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Mercenary intrigue spotlights West Africa's oil curse
Reuters ^ | March 11,2003 | Ed Stoddard

Posted on 03/11/2004 12:18:11 PM PST by tcuoohjohn

Mercenary intrigue spotlights West Africa's oil curse


By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG, March 11 (Reuters) - Oil should have brought wealth and development to bitterly poor West Africa, but instead it has fuelled wars, coup plots and even mercenary intrigue.

Equatorial Guinea, an oil producer on the Atlantic coast, this week arrested what it called an advance party of 15 mercenaries, saying "enemy powers" and multinational companies had been plotting against the tiny state.

Two thousand miles away, Zimbabwe threatened to execute some 60 suspected mercenaries who authorities said had been on their way to Equatorial Guinea to join the plot.

Harare has accused U.S., British and Spanish spy agencies of involvement in the alleged plot that could have been straight out of a Frederick Forsyth bestseller.

In Forsyth's novel "The Dogs of War" it was the discovery of platinum riches in a remote African country that attracted an army of ruthless mercenaries. In West Africa, it is oil.

The region is increasingly important to the United States as it seeks to reduce dependence on Middle East supplies, and Washington keeps close watch as governments rise and fall.

The facts are often as murky as the state finances of some oil-rich African states, but analysts say one thing is certain: "black gold" can often attract trouble.

"Oil has historically been a cause of coups and conflicts in the region. It does bring out the worst in people," said Teju Akande, an analyst with UK-based oil consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

"We are talking about countries that historically have been very poor and oil is seen as fast money," Akande said.


The plot story swirling around Equatorial Guinea -- sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer -- follows a coup attempt last year on West Africa's Sao Tome islands, which are expecting a gush of cash from crude.

The region's giant and sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producer, Nigeria, has seen its fair share of coups and military takeovers since independence in 1960 -- with oil wealth the prize for the big men who seized the reins of power.

Angola, the region's number two oil churner, suffered decades of civil war fueled by petrol and diamond dollars.

"Oil wasn't the cause of Angola's conflict but it gave the state the resources to fight for a long time," said Keith Campbell, director of South African-based political consultancy Executive Research Associates.

Oil can also equip a state with the means to thwart coups -- though this usually means it has spent far too much on guns and not nearly enough on its population. While oil has enriched a corrupt elite, it has stoked tensions with the have-nots.

"When you have big revenues coming in you can tighten your grip on power, as in Angola," said one UK-based oil analyst.

Regardless of risk or controversy, major international oil companies cannot resist the lure of West Africa. And it has also become a region of strategic importance to the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer.

In recent weeks U.S. generals have been criss-crossing the region on a mission they to seek ways of securing the unstable area against international terrorism.

Regional analysts say they cannot rule out U.S. military action in the future to secure the flow of West African oil to U.S. markets to ease reliance on the volatile Middle East

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: africa; conspiracy; oil; southafrica; westafrica; zimbabwe

1 posted on 03/11/2004 12:18:12 PM PST by tcuoohjohn
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: cold_duck

Roland was a warrior from the Land of the Midnight Sun
With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

Through sixty-six and seven they fought the Congo war
Fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

Roland the Thompson gunner...

His comrades fought beside him - Van Owen and the rest
But of all the Thompson gunners Roland was the best
So the CIA decided they wanted Roland dead
That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head

Roland the headless Thompson gunner (Time, time, time
For another peaceful war
Norway's bravest son But time stands still for Roland
'Til he evens up the score)
They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun

Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Mombassa in a barroom drinking gin
Roland aimed his Thompson gun - he didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

Roland the headless Thompson gunner...

The eternal Thompson gunner, still wandering through the night
Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun

Warren Zevon- ' Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner'

3 posted on 03/11/2004 1:42:04 PM PST by tcuoohjohn (Follow The Money)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

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