From the CIAO Atlas Map of Africa 

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CIAO DATE: 11/03

The Commodification of Violence, Private Military Companies, and African States

Anna Leander

June 2003

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


This article argues first that there is an increasing commodification of the use of force in many African states and it takes the example of the increased role of private military companies (PMCs) on the continent as epitomizing this development. Moreover, it points out that this commodification is widely accepted as both African and foreign governments, international organisations, NGOs, and private firms are relying on private firms. The article proceeds to spell out how thi s co mmod ifi cat ion aff ect s st ate authority. It argues that the co mmodifi catio n of fo rce po ses pr oblems for state authority both by undermining the direct control of states over the use of force and by undermining the basis of its authority. The article does not claim that state authority and the use of public force in Africa are unproblematic, nor that PMCs are the sole responsible for a situation they invariably worsen. Its aim is to underscore that it is a chimera to believe that reliance on PMCs is unproblematic for state authority and to clarify some of the mechanisms by which public authority is undermined by processes privatizing the use of force. Ultimately, the particularity of African states is likely to be reinforced rather than reduced by the commodification of the use of force on the continent.

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