How does Simon Mann stack up among Africa's white mercenaries?
Simon Mann, a British mercenary sentenced for a coup plot against Equatorial Guinea, was pardoned on Tuesday. How does he compare with Africa's other 'Dogs of War?'
Simon Mann, the Eton- and Sandhurst-educated adventurer whose interventions helped bring down two governments and who was plotting to bring down a third when he was arrested with a load of weapons and mercenaries in Zimbabwe five years ago, appeared to use up his eighth life on Tuesday when he was released from his jail cell in Equatorial Guinea.Skip to next paragraph
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The former Special Air Service (SAS) commando and one-time member of the infamous private military contractors Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, was pardoned by Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the man he was plotting to depose when he was caught with 64 confederates and a planeload of $100,000 worth of weapons on the tarmac in Harare.
At the time, Mr. Mann said they were headed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to guard a diamond mine. But after serving almost four years in a Zimbabwe prison and then being extradited to Equatorial Guinea, where he was serving a 34-year prison sentence, he came clean. He told Jonathan Miller of the UK's Channel 4 last year that I "was the manager... not the main man" in a plot to wrest control of the tiny, oil-rich and deeply corrupt nation.
(For more on how Equatorial Guinea's oil curse is playing out, read the Monitor's in-depth report on how the country tests President Obama's vow to hold Africa's leaders accountable for good governance.)
Mann alleged the "main men" were the country's former colonial power, Spain and South Africa. He also expressed chagrin at his capture in a fashion that would have made Rudyard Kipling proud: "You go tiger shooting but you don't expect the tiger to win."
The full details of the plot are still unknown. South African prosecutors dropped their own case against Mann and his co-conspirators a few years ago after Sir Mark Thatcher, the arms dealing son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty to "unwittingly" helping to fund the plot.
Mann's post-military career has been frequently controversial. Sandline International's $30 million contract to put down a rebellion on the island of Bougainville, home to a copper mine in Papua New Guinea, led to a scandal there that pushed Prime Minister Julius Chan from office. Executive Outcomes fought on the side of the government during Sierra Leone's bloody civil war in the early 1990s.