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According to the IRIN Web Special Report on Ituri, the "prospect of petrodollars in Ituri may have provided a new impetus to the bloody battle for control of Ituri in 2002." The Albertine oil concessions, are likely to become the next big thing. Ituri region and the Lakes Albert, George and Edward, around which the oil concessions are located, as well as the Semliki Flats, are in the Albertine Rift. The Albertine Rift has a massive potential to be the most productive source of oil in Africa. The Albertine Rift covers a vast region that forms the frontiers between Congo on one side and Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Sudan.

Geological surveys have indicated potential oil reserves in the Semliki basin, south of Lake Albert. A Canadian firm, Heritage Oil Corporation, has been exploring western Uganda since 1997 and is in the process of drilling a test well in the area called "Turaco-1". In June 2002, Heritage signed an agreement with President Joseph Kabila to gain initial rights to a staggering 3.1 million hectares of eastern DRC, including eastern Ituri. Drilling on the Ugandan side of the border has shown positive results. In another illustration of the links between the security and commercial dimensions of the conflict, a founder and director of Heritage Oil, Anthony (Tony) Buckingham, was the "inspiration behind Sandline [International]", the British private security firm.

Canada-based mineral extraction firms account for 30% of the world investment in African mining, and their reputation is rotten on account of their aggressive methods. Besides Heritage Oil Corporation, controversial Canada-based firms include Talisman that fueled war in The Sudan, Diamond Works that gained notoriety for human rights abuses in Sierra Leone, and Bre-X Minerals which claimed it had discovered the largest gold deposit in history at Busang, Indonesia. Independent analysts later concluded that Bre-X had perpetrated a hoax "without precedent in the history of mining anywhere in the world." Bre-Xs stock value collapsed by US $3 billion almost overnight, raising questions that remain unanswered about regulations governing the Canadian mining sector.

The Buckingham "inspired" Sandline is the British mercenary company that broke a UN arms embargo in Sierra Leone, allegedly with British government approval. Sandline was also the principle cause of the political uprising in Papua New Guinea in March of 1997. Civilians and troops opposed to the Sandline military contract took to the streets after Brigadier Jerry Singirok made a public radio broadcast denouncing the contract.

Sandline is infamous for its involvement, along with another mercenary organization, Executive Outcomes, in the war in Sierra Leone. Sandline was contracted for $10 million by Canada-based businessman Rakesh Saxena to execute a coup d'etat in Sierra Leone. Saxena is famously implicated in the fraud and collapse of the Bangkok Bank of Commerce, and his business dealings with the Saudi weapons' dealer Adnan Kashoggi. Saxena and his associates are reputed to have embezzled $2.2 billion from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce in 1996. The ensuing crisis caused the collapse of the Baht and of the Thai economy. Besides Sandline and Executive Outcomes, Tony Buckingham is also involved in another mercenary outfit called Indigo Sky Gem.

According to a Sandline report on its incorporation in 1996, Tony Buckingham was the inspiration behind Sandline, Tim Spicer is its Chief Executive, Michael Grunberg has acted as a consultant and Nic van den Bergh was the leader of the team sub-contracted from Executive Outcomes to undertake some of the work in Papua New Guinea. At the Papua New Guinea Commission of Enquiry into Sandline's contract with the PNG government, Colonel Tim Spicer denied that Sandline was part of Executive Outcomes. However the Enquiry concluded that the 'controllers' of Sandline International were obviously Anthony Buckingham, Michael Grunberg and at least to some extent Mr Spicer. It said Executive Outcomes was a 'significant' sub-contractor of Sandline and 'suppled a significant number of the personel' brought to PNG by Sandline.

Tony Buckinghum is the senior director of Heritage Oil. The Heritage Oil Corporation website describes Mr. Buckingham merely as "a self-employed businessman with a wide array of international business interests, particularly in Africa. He is the founder of the Heritage Group. Mr. Buckingham commenced his involvement in the oil industry as a North Sea diver and subsequently became a concession negotiator acting for several companies including Ranger Oil Limited and Premier Oil plc."

Heritage Oil Corporation is listed as a Canadian-based independent, international oil and gas exploration, development and production company, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the listing "HOC.A". In 1997 Heritage Oil and Gas, its parent company was listed as a London-based Bahamian company with the Block 3 concession in the southern Lake Albert Basin and around Semliki Flats. The head office of Heritage Oil is in Calgary Alberta. Its partner in Uganda is called Uganda Africa Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of South African based Africa Energy Corporation, that has 50-50 split of any profits with the Heritage Oil Corporation.

