Emerging at the end of the 20th century amid significant global controversy, private military firms (PMFs) represent a new facet of armed conflict. Although PMFs are relatively new, the concept of for-hire soldiers is certainly not unique; mercenaries have existed since ancient times. As a modern manifestation of the mercenary organization, the public has been extremely critical of these organizations because of their lack of accountability and the ambiguous legality of their work. Recently, the media has been particularly critical of PMFs operating in Iraq and have focused on their immunity from prosecution. The uproar surrounding the recent Blackwater shootings exemplifies the ongoing controversy.

The public’s underlying unease with PMFs is that they wield a power reserved exclusively for the nation-state—the monopoly of force. The surrender of this monopoly has not been through democratic referendums or because of public demands, it has been relinquished by executive branches intent on consolidating power to improve their comparative advantage in military affairs. Despite the controversy, PMFs are now a permanent feature of global military operations. Their influence will only increase because private sector firms are now able to provide and deploy military and security services much more rapidly—and at a significantly reduced cost—than their public sector counterparts.

There are a number of different ways to categorize PMFs. Some academics distinguish between private security contractors and private military firms, but the difference is slight. Deborah Avant, in her book The Market for Force, classifies these organizations by the types of contracts they sign, rather than the organizational structure of the firms themselves. P. W. Singer, in his “tip of the spear” typology, classifies PMFs by the services they provide: militarysupport firms are responsible for supplementary aspects of battle (anything from catering services to helicopter maintenance); military consultants provide advice and training; and military providers supply command-and-control structures, military hardware, and war fighters. This paper will focus on firms, henceforth called PMFs, operating in the third category: the provision of military force.

Since the creation of the first modern PMF in 1989 such organizations have played roles in scores of conflicts. Executive Outcomes (EO) was founded by apartheid-era South African military officers and, while now defunct, once operated throughout the African continent. In Africa alone, there have been countless operations conducted by firms throughout Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Somalia, Liberia, Nigeria, and a host of other nations. Today PMFs are employed globally, although they are particularly prominent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, there is one conflict zone in which the lack of PMFs is conspicuous: Darfur. The Darfur conflict is an ongoing humanitarian disaster that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, ruined millions more, and, without quick and decisive action, will likely worsen. Negotiations in Libya, which began in October 2007, have been all but abandoned because of Khartoum’s intransigence and the absence of most rebel groups. Naturally, a peace deal is still far off and powerful states—including the United States and China—are hesitant to become immersed in what is becoming a regional conflict. In the meantime, millions of internally and externally displaced people are vulnerable to attack by the Sudanese government, armed militias, and rebel groups.

A durable peace agreement, upheld by both the rebels and Khartoum and validated by the UN Security Council, is the ideal situation and provides the best chance of ensuring the safety of the millions of noncombatants currently at risk. Even if such a deal were possible, it is a long way off and many would surely die in the meantime. A non-consensual intervention by an international military force is still an option, but such action threatens to undermine any negotiation effort, and could make a sustainable peace even more remote.

This paper examines how a PMF can help alleviate the humanitarian disaster currently taking place in Darfur. Evidence suggests that a PMF could provide significant assistance. Not only can a PMF transcend the obstacles that usually hamper international forces (lack of properly trained soldiers, inadequate equipment, slow deployment), but an operation in Darfur would give the industry a much desired opportunity to engage openly in peacekeeping operations and attain both respectability and legitimacy.

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section will examine the current conditions in Darfur within a global political context and outline the assistance needed in the region. The second part will focus on the different capabilities of military providers and determine if those capabilities match the needs in Darfur. The third section provides recommendations for a PMF in Darfur and its potential impact on the current martial and political context. A military solution may not be ideal, but Darfur is a tragedy that will worsen without innovation beyond current political practices.

Darfur and Political Context

The current conflict in Darfur is the result of regional rifts within Sudan dating back to the British administration of the country. A product of colonialism, the nation of Sudan has, since its inception, experienced a cleavage between its Arab population, based in the north around Khartoum, and its African populations in the south and west. The actual differences between these two populations are often exaggerated and have been exploited by the British and successive regimes in Khartoum. The Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and the Africans in the south recently signed a peace agreement ending a bloody civil war and providing regional autonomy for the southerners. Darfuri dissidents, who have chafed under Khartoum’s rule, were emboldened by the success of the southerners and began to wage their own campaign against the Sudanese government. In 2003, civilians in Darfur became targets of attacks by militias sponsored by Khartoum and in many cases by Khartoum’s own military forces. Darfuri rebel groups formed, most notably the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), and the bloody conflict that has transpired is threatening to engulf the entire region. Currently, there are approximately 200,000 to 400,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced.

