Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

The Newest Security Contractors in Iraq: Ex-combatants from Sierra Leone

Global Development Views from the Center

By Vijaya Ramachandran

This is a joint posting with Julia Barmeier.

A British private security firm, Sabre International, is sponsoring the employment of Sierra Leoneans for security jobs in Iraq. According to its own website, the company holds multiple aviation security contracts for three airports in Iraq (Baghdad International Airport, Mosul Airport, and Najaf International Airport).

Having undergone two weeks of preparation training, 400 to 1,000 Sierra Leoneans have already been sent to Iraq (and possibly Afghanistan) with a waiting list of over 10,000 who are interested in participating in the program. According to reports, the West African workers will receive $250 a month, $200 of which will be directly deposited into a bank account in Freetown. Compare this to the per capita Gross National Income in Sierra Leone in 2008, which was $320 a year. (Meanwhile, Sierra Leone Members of Parliament are petitioning for monthly salaries of $4,000-$6,000!) It’s no wonder thousands of people have signed up for this program: they are receiving a little less than 10x the amount they would earn in their own country! (Sierra Leone currently ranks 201 out of 210 countries in terms of its GNI per capita). Their salaries will not be taxed and they will be given free accommodation, free medical facility, free transportation, and free insurance. While a fabulous salary in Sierra Leone, their U.S. citizen contractor counterparts are averaging $100,000 a year, possibly in similar roles. In this regard, Sabre might be saving a tidy sum.

Post-conflict recovery researchers like Paul Collier and former CGD post-doc Chris Blattman emphasize the need to engage ex-combatants in productive activity, in other words, create an economic incentive to cease violence or prevent a relapse into conflict. This program is fulfilling this purpose. For example, news reports say the agreement welcomed by Youth for Middle East Overseas Group, which has apparently pressured the government of Sierra Leone to allow youths to seek work in Iraq. Said Secretary-General Akim Bangura, “Finally, we are breathing a sigh of relief over the positive outcome. We have fought a successful battle and I have been arrested a couple of times for leading campaigns for jobless youths to find jobs in Iraq. I am happy it all ended this way.”

On the other hand, the program perpetuates the environment of violence that surrounded these youth in Sierra Leone. While the country officially ended its decade-long civil war in 2001, it is still ranked among the most fragile countries. Of blood diamond and child soldier fame, the conflict in Sierra Leone was severely brutal and bloody, where rebel activity was characterized by hacking off the hands and feet of victims. It is unclear what kind of effect employment in a similar-but-different conflict region will have on these program participants.

Are agreements like these providing legitimate employment alternatives for ex-combatants? Or are they perpetuating reliance on conflict-related activity? Also, with unemployment rates at 18% to 30% in Iraq itself, why doesn’t Sabre seek local workers to fill these spots?

January 16, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. SABER NEED TO VALUE PEOPLES LIVES NOT JUST LOOKING AT THEIR OWN BENEFITS THESE GUARDS MAKE A LOT OF DOLLARS FOR YOU GUYS BETTER VALUE A HUMAN BEING AS YOU VALUE MONEY/DOLLARS.THY SHOULD ALSO BE RESPECTED NOT TO BE TREATED LIKE S……….T
    THANX
    C/BA

    Comment by Cobasc Aldine | July 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. sierra leone government and apc party we are here suffered in iraq you people treat us as if we are not a sierra leonean but for information when we come is another war in sierra leone for our noney and more over for us in iraq APC is out for 20012 election

    Comment by pobosky | August 31, 2010 | Reply

  3. The Government of Sierra Leone is a big shame to us as citizens. How can you enslave your people in Iraq? Working in Iraq as a security Guard for $250 is more than to be a slave in the New World two hunderd yaers ago. Mr. President, Ministers and Members of Parliament it is a big shame to you as Leaders to sell your people in Iraq as Slaves. SHAME ON YOU KOROMA A P C YOU ARE VERY SELFISH AS LEADERS.

    Comment by ABU BAKARR | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  4. I have also discussed this same issue. I am a contractor, in Afghanistan, and most of my counterparts have come from Torres Co., DynCorp, and Sabre. They all speak of everything you just mentioned. I hadn’t heard any primary source media reporting on the issue and was curious if anyone else was talking about it. Good to see I wasn’t too late to the party. Keep up the good work.

    My article is here, if you’re interested, and it’s kind of comical how much our two articles paralleled the same subject from totally different angles.

    http://www.unpopularcauses.com/?p=179

    Comment by Unspecified Contractor | May 10, 2011 | Reply


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