In fact Heritage Oil and Executive Outcomes have a long history together. Executive Outcomes fought against UNITA in 1993 to recover the oil storage area in Soya owned by Heritage Oil and Sonangol. At that time Executive Outcomes claimed that they were security guards of the Heritage Oil facilities, and that they were justified in their actions. It appears that Heritage Oil and Executive Outcomes are owned by the same network of mercenary corporations that includes Branch Energy (reputedly a Heritage Oil share holder), ex-South African troops, and Canadian mineral extraction firms.

Heritage Oil has operations in Angola, Congo-Brazaville, DRC, Oman, and Uganda. Executive Outcomes was involved in Sierra Leone, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Canada. Measures to curb the commercial fuel of the conflict have been suggested by the UN panel's report, which recommends reducing development aid flows to offending countries; tighter controls on the trade in conflict goods; travel bans on individuals; freezing of personal assets; and blacklisting of selected companies and individuals from dealings with international financial institutions.    
Mercenaries, now simply called "private military contractors", some of whom are subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies in the USA, are violating the Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa. Moreover, the US is now completely dependent on mercenaries for the conduct of its defense policy, and most likely cannot conduct war without mercenaries. Mercenary companies are reinventing themselves as humanitarian organizations, learning to use double speak with dangerous alacrity. MPRI claims to provide training in Democratic Transition in Nigeria, and a subsidiary is promoting Gender Equality mercenarism, presumably because its run by a retired female officer. Sandline describes itself as a "Peacekeeping" operation. The surrealism is astounding.

Military Professional Resources Inc [MPRI], the most prestigious mercenary corporation in the world, is run by retired US generals, including some of sterling reputation and exceptional skills at humanitarian discourse. It is likely that either they or their African employers are naive about the historic crime they are engaged in. Unlike sovereign foreign goverments engaged in training, they do not have accountability to voters, nor are they bound by a consistent policy, and in Africa they are not sensitized to the struggle to end neocolonialism and the need for African unity. The MPRI training of the Nigerian Armed Forces included simulated killing of Ghanaians. The political ethos of the MPRI, like Bush's divisive Africa policy, is just wrong headed and ignorant.

Supposedly the US has no problem using private military contractors to train the US army. After all the contractors are Americans, well grounded in American war doctrine, and their patriotism may be unquestionable, seeing as they fought for their country for no money, why would they do otherwise for high contract fees? However, ex US marine generals have no business teaching Africans how to kill other Africans. They should know better. The African governments may delude themselves in thinking that mercenaries are alright in activities that do not actually involve combat, such as logistical support to battlefield training and military advice, but this is a false understanding of what Africans need to be doing to resolve their conflicts.

Private military contractors go where the Pentagon would prefer not to be seen, carrying out military exercises for the American government, far from Washington's view. In the last few years, they have sent their employees to Bosnia, Nigeria, Macedonia, and Colombia. Using a method first employed by the Cubans in the Congo, the US deploys African-American mercenaries for assignements that involve combat in situations that violate international law, or in which the presence of whites would raise questions. The Rwandan government has come under direct accusation by UN agencies for allowing US based African American mercernaries access to the Congo.

But the use of Diaspora Africans for senstive mercenary work began during the era of the international slave trade, and is no different from the use of ethnic manipulation in Africa's "indegenous" conflicts . It is a conflicted legacy that causes a lot of confusion among all Africans, whether diaspora-born or motherland-born, and exploiting this says a lot about the US government. The apartheid regime excelled at the use of this strategy, but in the end it failed. The Organization of African Unity and the international revulsion over apartheid was just too strong. Perhaps the revulsion over the continued militarization of Africa and the looting and misery caused by shady mercenary programs will result in the fall of mercenarism.

Motivated as much by profits as politics, these companies about 35 all told in the United States need the government's permission to be in business. A few are somewhat familiar names, like Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Company that operates for the government in Cuba and Central Asia. Others have more cryptic names, like DynCorp; Vinnell, a subsidiary of TRW; SAIC; ICI of Oregon; and Logicon, a unit of Northrop Grumman. MPRI, boasts of having "more generals per square foot than in the Pentagon."

But merceranries, or private military contractors, as they like to call themselves, can be singularly unsuited for involvement in conflict. And results can be disastrous. In Bosnia, employees of DynCorp were found to be operating a sex-slave ring of young women who were held for prostitution after their passports were confiscated. In Croatia, local forces, trained by MPRI, used what they learned to conduct one of the worst episodes of "ethnic cleansing," an event that left more than 100,000 homeless and hundreds dead and resulted in war-crimes indictments. No employee of either firm has ever been charged in these incidents.

