Africa reviews private security firms

Countries considering adopting the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers


Private security firms have expanded across Africa, like many other troubled regions of the world.

There are more than 4,500 security companies and entities operating in Africa, employing more than 500,000 security guards, half of them employed in-house, the other half by security companies, although a few massive companies are predominate.

Among the largest is South Africa's Anti Crime Force Training Academy and Guard Division.

Now a number of African countries are considering adopting the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, the Institute of Security Studies said Friday.

The text of the draft ICoC convention is under consideration by the U.N. Intergovernmental Working Group established by the Human Rights Council, for eventual submission to U.N. member States.

The ICoC legislation draft is derived from the Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict (Montreux Document), which was adopted Sept. 17, 2008.

The ICoC Web site states the draft document is open for review and comment. Officials said information available includes a note that outlines the aims of the document.

The consultation period is open until March 16. Comments may be submitted online, officials said.

The draft has received surprisingly strong support. In November 2010, 58 private security companies from Britain, the United States, Africa and the Middle East signed the ICoC draft in Geneva. As of Feb. 1, there were 307 private security companies from 51 countries that have signed the ICoC draft code.

"By signing, Signatory Companies publicly affirm their responsibility to respect the human rights of, and fulfill humanitarian responsibilities toward, all those affected by their business activities," a statement on the ICoC Web site.

"Signatory Companies cannot claim to be certified under the ICoC until certification has been granted by the future governance and oversight mechanism as outlined in the ICoC," the document states.

The ICoC also says it creates no legal obligations and no legal liabilities on the signatory companies "beyond those that already exist under national or international law."

What is certain is that as long as Somalia's piracy problem continues, the security companies won't lack for work. Many companies are being hired to protect ships sailing seas off the Somali coast where pirates have been targeting vessels for several years.