Remember when Law & Order: Criminal Intent did a two-hour season premier on Erik Prince’s anti-pirate private militia in Somalia? Prince (founder and frequent re-namer of the infamous mercenary company, Blackwater) became a celebrity by escalating and deepening armed conflicts. His intervention in Somalia was just as disturbing as it is anywhere else, but it may be more confusing.
As Dan Murphy reported for The Christian Science Monitor, at the end of November:
Prince’s anti-piracy militia was ultimately abandoned by its funders, leaving a new, well-armed, and semi-organized group in the mix of competing militias in the Horn of Africa.
The UN Security Council condemned the (reportedly 1000+ strong force) in July 2012, saying:
This private army disingenuously labeled a “counter-piracy” force, has been financed by zakat contributions mainly from high-ranking officials from the United Arab Emirates, including the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While the government of the UAE officially denied any involvement, Law & Order suggested Liberia was involved, and also that Somalia is in West Africa.
Consider this a photo essay that hits all our favorite colonial fantasies about America, sex, African sex, and tribalism:
As news reports suggest last week, Prince, through his second African venture, is hoping to capitalize on China’s growing interests on the continent. In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Prince explained that his latest company, the Abu Dhabi-based “Private Equity Investment Firm,” Frontier Resource Group, is to be “an Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises, including at least one state-owned resource giant that is keen to pour money into the resource-rich continent.”
Everything from the company’s name, to the way Prince talks about the venture reeks of Victorian-era exploration, danger, and discovery on the Dark Continent. (Case in point is a statement he made on a recent trip to Hong Kong to court potential investors. According to Mr. Prince, “Africa is so far the most unexplored part of the world, and I think China has seen a lot of promise in Africa.”)
So how will Prince balance the classic savior image with the neoliberal straight talk he’s giving now? (In the same interview with the South China Morning Post he says: “If you can’t get to market cheaply enough, that’s not interesting”). Hypocrisy has always worked fine.
And how will Law & Order depict Prince providing an army-for-hire to Chinese investors looking to extract natural resources from some of the more ‘high-risk’ regions of Africa like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, and South Sudan?
We can’t wait and hope it involves an evil doppelgänger, or at least an identity thief.
* Steffan Horowitz contributed to this post.