Private securitySaracen, another Erik Prince company, in trouble in Somalia

Published 27 January 2011

Despite claims to the contrary, Erik Prince, the founder and owner of the private military company Xe, formally known as Blackwater Worldwide, is part of the management team of another troubled security firm — Saracen; the Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) signed a contract with Saracen calling on the company to maintian peace, security, and stability in the country — only for UN and African union observers to realize that the company signed a separate security-related agreement with the separatist Puntland region in the north, in violation of the UN arms embargo

Saracen's alleged Puntland anti-piracy training camp // Source:

Despite claims by spokesman Mark Corallo that Erik Prince, American founder and owner of the private military company Xe, formally known as Blackwater Worldwide, has had “no financial role” in the backing of South African private security company Saracen, information disclosed by the African Union (AU), the umbrella organization of the African states, indicates that Prince was listed, in accordance to the Saracen contract, “at the top of the management chain” and had contributed some of his personal capital to the agreement.

The African Union has suspended the contract until later on in the week, although representatives Abdulkareem Jama, minister of information for the transitional federal government are voicing their unease: “At this point, our collective thinking is that this is not a good thing,” and Abdulhakim Mohamoud Haji Faqi, Somalia’s defense minister, followed Jama’s comment with: “We will not accept any mercenaries.”

To add to the already considerable problems of establishing order in the eastern African country, the contract’s dealings have been mired by uncertain actions taken by key representatives. In a copy of a letter dated 15 May 2010 from Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Somalia’s previous prime minister, to Lafras Luitingh, Saracen’s chief operations officer and former officer in South Africa’s Civil Cooperation Bureau, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) agreed to enter into a contract with Saracen in order that the company would maintain peace, security, and stability within the country along with “develop[ing] primary operational planning and will participate in [sic] law enforcement campaign…” According to a report by the New York Times, Sharmarke denied writing this letter.

As was the case with Blackwater USA, the special operations school established on the Great Dismal Swamp area of North Carolina in 1997, Saracen does not have a clean record either. The company’s Uganda subsidiary was implicated in training rebels in Congo who massacred civilians and stole “viable natures resources — coltan, diamonds, timber, and gold” according to a 2002 UN Security Council report.

If the contract had been followed through, Saracen’s assistance would have been hard tried in the effort to quell the 20-year long civil war. Along with Jama’s and Faqi’s denunciation of the contract, the representatives also noted the desperate need for the improvement of their country’s security forces against the approximately 5,000-strong Islamic insurgent group, al Shabaab, or the Mujahideen Youth Movement that has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government. Faqi said that he was willing to use private security contractors to improve the “capacity” of government troops, as long as another nation paid for it.

Further up the coast, Puntland officials have grown impatient with the federal government’s slow progress, and have signed a separate security-related agreement with Saracen to tackle the pirate-infested waters of the area. UN officials have disclosed that agents from the security company may have illegally imported weapons into Puntland, a violation of the arms embargo on Somalia, which has a long history of ethnic strife.

Jama hopes for Puntland to “follow the direction of the federal government and not continue with Saracen.”