Americans have had a lot of trouble with the concept of mercenaries, hired foreign soldiers, ever since the British used Hessians on us during the Revolutionary War.
As life has become more and more difficult for Americans working overseas, whether they be U.S. diplomats, military personnel, businesspeople or aid workers, the need to employ security personnel has become an increasingly greater issue.
The problem with mercenaries is, if they are in principle fighting one side, or are supposed to be protecting that side, it is difficult to be entirely sure of their loyalty. Will they, when the chips are down, be prepared to die when what they are fighting for is a paycheck?
It now appears, according to reporting by David Gauvey Herbert in Bloomberg Businessweek, that private American firms, working particularly through recruiting firms in the East African nation of Uganda, have stepped up to the plate and are making a fortune supplying Ugandan armed guards, mercenaries, or “private military contractors”, to fill the gap.
In particular there was just granted a $10.2 billion, five-year Worldwide Protective Services contract to seven companies, five of which find their people in Uganda.
The American firms involved are located in Minden, Nev.; Reston and Arlington, Va., near the capital; Valparaiso, Ind.; and Lenoir, Tenn.
An estimated 20,000 Ugandans are employed as mercenaries overseas. The population of Uganda is 37 million. Armed guards are currently Uganda’s largest export earner, ahead of coffee.
The Ugandan mercenaries are paid between $400 and $800 a month, a multiple of what they could earn at home. Some U.S. observers claim the protection services could be provided more cheaply by Americans.
In the end the Ugandan guard issue comes down to how one feels about the concept, the quality of protection obtained and the cost, in cash and in principle.