Toppling governments, political assassinations and cannibalism, these are just a few of the accusations that have been levelled against South African private military contractors Executive Outcomes. In this revised edition of Executive outcomes: Against all Odds, author Eeben Barlow sets the record straight, providing a chronicle of EO’s operations, his own experiences with the company and exposing the bad actors that threatened its existence and slandered its name with malicious conjecture.
Founded in 1989 as a training company providing services for SA Special Forces, EO soon evolved, gaining notoriety for the pivotal role they played in assisting the FAA to defeat UNITA forces in Angola, and later crippling the rebel RUF forces in Sierra Leone. As their prominence grew, so did the threat they posed to certain foreign and domestic interests who had more sinister objectives in mind than stabilising war ravaged African countries. With very few men and even less equipment, EO proved extremely effective in every theatre of battle, forcing the international community to take notice and question the status quo of peacekeeping in Africa. But, even though this was a force that had achieved what few national armed forces could, there was one enemy it could not slay. As founder & chairman, Barlow is able to provide more than just a soldier’s perspective on this daunting industry. Along with detailing operations in Angola, Sierra Leone and Indonesia, he also recounts of truly bizarre requests from rogue agents, corrupt foreign leaders and the various assassination attempts on his life. Everything is not as it seems and when it comes to the state of affairs in Africa, you should be prepared to have your preconceptions challenged.
This book is more than just a biography of a PMC. It is sobering perspective on the state of conflict in Africa and the masters it serves. As Africans solving Africa’s conflicts, the men of EO truly achieved great triumphs against all odds.
The author takes the reader on a fascinating, Thomas Pakenham level deep dive into Sub-Saharan, politics, regime change, struggling democracies, tribal conflicts, government contracting, peace keeping, tactical military operations, intelligence intrigues, betrayal, fake news, and much more. As the winds of change rocked post-apartheid South Africa, desperate times gave birth to desperate measures. Men and women of all stripes moved quickly to ply their wares and align themselves for survival or personal gain. Some chose wisely, others fell short.
The author’s unintended segue from a successful combat and military intelligence career to Chairman of a highly successful Private Military Company (PMC) set the stage for the unmasking of governments, non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), bitter enders, politicians and bureaucrats. A must read for military planners, students of military tactics, historians, or anyone interested in an unvarnished, behind the scenes look at international politics and intrigues.
A writer of a book covering more than 700 pages will, if not telling the truth, somewhere between page 1 and 700 make a mistake, or more. Eeben consistently sticks to his story.
‘Executive Outcomes – Against all Odds’ is jam packed with action, suspense, surprises and humour. It is my impression that the writer’s biggest challenge was not a physical one on the battlefield, but rather one with integrity and merit. Throughout the book, Eeben struggled with the difference between right and wrong, who are his friends and who are foe, when to accept and when to reject.
The writers love for his country and the people of South Africa comes out clearly in the book. I am truly impressed that he never ever let his employees down – not even when offered a bribe of US$20 million. The skilled and courageous manner in which the EO members performed in foreign countries showed that the defence force of old still had lots of fighting spirit and energy.
In closing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, although it was mostly a roller-coaster of frustration, anger and helplessness to read how the people of Africa are the victims of the greed, selfishness and stupidity of the politicians, powerful states and international criminals.
Since I have read the original version of ‘Executive Outcomes: Against All odds’ (1st Edition), I have always kept it close on a bed stand and continuously revisited certain extracts. I almost ruined a friendship when a friend failed to return it. Reading ‘Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds’ (Revised Edition) has been similarly enjoyable—like the first version, but with that extra bite that you only get from your favourite biltong shop. The biggest impact was that all the reviews for the first edition did not sync with the second edition since the publishers differ, and the consequence of timing in the publishing of the first and the revised edition has some effect on memory. Interspersed with the stellar Composite Warfare (2016), I was ready to re-read the second edition the minute I collected my signed version after the launch at Industrial Coffee Works.
Publication is the best way to tell others and prove to the ‘scientific’ community that the realities revealed in your work has remained relevant. This places the writer in a precarious position as to what is preferable: the time of publication or the impact of the ‘journal’. As the revised edition serves as an excellent guide albeit with the precision of a ‘before and after’ picture, the timing of the second edition is perfect as its impact on the reader is now enhanced, especially when considering social political changes in a contemporary Africa.
The gist of the writing deserves special comment. It reads better and the work has a consummate flow that reflects effort and excellent editing. As the historical events are visited retrospectively, additional comments made by the author, it makes for an easier read of the narrative.
This revised edition is a powerful, more agile, and an utterly distinctive work, still candidly applicable to the African and international narrative and impossible to put down. My congratulations to the author and editor.
A bnilliaut and well documented narrative.