Saracen has offered to train the beleaguered government troops and battle pirates and Islamist insurgents in Somalia, which has been steeped in civil war for two decades. But after the recent disclosure of an African Union report that said Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder, provided seed money for the Saracen contract and was “at the top of the management chain,” many of Somalia’s biggest financial supporters, including the United States, have questioned the wisdom of the deal. Somali officials, in turn, have cooled to the idea of working with Saracen.
“At this point, our collective thinking is that this is not a good thing,” said the minister of information, Abdulkareem Jama.
“We don’t want to have anything to do with Blackwater,” he said, mentioning accusations that Blackwater employees had killed civilians in Iraq. “We need help, but we don’t want mercenaries.”
Mr. Jama’s word will not be the last concerning Saracen, whose clandestine operations have incited controversy in Somalia’s Parliament. Several representatives have accused the government of striking secret deals that could open Somalia to private security companies and worsen the nation’s instability. Other Somali officials were said to be debating, on Sunday night, how to handle Saracen.
Mr. Jama is considered one of the government’s most powerful ministers — he was the president’s chief of staff until recently — and he sits on the four-member committee that is entrusted with reviewing the Saracen contract. He said a final report would be given to Parliament this week. “Our recommendation is not to go forward with this,” he said. “This all has a bad taste.”