Blackwater founder Erick Prince has been active in Africa for years now. Does the redeployment of the American armed forces in Somalia represent an opportunity or a problem for the mercenary?
It's been more than a decade since private military company (PMC) conglomerate Academi — formerly Blackwater — was sold, in one of the most mysterious sales in history. Erick Prince's company was then entangled in a scandal mixing war crimes, corruption, targeted assassinations and coups d'etat all over the world.
Africa is one of society's playgrounds. If Blackwater's interventions in Morocco and Kenya between 2007 and 2010 are public, its creator Erick Prince had not yet finished with mercenary activity in Africa. The only thing that the – forced – sale of Blackwater had changed was the role of the famous SMP outside the United States, as well as the end of the collaboration between Prince and the American government. Officially anyway, because in 2012, the name of the mercenary resurfaced in WikiLeaks documents, proving that he was still working for American intelligence, the CIA.
Strange then that, while the Washington elite condemned the massacres of Erick Prince, on the run in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the latter represented the interests of other groups of mercenaries… in Africa. Indeed, the return to action of the former SEAL took place under the banner of an SMP based in China, Frontier Services Group (FSG). The company was founded by Prince, who ran it until last April. FSG's contracts were mainly in Africa: Kenya, South Sudan, South Africa, Somalia and Libya.
The African Adventures of Erick Prince
In 2014, Erick Prince was ordered to leave South Sudan. According to Bloomberg, President Salva Kiir Mayardit discovered malfeasance in the activity of FSG, which was supposed to restore an oil refinery. According to the US Treasury, Erick Prince also sold surveillance planes in Juba, only the latter were equipped with hardpoints capable of carrying Russian or American ballistic missiles.
This is not the first arms embargo violation in Africa committed by Erick Prince. In early 2021, a New York Times investigation showed thatErick Prince sold and transported weapons to Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar in 2019. According to the American newspaper, a confidential UN report shows that in exchange for 80 million dollars, Erick Prince also deployed hundreds of mercenaries in eastern Libya during the Tripoli war. The report commissioned by the United Nations Security Council remains secret to this day, moreover.
But it is above all in Somalia, under the eyes of the American navy, that Erick Prince created an army financed by the new president of the UAE, Mohammed ben Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ). The Puntland Martitime Police Force (PMPF), which has 2 mercenaries, conducted large "anti-piracy operations" in the Gulf of Aden between 000 and 2012. Today, Erick Prince's activity within the PMPF is under investigation by the United Nations. Not only did Erick Prince supply weapons to the PMPF despite a UN embargo, but the source of those weapons also raises questions. Indeed, in the arsenal of the PMPF, there are French Alouette III helicopters, Russian Antonov 2021 troop carriers, M26 Gatlings and American Hellfire missiles.
What about the return of American troops to Somalia?
Erick Prince's intervention in Somalia did not only make use of Chinese infrastructure and Emirati money. Prince hired his South African counterpart, Lafras Luitingh, one of the creators of the infamous Executive Outcomes. The two mercenaries together formed the company Special Projects. Luitingh was hired as a figurehead, in anticipation of the UN investigation.
Indeed, if the Security Council of the United Nations proved that Erick Prince and MBZ delivered money to Luitingh, the investigation still does not prove the involvement of the American in the death of civilians in Somalia.
The strangest thing, however, is the inertia of the British, American and Italian navies present in the region. Western forces control the entire Gulf of Aden, and their air force maintains a blockade in Somali skies. So how does Erick Prince manage to smuggle his deliveries of helicopters, warplanes and heavy weapons into Somalia with impunity?
A rhetorical question when it comes to the Somali case, where the US military interferes to the point of dictating government policy. While Washington decided on May 16 to restart a deployment of soldiers in Somalia, how will Langley's favorite former mercenary live with his compatriots? Especially when you consider that, behind Biden's "terrorist operation", there is above all a desire to bring Puntland back into the fold of Mogadishu, among others.