African Armies: the real story

African Armies: the real story

It’s worth noting a story which is at the top of the news in the UK.  It involves a businessmen called Jim McCormick who has just been convicted of selling bogus mine-detectors across the developing world.  The story is being sold as one of fraud – cue pictures of African soldiers holding the kit – rather than bribery.  But bribery’s at the heart of it, and rather than African soldiers being duped, it was they who pointed out the kit didn’t work.

Put simply, McCormick seems to have sold many bogus detectors in Iraq to people who knew that they were buying rubbish but were being well-paid for it.  He then moved on to Africa, where he no doubt used glowing endorsements from Iraqi officials he’d paid off.  Once African soldiers started trying to use the kit, they immediately flagged it as useless.  Meanwhile, in Iraq, the things are still being used at checkpoints.  See this Newsnight report, which evidences both those things.

It’s more than annoying when increasingly effective African troops are used to illustrate something negative when in fact the opposite is often true.  Kenyan troops have led the international effort in Somalia; Rwandans, Burundians, even troops from little Gabon, do sterling AU and UN duty.  South African and Nigerian troops operate vital stabilisation missions across the continent.  Africa does not have it’s armed troubles to seek, but it’s organised and well-trained African troops who are doing most these days to help  improve everyone’s security.

Eric Joyce