From Mercenaries to Market: Africa and PMCs

I contributed a chapter, along with my co-author Angela McIntyre, to the book “Weak Governments in Search of Strength: Africa’s experience of mercenaries and private military companies”, edited by Simon Chesterman and Chia Lenhardt, From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies, London: Oxford University Press, 2007. The book is available in paperback on

The chapter seeks to illustrate change and continuity in the use of private force on the African continent, and argues that Private Military Companies (PMCs) are sometimes used to safeguard commercial interests that are the very source of discontent in local politics, leading to complications in regulation at the nexus of states, multinational corporations, and exploitation of natural resources.

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South Africa's Nuclear Future

Attempting to enrich uranium through the development of domestic centrifuge technology would be neither cost effective nor well received in the international arena. South Africa should choose alternatives that promote multilateralism and transparency, such as collaborating with an established enrichment program or investing jointly in a potentially much more proliferation-resistant enrichment technology such as Argentina’s SIGMA. Additionally, South Africa should take a farsighted view towards supporting international institutions that would curb the proliferation of costly, inefficient, and risky domestic enrichment start-up programs. As the only economic and political powerhouse in Africa with deep nuclear experience, South Africa should be especially mindful of the costs involved with domestic centrifuge programs when the majority of South Africans do not have affordable access to electricity.

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Provincial Reconstruction Teams

Read the full policy report, "Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons and Recommendations", published by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy in January 2008. I was a contributing author.

Executive Summary

There are 50 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs): 25 in Afghanistan under the authority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization International Security Assistance Force (NATO/ISAF), and 25 in Iraq. Of these, the United States leads 12 in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq. PRTs have become an integral part of peacekeeping and stability operations; but they have also been criticized for their mixed effectiveness, over-emphasis on military objectives and priorities, failure to effectively coordinate and communicate with the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and differences in staffing and mission.

To date, there has been no comprehensive review of PRT models to evaluate effectiveness or address shortcomings. This report seeks to answer three questions in order to begin filling the knowledge gap:

  • Should the United States and coalition partners continue to use PRTs?
  • Are PRTs achieving the goals for which they are funded?
  • What are the best practices of countries that sponsor and contribute to PRTs?

Because there is very little standardization of mission and operations across PRTs, we used the following assumptions as the basis for our analysis and research.

  • Using a variety of models, missions and functions, PRTs initiate progress on reconstruction, security, and development in post-conflict environments.
  • The PRT concept is part of a larger set of responses to post-conflict challenges.
  • PRTs are part of an evolutionary process of civil-military relations and interagency cooperation.

In the four sections that make up the body of the report, we look at the major issues that arise for PRTs, from their management and funding in contributing countries to the coordination of activities in the field. These four sections are: Politics and Bureaucracy; Civil-Military Relations; Activities and Relationships; and Evaluating Impact. We conclude with recommendations that distill the most relevant action points for the United States government and other countries operating PRTs. Our conclusions are based on broad lessons gathered from research and interviews with stakeholders in the United States, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom. More detailed findings specific to each country can be found in Annexes A through F. A glossary of acronyms is included for reference.

Despite the absence of concrete metrics and unity of purpose, PRTs have reported enough positive feedback to suggest that sponsoring countries should continue funding them and expending energy and resources toward their improvement. However, there are limitations to their capabilities, and it is increasingly important for policy makers to clearly define PRT objectives. This will help both to guide prioritization of activities in the field and to lay the groundwork for the creation of impact-based metrics to evaluate performance.

South African Position on the US-India Nuclear Deal

Read the full memo.

Beginning Excerpt:

To: Ambassador Leslie Gumbi, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations in Vienna From: Taya Weiss, MPA Candidate, International Relations, Princeton University Subject: South African Position on the US-India Nuclear Deal Date: March 29, 2007

The US-India Nuclear Deal and its Significance for South Africa

In December 2006, the US Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. The US has stated two goals: nuclear cooperation and bringing India’s nuclear program “under internationally accepted guidelines” outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, India has so far rejected a broad safeguards agreement with the IAEA based on INFCIRC/66, which does not allow a state “to unilaterally suspend or terminate a safeguards agreement.” An India-specific agreement would allow India to withdraw at any time. There are further concerns about which facilities and materials will be covered by a safeguards agreement.

This situation highlights the urgent need for a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that would allow international inspectors to verify that none of the NPT and de facto weapon states is producing fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

South Africa is uniquely positioned in 2007 to lead the international community towards a safer implementation of the US-India deal, including:

1. Getting a Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) requirement that de facto nuclear-weapon states join the NPT weapon states in terminating fissile-material production for weapons as a precondition for nuclear cooperation and

2. Drafting and tabling an FMCT that includes verification at the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

...continued: Read the full memo.

AIDS, Orphans, Crime, & Instability

DownloadAIDS, Orphans, Crime, and Instability, a paper written with Robyn Pharoah. Do children orphaned by AIDS represent a unique threat to security and stability or do they pose a predominantly humanitarian problem? Are there factors that may make a difference in determining the ultimate impact of the epidemic for both parentless young people and society? This paper explores these questions in the context of sub-Saharan Africa.

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Cycles of Conflict in the Mano River Basin

The Mano River Basin is perhaps best known for the Revolutionary United Front’s campaign of amputation during Sierra Leone ’s civil war from 1991 to 2002. The area encompassed by Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea is rich in diamonds, timber, and cocoa, but incredibly poor in governance, stability, and literacy. There are a number of complexly interwoven threats to the fragile peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and to the difficult stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire. Broadly, these threats are driven by three overarching and interlinked themes: the movement of displaced people; the failure to reintegrate and return them to their homes in the post-conflict context; and the influence of illicit trade.

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Perpetrating Power: Small Arms in Sierra Leone & Liberia

How can the trafficking of small arms be stopped in Sierra Leone and Liberia? This research looks at the factors behind the demand for weapons in these countries. It argues that policy makers should focus on the buyer side of the market to determine creative ways of stopping proliferation. Only through political empowerment, infrastructure development, and economic alternatives will the flow of illegal small arms and light weapons be stemmed in these countries.

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Guns in the Borderlands

This research examines local peace building and small arms demand reduction work at the organization level in five diverse areas of Kenya. By looking at strategies, challenges, and successes of community-based organizations, NGO's, and local peace committees, and juxtaposing them with the successes and failures of relevant policy, a gap in demand-size measures at the policy level becomes evident. Demand-based interventions diverge from what an NGO fieldworker called 'traditionally despotic' measures of addressing gun proliferation and allow more creative security policies with the potential to shrink gun markets from the bottom up.

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A Demand-Side Approach to Fighting Small Arms Proliferation

My feature article from the African Security Review is available in full as a pdf here. It was published in 2003 and outlines the theoretical underpinnings of fieldwork I later conducted in East and West Africa.


Small arms and light weapons (SALW) can be used and re-used as long as demand for them exists. They often outlast fragile peace agreements and fuel post-conflict crime. Local-level approaches to fighting SALW proliferation focus on reducing the demand for guns and promoting alternative methods of conflict resolution. Policy-makers, whose aim should be to address the structure within which SALW circulate, have failed to adequately address the demand side of the market. Governments, aid organisations, and regional and international bodies have concentrated their efforts to stem SALW proliferation in the realm of manufacturers and suppliers on one hand and responses to violent conflict on the other, thus failing to articulate and use the wide range of possible interventions.