Memorandum from General Sir David Ramsbotham
1. Immediately after retiring from the Army
in July 1993, I was tasked by the then Secretary of State for
Defence, Mr Malcolm Rifkind, with writing a paper on improving
the UK contribution to UN Peacekeeping Operations. This followed
a report I wrote on a visit, as Adjutant General, to our contingent
in Cambodia, where I was disturbed to find that its administrative
and other nationally provided support was inadequate.
2. During the course of my study, which
was conducted with the Head of the UN desk in the FCO, now Dame
Glynn Evans, I visited a number of other UN operations including
those in Somalia and the Lebanon, where I found involvement of
private sector companies such as Brown and Root. They delivered
logistic support to the US Army in peace and war, and so in peacekeeping
or peace enforcement operations.
3. This interested me because I knew that,
following Options for Change, which had resulted in a reduction
of the size of the Regular Army by 1/3, the British Army lacked
logistic and administrative support, which was bound to affect
its ability to sustain such operations over any length of time.
4. Arising from this work I was asked by
Kofi Annan, then Under Secretary of State General for Peacekeeping
Operations at the UN, to take part in a similar exercise on behalf
of the Security Council, looking at improvements to the management
of peacekeeping operations in general. Most of the other members
were people who had commanded UN operations. We were all agreed
that not only was there a need for the private sector to provide
what military contingents could not, but that liaison with the
private sector was an essential part of any command and control
5. Soon after this, and as a result of articles
that I had written about the subject, I was approached by Defence
Systems Limited and asked to become Director of International
Affairs, with particular responsibility for liaising and working
with the UN. DSL was a security company, specialising in the protection
of mining companies working in high-risk areas, during which they
had been approached by the UN and a number of UN agencies and
NGOs, asking for similar support. This included training UN staff
in security and other practical requirements in Afghanistan, providing
camps to house those rebuilding the railway line between Moputu
and Malawi in Mozambique, protecting the UN Special Representative
(Dame Margaret Anstey) in Angola, and training policemen in Somalia.
At the time DSL was providing over 200 people, from over 20 countries,
in support of UNPROFOR. These included a Vietnamese mechanic,
a Nepali driving instructor, a Bosnian and Croatian mixed ration
team on Zagreb airport and a number of staff officers in the Headquarters.
6. DSL had also put forward a proposal to
the UN for the rehabilitation of some sugar plantations in Mozambique.
This included deliberate employment and subsequent disarming of
militia for which ex-soldiers were particularly suitable. Initially
the militia were used to clear up the detritus of warunexploded
munitions, mines etcas had been done on the railway line.
This allowed the building of villages in which clinics and schools
could be built, and from which renovation of the sugar plantations
could be carried out. This began with the infrastructureroads,
bridges, canals, communicationsand then spread to the planting
of crops. The militia stopped carrying arms once they realised
that they were not necessary. They were trained to repair the
infrastructure and then work on the plantations.
7. This led to increased involvement with
demining. DSL ran a UN course in Mozambique for four years, training
managers and quality controllers of demining programmes. Its policy
was always to train and manage, leaving demining itself to the
country concerned. In particular ex-militia were used to clear
up the "mess" that their military operations had created.
8. My work took me regularly to the UN and
also to the World Bank. At that time demining operations generally
were bedevilled by lack of funds. Those carried out by the UN
depended on pledges from donor nations, which were not forthcoming.
The World Bank's policy was that mining was military, therefore
so was demining. It did not fund military operations and so could
not fund demining. The line I tried to push was that, as we had
found in Mozambique and elsewhere, there could be no development
without clearing up the detritus of war, which included mines.
This line was taken by the current head of the World Bank, James
Wolfenden, following a conference in Geneva that he attended in
1995. From this moment on my work included working with the World
Bank, DSL being contracted to carry out work, such as the demining
of the bus station in Sarajevo, the first such operation that
they had agreed could be funded from one of their loans. DSL was
also the first company to set up an office in Republica Serbska,
from which we could manage the demining that we were carrying
out there as well as in Bosnia.
9. Our support of UNPROFOR increased until
we were providing over 400 people from 31 nations, none of whom
carried arms, but all of whom were carrying out vital support
tasks that the military could not provide. These included maintenance
of communications was well as expansion of other tasks mentioned
10. One day Kofi Annan asked me if DSL could
do something which it was proving impossible to provide from member
state contributions, namely take over the running of the Rwandan
refugee camps in Zaire. He knew that we had a subsidiary company
in that country, which provided protection for a number of embassies
as well as mining companies, and also ran a clinic for expatriates
in Kinshasa. I said that we would look at the problem, which we
did, putting forward a proposal that included the provision of
expatriate management of Zairian guards. This was the first time
that the UN had asked a private sector company to carry out such
a task. In the event our proposal was not accepted because Ms
Ogata pointed out to the Security Council that such camps were
the responsibility of UNHCR and not Peacekeeping. I have often
wondered what would have happened had it been, because it involved
the use of more people, the separation of militia from others,
and better controlled feeding and medical support arrangements
than those provided.
11. But, of equal interest as far as the
employment of private sector companies in the provision of support
operations is concerned, is the history of the small British contingent
in Rwanda, which could be provided for only six months because
of the lack of replacement personnel. It was tasked with water
supply, road repair, provision of communications and running a
medical clinic. All these could have been provided by DSL, using
ex-military personnel, not just for six months but for as long
as the UK government was prepared to pay. Had that approach been
adopted the military infrastructure would not have been affected,
and the UK contribution to the rehabilitation of Rwanda could
have been enhanced.
12. We were also involved in a number of
other activities that are essential in post-conflict reconstruction,
such an essential follow on to peacekeeping operations. These
included formal partnerships with firms contracted to rebuild
accommodation and communications, the repair of airfields and
docks, and the provision of camps from which people could work
on construction projects. We offered the provision of police and
the training of indigenous police forces to take over from initial
UN provision. We discussed the same for prison staffs, about which
I was approached by the Commander in Kosovo, not only as Chief
Inspector of Prisons but also because of my association with DSL.
13. My reason for mentioning all this is
to demonstrate that there are many roles for private sector companies,
employing ex-military, that are essential in any peacekeeping
or national reconstruction project. The key word in their employment
is sustainability. Regular forces have been so reduced, or are
so overstretched in the number of military operations they are
required to conduct, that they cannot provide trained and experienced
people to conduct what is required. Companies such as DSL can,
for as long as they are contracted to do so. What is more quality
control is always possible because, if the provision does not
come up to the standards required, it can be ended. Furthermore
it is not up to the employing nation to try to keep numbers up
to those required; that is the responsibility of the providing
14. In my opinion it is unfortunate that
the activities of some companies have been military in content,
attracting the "mercenary" tag, with all its overtones.
I am disturbed to see some of DSL's work so described, because
it was never mercenary in the general understanding of that word.
Those who carried arms were not UK personnel in countries overseas,
but nationals of the country concerned, such as the Angolan guards
of the UN special representative.
15. I hope therefore that, in its deliberations,
the Foreign Affairs Committee will consider the wider role that
such companies can play in operations to which the UK contributes.
It must be right to question the legality of mercenary activity.
It must be wrong to limit the effectiveness of peacekeeping or
reconstruction operations for the wrong reasons.
General Sir David Ramsbotham