In Kenya, ArmorGroup guards protect UNHCR refugee camps; PAE and AYR Aviation are working with the UN and African Union in Sudan; in Liberia, Dyncorp is training that country’s new military. Moreover, no one, including the contractors themselves, are advocating that Blackwater or any other private group should go into Darfur with guns blazing. I have yet to come across any serious player in the industry who is advocating a combat role for private contractors. In fact, quite the opposite.
Blackwater offered to guard villages and refugee camps, as its mission.
Indeed, in last week’s WSJ, Peter Charles Choharis, a former UNICEF relief worker called for the use of private contractors in Darfur, operating under the following criteria:
The Security Council should consider employing contract armed forces to protect civilians and relief workers. These forces would have a very limited mandate to create safe havens for civilians, and would operate only until traditional U.N. peacekeepers can takeover. Because they would be authorized by the Security Council, would not directly take part in hostilities, and would use force only when necessary to protect innocent civilians and relief workers, they would not be mercenaries, which are prohibited by international law.
Private forces could also act as a humanitarian force-multiplier. Protected by these forces, NGOs will be able to provide food, water, medical treatment and shelter much more quickly, thereby saving countless more lives. Beyond supplies, providing security to vulnerable civilians can help avert traumas like rape and mutilation that can scar entire societies and make national reconciliation more difficult.