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N4610: More Names, a Face, & Some Conservative Thoughts

Here, from SABA News in South Africa, are more names of those arrested on board N4610 in Zimbabwe: Newspaper says these 13 were on plane

March 14, 2004, 11:09

A Johannesburg Sunday newspaper has published the names of 13 men it says are the South Africans being held in Harare on charges of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea. Rapport says it obtained the names from diplomatic and intelligence sources.

It named the sole British subject being held as Simon Mann and the only Zimbabwean as Malani Moyo.

Zimbabwe detained 70 suspects, the majority of them being South Africans, Namibians and Angolans.

The 13 names are: Johannes Muyongo, Avelino Dala, Errol Harris, Never Matias, Raymond Archer, Maitre Raukuluka, Louis du Preez, Harmanus Carlse, Simon Witherspoon, Kenneth Pain, pilot Neil Steyl,  Hendrik Hamman and Lawrence Horn.

Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Friday the charges on which the accused were being held were "quite clear, they were bent on actually destabilising an independent country, a sovereign country and we are bound by the AU (African Union) charter and the UN charter to protect other states from any aggression." - Sapa

And here is a lovely picture of Simon Mann in his role as Colonel Wilford in the movie Bloody Sunday. (I'm not kidding.) He's the guy in the middle.

Simon Mann

I owe this piece of infomation to calixte of the blog african oil politics. He also has a nice  writeup of journalistic attempts to turn our sympathies toward the poor mercenaries. Mann  comes across to me as a parody of the celebrity executive, a dynamic movie-star-like character unafraid to take risks to pursue an opportunity. If the celebrity executive thing were in need of any more debunking, he provides the broadest possible satire.

The Sunday Herald has a generally good piece with a bit more detail about him:

Only days before the main team of mercenaries arrived in Harare aboard the plane, a group of their advance guard, led by former British SAS man Simon Mann, met with one Colonel Tshinga Dube, Director of Zimbabwe Defence Industries, to finalise the arms deal worth $180,000.

For much of his life, old Etonian Simon Mann has been part dog of war and part modern-day businessman. Son of the late England cricket captain George Mann, he has been described as a "maverick and bon viveur". After leaving the SAS in 1985 he and an associate, Tony Buckingham, established the mercenary group Executive Outcomes, which had offices in South Africa and in Chelsea, West London. One of Simon Mann's "co-conspirators" in his present adventure, Simon Witherspoon, is another old Executive Outcomes hand.

EO shot to fame during the 1990s when it assisted the Angolan government in fighting the rebel movement UNITA and helped the Sierra Leone authorities deal with the Revolutionary United Front. The firm, like Simon Mann's latest planeload of mercenaries, included many former personnel of the notorious 32 Buffalo Battalion of the South African special forces and Civil Cooperation Bureau, which was responsible for the deaths of several anti-apartheid activists.

But despite Mann's previous shadowy exploits, associates, and gift of the gab, it didn't prevent him and his band being arrested and imprisoned in Chikurubi maximum-security prison by the Zimbabwean authorities last week.

Also via calixte, is a bit more elaboration of the Equatorial Guinea end of things from The Scotsman:

Documents obtained by Scotland on Sunday suggest that Obiang's own brother is linked with the South African mercenary who has admitted his part in the putative coup plot.

Obiang, who came to power in a military coup by overthrowing his uncle, has ruled with an iron fist for 25 years by stuffing the government with his relatives and blatantly rigging elections.

But in recent months tensions have risen within his family over an apparent desire to hand power to his son Teodorin, a rap music entrepreneur and international playboy.

The 30-something has been seen at parties in Hollywood, Rio de Janerio and Paris, where he stays at five-star hotels and travels in Bentley and Lamborghini cars. He has his own rap label, TNO Productions, and has reportedly had a relationship with a female American gangster rapper.

Now company documents link Nick du Toit, the 48-year-old South African arrested as leader of an alleged "advance team" of mercenaries, with Armengol Ondo Nguema, the national security chief and brother of Obiang.

Both men are shareholders in Triple Options, a joint venture company established last October to provide "security services" to Obiang, but which the government now says is implicated in the plot to topple him.

One of the things I find quite striking in this whole mess is the extent to which "security" is a euphemism for something very like (if not indistinguishable from) organized crime. This is something that those of  us in the post-9/11 security-conscious U.S. should take to heart.

In the context of all of this, I'm not sure what to make of the AP story from late February, U.S. Military Shows Interest In Africa:

An increased focus on Africa comes amid a push by some in the United States - conservative think tanks in particular - to do more to secure alternatives to oil from the volatile Middle East.

West Africa supplies the United States with 15 percent of its oil. The U.S. National Intelligence Council has projected the figure will grow to 25 percent by 2015.

Western security officials also are concerned about terror along Saharan routes linking Arab nations and north and west Africa.

U.S. security think tanks and others have listed Nigeria and Mauritania as being among nations that have al-Qaida cells.

The Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat, a group alleged to have links with al-Qaida, is believed to have spread across borders into Niger and Mali.

A U.S. State Department program drawing on members of the European Command is helping train and equip security forces of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad to better guard their borders against incursions by terror groups and others.

Military proposals on overall reconfiguration of forces are awaiting a decision from Washington. 

Which conservative think tanks, I wonder. The Heritage Foundation seems to be among those meant, judging by the section on Africa on their web site. In particular, the article U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution caught my eye:

Today's geostrategic realities suggest that Africa shares interests with the countries in the Middle and Near East that are aligned with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). In matters of transnational threats and economic issues like energy (specifically oil) and trade, not to mention the significant Islamic populations in Africa, there are good reasons to view Africa and the Middle East as an appropriate grouping for U.S. security interests.

