In 2009, Uganda’s Ministry for Gender, Labour and Social Development revealed that mercenary exports surpassed coffee exports in the country and even this many years down the line, the statistics remain true.
Dealing in mercenaries, more commonly referred to as private military contractors, supplied to the security industry to furnish any of a myriad of security needs the world over, is a thriving business in the East African country.
The mercenaries exported from Uganda are either sent to Iraq, where they protect U.S. diplomats in Baghdad and Basra. They could otherwise be mobilized to guard businessmen and aid workers in Afghanistan and Somalia, patrol government installations in Qatar and in the future, will likely stand watch when the country hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The simple picture, where bodies are needed to guard or protect, willing recruits are sent in. While some mercenaries are drilled at an elite counter-terrorism training center in Jordan funded by the Pentagon prior to deployment, others are sent abroad with virtually no training at all, just a requirement that they stand at least 5-foot-7.
Still business booms, in fact recruitment of mercenaries as a business venture proved so lucrative with numerous Ugandan men craving to be mobilized that a decade ago, con men began running employment frauds, netting and scamming some mercenary hopefuls.
In response to that, a move to regulate the industry arose in the form of the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development creating an External Employment Unit; an agency meant to track men leaving to serve abroad. The unit currently boasts of 43 licensed recruiters.
Interpol’s Kampala bureau conducts roughly 1,000 background checks on Ugandans heading abroad for security jobs every month. According to Interpol and some of the industry insiders there is currently an estimate of 20,000 Ugandan mercenaries abroad.
Mercenaries can actually be recruited for domestic security details like guarding malls and restaurants, but most of the citizens apply and hope for mobilization for foreign duties as the pay is much higher.
The figures are only a little surprising in the context of the fact that a mercenary job is not for the fainthearted. Although there are no official figures as to how many Ugandans have been killed while working as mercenaries, there have certainly been some deaths.
The increased pay opportunity presented by the sometimes deadly tours is however enough to encourage citizens to continue enlisting.
Most of the mercenaries who are able to return from the tours use their earnings to buy land, build homes, and start small businesses. Some of them who exhaust their windfall jostle for another round.
The licensed recruitment agencies in the country include both international and local security companies and as the world continues requiring bodies to fight their battles, these security companies will continue to figuratively enjoy the spoils of war.