BERLIN — A private security firm's plan to deploy more than 100 German ex-soldiers to Somalia to work for a war lord was harshly criticized by lawmakers on Tuesday, some of them calling it a possible violation of U.N. sanctions against the war-ridden East African country.
Opposition lawmaker Omid Nouripour said his Green Party would investigate whether the deployment of former Bundeswehr soldiers by Asgaard German Security Group violates U.N. sanctions against Somalia.
"What are we going to do if tomorrow another Somali war lord hires ex-soldiers — then we have Germans fighting each other in a foreign war zone," Nouripour told The Associated Press. "This is not the way one can solve the war in Somalia."
Several other politicians also criticized the deal and accused the German government of not implementing stricter laws to prevent former soldiers from serving as mercenaries in foreign war zones.
The German Foreign Office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Asgaard German Security Group confirmed the deal with Abdinur Ahmed Darman and said the company would deploy the soldiers as soon as Darman had assumed control of state affairs and had been approved by the United Nations.
Darman claims to have been elected as a president in 2003. He lives abroad, has few followers in Somalia, and hardly visits there. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991.
President Imposters ..Most people treat their mentally ill in hospitals. HABAR-GIDIR HAWIYE HUTUS.. put suits on them and let them walk around thinking he is president
Private security companies have had less of an impact on the Somali conflict than in other African wars, mostly because of the fragmented nature of Somalia's civil war. However, private security companies were active in the semiautonomous region of Puntland in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
Somalia expert Roger Middleton from Chatham House says that many of them taught skills that were then transferred into piracy.
"There's nothing to guarantee that soldiers trained for one force will remain with that force," he warned. The Somali politician employing the company could swap sides in Somalia's civil war and the men trained by the Germans could desert to al-Qaida linked insurgents or become pirates, he said.
"It's another complicating factor in a very complicated conflict already," Middleton said.
Unless the company had gained an exemption, the training and importation of military equipment would be in violation of an international arms embargo imposed by the U.N. and could see the company slapped with sanctions. Its directors could also have their assets frozen.
Thomas Kaeltegaertner, the head of Asgaard, said the company would be in charge of providing security and protection for persons, buildings and convoys in Somalia as well as educating Somali security personnel.
He rejected lawmakers' concerns Tuesday and told the AP there was nothing illegal about his security firm providing jobs for former German soldiers.
"The soldiers are professional and have already collected experience in military missions abroad," Kaeltegaertner said. "The politicians should not complain that I'm providing work for unemployed soldiers."
Somali Warlord Hires German Mercenaries to Provide Security Services
For years, German politicians and pundits have been taking the moral high ground over the activities of the American private security contractor Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, in places such as Iraq. "The US government has allowed private security firms to develop into an omnipresent, uncontrollable apparatus in the war zones of this world," one German newspaper back in 2007.
According to Kaltegärtner, himself a former Bundeswehr soldier, Asgaard employees would provide security for Darman and train police and military forces. He stressed, however, that combat operations were not planned. He said that over 100 mercenaries could be involved in operations. Although negotiations were not yet complete, it was possible that Asgaard employees would be operating in Somalia in the near future, Kaltegärtner told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper. Kaltegärtner also told the newspaper that his company employed former members of the German army's special forces, the KSK, and Germany's elite GSG-9 police force.
Privatizing State Violence
Several German politicians have reacted angrily to the news that former soldiers could soon be in action on the Horn of Africa. "In my opinion, this is not acceptable," Rainer Arnold, the defense expert of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Tuesday edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. He called for new legislation to "clearly limit" such operations, adding: "One cannot privatize state violence."
Speaking to the same newspaper, Green Party politician Omid Nouripour accused the German government of not doing enough in the past to regulate private security firms. Paul Schäfer of the far-left Left Party and Rainer Stinner of the liberal Free Democratic Party, which governs in coalition with Merkel's conservatives, also criticized the deal, with Schäfer talking of a "shadow foreign policy."
The company itself tried to play down the significance of the operation. "We want to work closely together with the German government and will in no way act against its interests," Asgaard said in a statement published on its website on Sunday. "There are currently no German citizens working on behalf of Asgaard in Somalia." The company stressed that it would only begin its operations in Somalia once Darman "once again assumes control of state affairs with the approval of the UN."
dgs - with wire reports