Baidoa, Somalia — Former Navy SEAL and founder of the now defunct private security company Blackwater, who holds the title of CEO for the Hong Kong based private equity firm Frontier Services Group (FSG), Erik Prince, just signed a lucrative contract deal with South-West State within the highly contested, conflict-ridden region of southern Somalia.
Prince and his FSG are no strangers to investing in Africa or providing ‘security solutions’ to the continent either, after negotiations with the of the South West State of Somalia’s President Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. FSG was given the contract of providing logistical support to the Somali South West State’s Administration council’s Free Zone Investment Authority (FZIA), which is designed to attract foreign investments into the southern Somalia region with the intent on creating jobs, reanimate the flaccid economy, and inject wealth and prosperity back into the war-torn south. All of which will need Prince’s trademark “advanced protective services” to keep his Chinese and possibly United Arab Emirates (UAE) investors money secure.
The newly penned contract stipulates that over an undisclosed period of years, FSG will assist in constructing a major seaport to deal with increased volume of import/export as well as expanding and modernizing an airport in the region. All of which will be solely run by FSG’s patented integrated air-land-sea logistics capability package.
The contract also has plans on developing agricultural zones within the Lower Shabelle which is why FSG partnered with First Hectares Capitol, a self-described agribusiness and forestry infrastructure investment company for African governments. First Hectares Capitol has its main office in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is full of board members with financial ties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Also, fun fact there’s only one “East African” on the advisory board.
The southern portion of Somalia has been highly sought after for its, as of yet, untapped plethora of natural resources. Countries like the United States, United Kingdom, UAE, and of course China have been salivating for the chance to get in there and harvest Somalia’s treasures. Resources like iron ore, tin, uranium, and the crown jewels of large oil and natural gas reserves are the main draw to the south. However the Lower Shabelle is the stomping grounds of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab, and that kinda party is an Erik Prince kinda party.
Prince’s Frontier Services Group main headquarters are split between Hong Kong and Beijing within the People’s Republic of China. One of its sole investors is the state-owned CITIC Group, or the China International Trust Investment Corporation out of Beijing. CITIC Group is heavily invested in China’s African oil endeavors, especially China’s major oil production region, South Sudan.
CITIC Group sent Erik Prince and his new Frontier Services Group to South Sudan in 2014 to meet with the bellicose South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir who was in the process of fighting a civil war against his former vice president Riek Machar for control of the newly independent country. The purpose of the trip was to reestablish flow of oil from the Chinese owned oil reserves that were shut down and barely producing product due to the heavy fighting within the Upper Nile region of South Sudan.
Prince sat with South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining and promised them: surveillance flights over several South Sudanese held oil fields, build up the infrastructure around these fields, transport workers and supplies, and above all — security of said fields. It was a $150 million dollar payout to FSG, and as the chess pieces were being put in place the contract was abruptly halted, and payment stopped by Kiir and his petroleum minister at the end of 2014.
Why did it stop? Well, Erik in a behind closed-doors meeting with Kiir promised something he had no authority to, a private army. Kiir was told that he was buying attack aircraft along with being promised a “foreign mercenary force” to use against Machar’s rebel forces (in flagrant violation of several international laws). Erik and FSG were given their walking papers and neither South Sudan nor China got the secure oil fields.
Which brings us back to Somalia.
Prince also has deep connections to another heavy investor in Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, who has invested in and helped maintain several military training facilities outside of Mogadishu and to the north in the port city of Berbera in Somaliland.
In early 2011, Prince and his then re-flagged Blackwater company “Xe,” entered into a multi-million dollar deal with UAE and a few other Gulf States to recruit and train close to 2,000-2,500 Somali nationals in anti-piracy operations along the Somali Coast, as well as fighting al-Shabaab in and around Mogadishu. With another Erik Prince-backed South African private security company, Saracen International tapped to not only train Somali militias in counter-terror operations against al-Shabaab, but to also train up a special presidential guard force. Other than a few State Department officials voicing their concerns, the deal and contract went through and was fulfilled.
Now Prince is back in Somalia, only this time he’s bringing his Chinese investor money with him in an attempt to capitalize on the impending war with al-Shabaab which the Somali President Farmaajo has promised and to position his Chinese investors smack dab on top of several potentially lucrative natural resource ‘honey-holes’ that southern Somalia possibly holds. Prince is a man who has made his fortune from privatizing war and conflict, and if it’s any indication of his past dealings with East Africa, he’s bringing his private army and weaponized crop-dusters with him.
Feature image courtesy of: New York Times