2.

57 Ibid.

58 Hooper (note 33) pp. 8, 152; Venter (note 33) pp.390, 392; Author of Article (note 44).

59 Author of Article (note 6).

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid.

62 Venter (note 33) pp.58, 513; Barlow (note 29) p.331.

63 Krijn Peters and Paul Richards, ‘Why We Fight: Voices of Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 68/2 (Spring 1998) p.204.

64 Gberie (note 37) pp.61–2.

65 Venter (note 33) p.458.

66 Author of Article (note 44); Author of Article, ‘Second Interview with Des Burman’ (Cape Town, SA, 27 Aug. 2007).

67 Hooper (note 33) pp.224–5, 228, 231–2, 246, 24850; Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) pp.521, 545–7; Barlow (note 29) pp. 358, 364–5, 384–5.

68 Barlow (note 29) p.329; Hooper (note 33) p.222; Venter (note 33) p.491.

69 Author of Article (note 6).

70 Ibid.; Venter (note 33) pp. 27, 404, 449–50, 467; Michael Cheng, ‘Sierra Leone: The State that Came Back from the Dead’, The Washington Quarterly 25/3 (Summer 2002) p.149.

71 Peters and Richards (note 63) p.204.

72 Abdullah (note 34) pp.207–8; Venter (note 33) pp.500–1; Peters and Richards (note 63) pp.186–7; Ibrahim Abdullah and Patrick Muana, ‘The Revolutionary United Front: A Revolt of the Lumpenproletariat’, in Christopher Clapham (ed.), African Guerillas(Bloomington: Indiana UP 1998) p.190.

73 A.B. Zack-Williams, ‘Child Soldiers in the Civil War in Sierra Leone’, Review of African Political Economy 28/87 (March 2001) p. 80.

74 Author of Article (note 44); Venter (note 33) pp. 390, 394–5; Howe (note 32) p.197.

75 Author of Article (note 6).

76 Barlow (note 29) p.324.

77 Cheng (note 70) p.149; Globalsecurity.org (note 34) p.3; Steve Riley, Max Sesay, and Max A. Sesay, ‘Sierra Leone: The Coming Anarchy?’, Review of African Political Economy 22/63 (March 1995) p.122; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.188; Gberie (note 37) p.65; Davis (note 34) p.139.

78 Zack-Williams (note 26) p.154.

79 Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth & Resources in Sierra Leone (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann 1998) p.5; Cheng (note 70) p.149; Zack-Williams (note 73) pp.73–4, 79; Beah (note 36) p.24.

80 Keen (note 54) pp.42–3; Author of Article (note 6); Beah (note 36) p.24; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.180.

81 Hooper (note 33) pp.243–6; Author of Article (note 6); Barlow (note 29) p.358.

82 Hooper (note 33) pp.231–2; Barlow (note 29) pp.364–5.

83 Hooper (note 33) pp.229–32.

84 Barlow (note 29) pp.364–5.

85 Author of Article (note 6).

86 Singer (note 1) p.113.

87 Hooper (note 33) p.244.

88 Gershoni (note 42) pp.68, 71; Author of Article (note 6); Barlow (note 29) pp.329–30, 336, 357–8, 381; Richards (note 29) p.387; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.190; Gberie (note 37) p.81; Venter (note 33) pp.482–3, 519, 546; Peters and Richards (note 63) p.186; Hooper (note 33) pp.220, 224–5.

89 Hooper (note 33) pp.2245, 228, 2312, 246, 248–50; Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) pp. 521, 545–7; Barlow (note 29) pp. 358, 364–5, 384–5.

90 Venter (note 33) p.521.

91 Hooper (note 33) pp.224–5, 231–2; Barlow (note 29) pp. 364–5.

92 Hooper (note 33) p.225; Barlow (note 29) p.336.

93 Venter (note 33) pp.519–20.

94 Hooper (note 33) p.250; Venter (note 33) pp.494–6, 502; Barlow (note 29) p.353.

95 Author of Article (note 6); Barlow (note 29) p.388; Gberie (note 37) p.94; Davis (note 34) p.137; Venter (note 33) pp.465, 467, 517; Hooper (note 33) pp.224–5.

96 Davis (note 34) p.137; Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) pp.477–8, 514–15, 517, 547–8; Hooper (note 33) pp. 222, 224–5, 249.

97 Hooper (note 33) p.225.

98 Ibid. pp.226–7; Barlow (note 29) p.363.

99 Author of Article (note 6); Musah (note 3) p.89; Will Reno, ‘African Weak States and Commercial Alliances’, African Affairs 96/383 (April 1997) p.180; Francis (note 32) p.327; Gershoni (note 42) p.68; Gberie (note 37) p.93.

100 Barlow (note 29) p.329; Hooper (note 33) p.222; Venter (note 33) p.491.

101 Venter (note 33) pp.493–4.

102 Ibid. p.501.

103 Hooper (note 33) p.245; Gershoni (note 42) p.68.

104 Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.185; Venter (note 33) pp.501–3, 508; Barlow (note 29) pp.330–1, 336, 358.

105 Venter (note 33) p.485.

106 Musah (note 3) p.94; Venter (note 33) pp.476, 482; Gershoni (note 42) p.68; Howe (note 34) p.317.

107 Author of Article (note 6).

108 Venter (note 33) p.521; Author of Article (note 6).

109 Venter (note 33) pp.479, 502–3; Hooper (note 33) p.249.

110 Author of Article (note 6); Venter (note 33) p.533.

111 Venter (note 33) pp.59, 511, 514, 521; Barlow (note 29) pp.357–9, 364–5; Author of Article (note 6); Hooper (note 33) pp.221, 241, 246; Paul Richards, ‘Forced Labour & Civil War: Agrarian Underpinnings of the Sierra Leone Conflict’, in Preben Kaarsholm (ed.), Violence, Political Culture & Development in Africa(Oxford: James Currey 2006) p.190.

112 Abdullah (note 34) pp.207–8; Venter (note 33) pp.500–1; Peters and Richards (note 63) pp.186–7; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.190.

113 Clayton (note 27) pp.197–8; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.187; Avant (note 25) p.87; Hooper (note 33) pp.243–4.

114 Singer (note 1) pp.113–14; Shearer (note 32) p.50; Peters and Richards (note 63) p.186; Hooper (note 33) p.262; Gberie (note 37) p.95; Abdullah and Muana (note 72) p.187; Francis (note 32) p.327; Ndumbe (note 26) pp.95–6; Howe (note 34) p.315; Douglas (note 32) pp.182–3; Adam Roberts, The Wonga Coup (New York: Public Affairs 2006) p.12.

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