Sandline is the one of the world's leading private military corporations - i.e. corporate mercenaries.

In that capacity they will do just just about anything for a client government or 'genuine, internationally recognised and supported liberation movement'. Helicopter gunships, special forces units, marines, bodyguards, intelligence training (presumably including torture techniques and interrogation) - the whole works. If you've seen it in a Tom Clancy or Frederick Forsyth novel, Sandline will probably do it for you.

Sierra Leone has been a playground for international mercenaries for about a decade. Diamond mines provide the motivation for conflict and the means to pay corporations that charge upwards of $100 000 per soldier monthly. Previously, companies such as Executive Outcomes fought the RUF rebels on behalf of the 'legitimate government'. When they signed a peace deal that included sending EO out of the country, their fate was sealed. The RUF reneged on the deal and the government quickly collapsed. A corrupt army general pulled a quick coup and invited the RUF to join the government.

Here's where things get interesting. International diamond mining companies distrusted the new regime since the RUF had screwed them out of their mining contracts. So they approached the president in exile, Tejan Kabbah, and offered him a deal. They pay for a mercenary coup to restore him to power, and Kabbah gives them sweetheart mining deals. Several mining companies were involved, all part of the De Beers cartel. Sandline is contracted to do intelligence, smuggle in weapons, and plan the coup.

From here it gets hazy. Sandline does intelligence, maybe more. Then one of the shadowy coup financiers is arrested in Canada. Suddenly, a coup happens, probably with Sandline special forces support and smuggled weapons, and Nigerian troops move in. Kabbah is reinstalled as president.

In the aftermath, Sandline is contracted to protect many of the diamond mines in Sierra Leone by the mining companies, but not to protect the entire country as Executive Outcomes was. This is likely due to the Nigerian influence, since they want to control the situation (and diamonds) themselves. The conflict with the RUF continues and even escalates. Eventually British SAS paratroopers are sent in to reinforce failing Nigerian 'peacekeepers', to try and stabilize a messy situation. They succeed in capturing the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, but the fighting continues.

Sandline's web site suggests that mercenary corporations such as themself should replace peacekeepers in Africa, since they have 'casualty tolerance', and lots of ex special forces personnel, as well as a willingness to 'get things done'. Obviously this could work out to a lot of business for them, since there are many messy conflicts in places like Rwanda, Congo, and Somalia that cry out for their rough and ready services but lack the necessary natural resources to make it profitable. But if the UN or western countries could foot the bill the mercenary market would expand considerably.

Sandline is also active in Papua New Guinea.

Check out Sandline's site at www.sandline.com - it's filled with interesting information and even links to quite critical pieces. I guess they figure they're already pariahs, so their stock can only go up.

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