IT SOUNDS like a rip-off from Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Dogs of War
in which mercenaries, organised by members of the British establishment,
overthrow the dictator of ‘Zangaro’ to get hold of its vast platinum
But the arrest of Mark Thatcher, (wheeler-dealing, multi-millionaire
son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher), by South African
police who say he funded a failed coup plot in oil-rich equatorial Guinea,
is for real.
This modern-day intrigue, according to various media reports, involves
a dodgy Lebanese businessman billionaire, old Etonian mercenary Simon Mann
and his Tory establishment chums Mark Thatcher and disgraced peer Jeffrey
And, depending which newspaper you read, the coup was supported/foiled
by the US, British, French and Spanish secret services. But as Anthony
Sampson writing in The Independent points out, the networks of mercenaries
operating in Africa and elsewhere are a legacy of the former South African
These ‘dogs of war’ were armed and financed not only to try to destroy
the ANC (African National Congress) but the CIA also encouraged them
during the Cold War to destabilise the neighbouring states of Mozambique
and Angola whose regimes were backed by the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of the Stalinist states and the ending of the
Apartheid era the mercenaries went freelance. As Sampson says: "South
Africa became the world’s chief base for mercenary activity; while weak
and corrupt governments across the continent were easy targets for rebel
leaders, backed by big-business interests, which could deploy mercenaries
against the ill-trained local armies."
And while the US and British governments may have assisted the current
South African government of president Thabo Mbeki in foiling the
Equatorial Guinea coup, that doesn’t make them averse to using mercenaries
when it suits their imperialist interests.
In Sierra Leone in 1998, Britain’s High Commissioner used the mercenary
services of the company Sandline (co-founded by Simon Mann) to help
restore to power president Kabbah. Also, in Iraq, the US puppet regime of
Allawi allows thousands of ‘security personnel’, ie mercenaries provided
by US and British companies, to operate with impunity. In Afghanistan, the
US-backed beleaguered president, Hamid Karzai, is protected by mercenary
It is the continuation of imperialism with its insatiable desire for
cheap labour and materials and profitable markets backed by its military
might, which is responsible for the wars and carnage which blight much of
Africa and the Middle East today.
Who’s Got The Oil Money:
EQUATORIAL GUINEA is a tiny oil-rich African state with an impoverished
population. Its president Teodoro Obiang Nguem, supposed target of the
failed coup plot, is a corrupt brutal dictator. For 25 years he has ruled
by killing and jailing of opponents, torture and rigging elections.
But it’s not concern about democracy that motivated these alleged
coup-makers. The US estimates that it will find 25% of its oil in West
Africa within ten years. US oil giant Exxon Mobil have a big stake in
Equatorial Guinea already.
The country’s oil boom led to a dramatic increase in its industrial
production, but its people’s living standards remain among the lowest in
Africa – most of the 500,000 population live in slums.
Much of the country’s oil money stays abroad: top US oil companies are
said to pay bribes directly into an "offshore account"
controlled by Obiang at a bank in Washington.