Danish Defence Research Database


The African State and the role and nature of non-state sources of security in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch

According to much of the academic literature, the nature of war changed
dramatically in the last part of the twentieth century, especially aft er the end
of the Cold War (Creveld, 1991) (Kaldor, 2007) (Münkler, 2005) (Jung, 2003)
(Chesterman & Lehnardt, 2007) (Fleming, 2009). According to this logic
there is a dichotomy between war as a social phenomenon and warfare as the
domain of the state, as envisaged by the late Prussian military theorist, Carl
von Clausewitz, in the shape of the “Trinitarian War” (Creveld, 1991). Th e
lack of capacity on the part of predominately Th ird World states to control
confl icts has led to low-intensity confl icts (LIC), which can be witnessed,
for instance, in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and
Sri Lanka (O’Brien, 1998, p. 80). Since the end of the Cold War it has been
common for weak state rulers with formal state legitimacy but not empirical
legitimacy to have continued to enjoy international recognition because
of international fears that they are the only barrier against a total collapse.
Amongst other things this paved the way for an expansion of the market
for private military and security companies (PMSC) such as the South
African-based Executive Outcomes (EO) in the 1990s. However, the lack of
state capacity led to a sub-contracting, willingly or unwillingly, of the state’s
monopoly on the use of force to non-state actors, PMSCs and semi-state
actors,2 like local militias, warlords, criminal gangs and vigilant groups, in
an attempt to secure weak state leaders’ positions. In the competition for
state control internationally recognised leaders have an advantage over their non-state rivals because they can seek military help outside their countries
with the agreement of the international community and in accordance with
international law.
Th e aim of this study is to fi ll a signifi cant gap in the existing literature
on the role of non-state actors, ranging from rebels and criminal gangs at
one extreme to the corporate security industry at the other. As part of the
general privatisation of the security sector in the western world, combined
with the US-led war on terror, non-state actors have increasingly been tied
to the foreign policy priorities of the dominant western military powers.
Iraq and Afghanistan are the examples oft en used, and are well-described
in other chapters in this book. In sub-Saharan Africa, as in many fragile
states around the world, this picture is blurred, and it is oft en diffi cult to
make clear distinctions between public and private, or between illegal and
legal etc., (non)-state actors.
The End of the Cold War and the Role of Non-state actors
Th e activities of mercenary and private security contractors have led, both
historically and at the present day, to fi erce academic and public debate. As
Sarah Percy argues, the anti-mercenary discourse has two basic elements.
One focuses on the fact that mercenaries use force outside what is considered
to be legitimate, authoritative control, that is, popes, princes, the rulers
of sovereign states, states in the contemporary international system and
international organisations like the UN. Th e second element focuses on the
argument that mercenaries are morally objectionable because they do not
fi ght for a cause, such as religious beliefs, ideology, ethnicity and what is generally
considered the common good; they fi ght for themselves and for money
(Percy, 2007, p. 1). Th is ethical objection has largely remained unchanged
from the Middle Ages to the present day, and still forms a large part of the
debate. Th e norm regards the legitimate use of violence as being the domain
of the modern state, which as a natural consequence, delegitimises non-state
providers of security. Legitimacy is, therefore, tied to the formal state.
Th e international debate concerning the role of PMSCs has been split
primarily into two segments. One argues that multinational PMSCs are
part of a neo-colonial wave that is taking control over weak and collapsed
states. Others argue that PMCs provide a relatively cheap tool for weak
states to regain control over their territories and populations, which in
the long run will lead to increased independence. The advantage is that
when the PMC’s services are no longer needed, the state can terminate the
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrivatisation of security : The concept, its history and its contemporary application
EditorsThomas Mandrup
Number of pages187
PublisherForsvarsakademiets Forlag
Publication dateOct 2012
ISBN (Print)978-87-7147-004-8
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Conference Proceedings Book

    Research and development areas

  • PMSC, privatisation of security, Africa, South Africa, DR. Congo, ICC, Afghanistan , state, piracy, Iraq
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