Hmm. And there's also this piece, A New Vision for Africa

Since the end of the colonial era, much of sub-Saharan Africa has been a playground for spoilt despots wreaking havoc on their fiefdoms. In this trip to Africa President Bush must declare an end to the era of dictatorships. At the dawn of the 21st Century it should not be acceptable for tyrants to terrorize millions of their own citizens in the Middle East, Europe, Asia or Africa. The Bush Administration should operate a zero tolerance policy towards African dictatorships, imposing strict economic and political sanctions against those regimes that tyrannize their populations. In certain circumstances, particularly where the US national interest is involved, the credible threat of military force should be exercised. . . .

While Washington should remain wary of the perils of nation-building, the US must not be afraid to intervene militarily when vital national interests are threatened, or when military force can be effectively used to prevent genocide or other gross violations of human rights. The West's failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda must never be repeated. The US must work closely with its key ally Great Britain and with other European nations in intervening where necessary and feasible to stop genocide from taking place. The highly successful British military operation in Sierra Leone should serve as a role model for future intervention in Africa.

There's a couple of ways to read that last bit, I think.

I'm certainly agaist dictatorships and genocide, but the Heritage Foudation's formulation implies an efficacy to U.S. desires for regime change that I can't quite parse.

UPDATE: There is an interesting piece in London's Sunday Times [by subscription], Bungled trail of an SAS veteran's coup

The Equatorial Guinea authorities have claimed that Moto is backed by Ely Calil, a London-based Lebanese businessman with substantial oil interests in the Gulf of Benin. He denies any involvement.

In addition they have mentioned a London-based accountant said to be close to powerful interest groups in the region. It has also been speculated that a top oil company could be involved. 

I wonder which "top oil company" they could mean. The name ExxonMobil looms large on the U.S. Department of Energy's page on Equatorial Guinea.

REGARDING THINK TANKS: The American Enterprise Institute sponsored a panel, entitled Into Africa: Policy Implications of President Bush's Trip to a Forgotten Continent, on July 8, 2003. The panelists were Anthony Carroll, Manchester Trade, Thomas Donnelly, AEI, Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI, and Robert Shapiro, The Brookings Institution. The description of the panel reads:

This month, George W. Bush will travel to Africa for the first time in his presidency. Plagued by vicious civil wars and crushing poverty, Africa has long been written off as a geopolitical and economic sinkhole. But with evidence of al Qaeda's growing presence there and increased concern about the confluence of failed states, Islamic fundamentalism, and oil wealth, it may no longer be possible to ignore Africa's problems.

What role will Africa play in the post-Iraq strategic order? What is the significance of the Bush administration's decision to establish America's first semipermanent sub-Saharan military base last year? Will the Pentagon dispatch troops to Liberia? How might African oil reserves impact U.S. national security and the U.S. economy? Will the spread of HIV/AIDS threaten regional stability, and what can the United States do to address this crisis? Are European and American agricultural subsidies contributing to the continent's misery? A panel of experts will address these and other questions.

This is Anthony Carroll in his opening remarks:

Now let's talk a little bit about why Africa has been so attractive to the energy industry, to the American industry particularly.

Firstly, let me say that major deepwater reserves are being found. That is in part because of the increases in technological capacity to drill off deepwater. We are now being able to raise oil from the depths of as much as 10,000 feet, and that, of course, has opened up a whole new horizon of off-Continental Shelf reserves, and Africa will certainly be the great beneficiary of that.

The reserves that are being explored and the wells being found are massive in size. Average well size is about 35 million barrels per wildcat well. This is about--compared to about 22 million barrels, which is a Gulf-of-Mexico average. So the reserves are large.

It's in the early stage of exploration and development. Clearly the environment right now is open. The opportunities for companies are very malleable. You are not dealing with very ensconced institutional type of negotiating environments. I think there is a lot of flexibility.

West African oil has a very high discovery ratio. Most discovery ratios, technology has certainly increased discovery ratios from about 20 to about 35 percent on global average, but in Africa about 50 percent of the discovery ratio, so you are pulling a lot of oil when you are finding it in Africa compared to elsewhere.

West Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea, has benign weather conditions. If you look at the conditions compared to the North Sea, where you have a lot of requirements and technical support and turrets and other support mechanisms, in Africa you can drill and you can drill offshore or you can drill on vessels as opposed to platforms. Because of the benign weather conditions you are able to have more time drilling as opposed to off-drilling because of weather.

Sweet crude, Africa's sweet crude is sort of the global standard. It requires less refining and is a preferred crude than other sources.

We are also looking at a location of 50 percent closer to the U.S. market than the Middle East. There are no canals or precarious sailing passages that are required. The oil can come directly in from West Africa to Houston and, you know, some are viewing Africa as a safe alternative to the Middle East. Clearly the Middle East, which has 65 percent of the known reserves, is clearly going to be the standard-setter for many, many years to come, but Africa is also willing to produce a lot more, ramp up their production, in part because they need it, in part they want to curry favor with the United States, and they need foreign direct investment in whatever form. Oil is not a large employer, unfortunately. It's a very capital-intensive industry, but nonetheless there are downstream and upstream opportunities that can flow from oil investment, and the Africans are working and trying to find out how that can be best done.

Sweet crude has such a nice ring to it, so sensual, so emblamatic of desire.