In Peru in 2001, a plane carrying an American missionary and her infant was accidentally shot down when a private military contractor misidentified it as on a drug smuggling flight. When a United Nations arms embargo restricted the American military in the Balkans, private military contractors were sent instead to train the local forces. In Africa mercernaries keep conflicts going that should have been exhausted, or that could be resolved by diplomacy. In all cases the use of mercenaries intensifies the use of terror and brutality as a tactic. In most cases the terrorists are trained by mercenaries sponsored by governments that are not prepared to accept responsibility for the technics and doctrine they are passing on to Africans.
The mercenary corporations in the African Union are driving out the legitimate business corporations. The case of the Heritage Oil Corporation is a case in point. Locals living in the Albertine Rift's Ituri region and the Rwenzori range may only now have began to reel from the effects of intractable military conflict. Once oil supplants diamonds and gold as the main commodity of the region, the number of casualties could go up as regimes entrench themselves even more deeply, corrupted and supported by mercernaries with greed for petrodollars.     

Is Tony Buckingham the New Tiny Rowland?
Executive Intelligence Review, Aug. 21, 1998, p. 62

The London Independent of Aug. 3 ran a front-page comparison of the lives of Tony Buckingham, Her Majesty's leading financier of mercenary operations, and the late scoundrel, Tiny Rowland, Her Majesty's "Africa specialist." Headlined, "Will Tony Buckingham Be the Next Tiny Rowland?" the Independent wrote: "Tony Buckingham is a businessman of the hard school, equally adept at running mercenary operations against insurgents as pricing oil and gems out of the ground in the most in hospitable climates.

"A week after the death of the great business buccaneer Tiny Rowland, Mr. Buckingham is his obvious heir apparent, a flash of rude color in among the grey corporate suits. Like Mr. Rowland two decades before, Mr. Buckingham has made a killing by befriending and helping to power emergent Third World leaders. He even has Rowland as a middle name." Buckingham's corporate empire includes Branch Energy, Heritage Oil and Gas, and the so-called private security services, Executive Outcomes and Sandline International.

Buckingham has created several mining companies in diamond-rich Namibia, which borders Angola, where Buckingham's operations are also very active. He has teamed up with British businessman Russell Hay, who is said to have been a major supporter of the South West Africa Peoples Organization prior to its coming to power in Namibia. Through Hay's SWAPO connections, the duo were able to get control of mining concessions, where their company has been systematically throwing the local population off the land. Hay told the daily: "We are perfectly within our rights to kick them off."

Mercenary Boss Evicts Gem Miners In Namibia

Tony Buckingham, the shadowy British boss of mercenaries and mineral companies, has been accused of using strong-arm tactics to dig for semi-precious blue tourmaline gems in the central deserts of Namibia.

Indigo Sky Gems, whose principal shareholder is Tony Buckingham, bought the exclusive prospecting rights on the Neu Schwaben farm in 1996, south of the small town of Karibib which lies halfway between the capital of Windhoek and Swakopmund on the coast. The rights were sold by by the Namibian government in exchange for a promise to build a million dollar cutting and polishing plant in Windhoek to process gems, the first of its kind in the country.

But Buckingham wasn't the first to arrive. Some 1,000 "small" miners have been digging for tourmaline for several years, until they were evicted by Indigo in June. These miners have gained sympathy for their cause from Jesaya Nyamu, the Deputy Minister for Mines and Energy as well as the the mayor of Karibi. In recent months Namibian newspapers have reported that the government is investigating allegations that Indigo lied about its connections to mercenary outfits through Buckingham, a former British Special Air Services (SAS) officer.

Buckingham owns a company called Branch Energy, which holds diamond concessions in Angola and Sierra Leone.

Indigo Sky Gems is a subsidiary of Branch Energy. Branch Energy shares offices and investments with Sandline, which in turn is linked to Executive Outcomes, the South African mercenary company.

Sandline is notorious for its failed bid to seize the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville with the help of hired soldiers and an equally controversial, but successful, bid to overthrow the military government of Sierra Leone.

Russell Hay, an English businessman and director of Indigo, told the Independent of London recently that the government is "welcome to investigate. We have nothing to hide". He defends Indigo's eviction of the local miners. "We are perfectly within our rights to kick them off. And to tell the deputy minister and the Mayor to stay away. Tourmaline was being smuggled out left, right and centre." Hay is a long-time friend of the Namibian government, from the days when it was South West African Peoples Organisation (Swapo), the black liberation force which took power in 1990 after waging decades of battle against the apartheid South African rulers.

Tourmaline gems (the name is derived from a Sri Lankan Singhalese word that means 'mixed') comes in a variety of colors from green to red and are mined around the world from Afghanistan to California.

SOURCES: "Hope of treasure turns to dust for miners" by Mary Braid, The Independent. August 3, 1998; "Second British firm caught in Foreign Office arms web" by Michael Gillard, Patrick Wintour & David Connett The Observer, May 10, 1998