Noted academic Alex de Waal calls the conflict in Darfur a counterinsurgency gone wrong. Khartoum’s strategy was to eliminate support for the rebels (moral, political, material) by eliminating the support base itself, which meant the systematic killing of civilians. Khartoum armed and empowered the local Arab militias to conduct the slaughter. They became known as the Janjaweed, and operated at first on horse and camel-back. This allowed the Sudanese government to describe the conflict as strictly tribal, one over which they could exert little influence. In fact, the government was the architect. Despite the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) signed in 2003, the attacks continued.

The DPA, currently the only agreement in place, is inadequate in many ways, not least because only one faction of one rebel group signed it, the Minni Minawi camp of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA). The current agreement is so flawed that its implementation is actually hurting Darfur’s chances for peace by instituting measures and structures that do not have the support of Darfuri stakeholders and active rebel groups. It allows Khartoum to maintain control over Darfur and gives it enough political cover to continue its support of the Janjaweed militias.

The United Nations and the African Union

In 2005, world leaders determined that the international community must respond when governments fail—or are unwilling—to protect their population from genocide, starvation, or any danger on a mass scale. This idea, known as the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) , has numerous adherents both inside and outside the UN, but very few practitioners. Theoretically, the conflict in Darfur offers the perfect proving ground for R2P action since Khartoum has clearly demonstrated its unwillingness to protect its Darfuri citizens. Security Council Resolution 1706, passed under Chapter VII in August 2006, gave a United Nations/African Union (AU) hybrid force the mandate to protect refugees, IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, and humanitarian supply chains with lethal force. The idea is to bolster the existing African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in three phases, culminating with a force 26,000 strong.

The force, which began to deploy in January 2008, is currently composed of only 9,000 soldiers, police, engineers, and support personnel. UNAMID is ineffective and vulnerable when partially mobilized. It lacks the manpower to secure an area the size of France and is without the military hardware, specifically helicopters, to patrol large expanses where rebels and Janjaweed roam. Khartoum’s skillful prevarication, giving its consent and then retracting it before action can be taken, is one major reason for the delay of UNAMID’s full mobilization. The other is that the political will and resources to assemble an effective force do not yet exist. Many countries, including members of the Security Council, have condemned the Sudanese government, but none are willing to intervene without Khartoum’s consent. According to William Durch of the Stimson Center, one of the prerequisites for a successful peacekeeping mission is “the support of the Great Powers and the United States in particular.” Without the unequivocal consent of Khartoum and the clear patronage from a major power, UNAMID has little chance of fully deploying, let alone succeeding.

The United States and China

The United States and China are key actors in Darfur. The United States has yet to make a committed stance regarding the region. One reason is its current involvement in Iraq. The United States cannot justify invading another Islamic nation. Additionally, Sudan is an ally in the “war on terror” that provides vital intelligence through its connections with terrorist networks. U.S. policymakers fear that if they provoke Khartoum, the flow of intelligence will cease.

China is reluctant to get involved because of its considerable investment in Sudan, particularly in the oil sector. China is a driving force behind the country’s booming economy. Oil earnings account for 50 percent of the Sudanese government’s total revenue and China purchases two-thirds of all of Sudan’s oil. During a recent visit to Khartoum by Hu Jintao, the Chinese delegation signed new business deals with the regime, signaling stronger ties between Beijing and Khartoum.

Chad and the Central African Republic

The Darfur conflict has spread into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), seriously exacerbating the crisis. Most of the refugees have fled from Darfur into Chad, yet the Janjaweed have continued to pursue them. The president of Chad, Idriss Déby, is a member of the Zaghawa, whose tribal area spans both Chad and Darfur. While not statistically significant within Chad, the Zaghawa have become influential due to Déby’s patronage. Initially Déby supported Khartoum in Darfur because insurgent groups against his own regime were based there. However, this policy caused widespread unrest in Chad, eventually forcing Déby to take a stance against Khartoum. He now allows Darfuri rebel groups to operate in Chad and financially supports many of them, including the JEM, which is predominantly Zaghawa. Khartoum, in turn, supports antiDéby rebels in the governmentcontrolled areas of Darfur. This collusion was clearly highlighted by the most recent coup attempt in February 2008. This amounts to a proxy war between Chad and Sudan that is spilling over into the CAR, which is burdened by its own insurgency.


Since the DPA was signed on May 5, 2006, direct fighting between the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebels has decreased, although attacks against civilians continue. There has been no progress in disarming the Janjaweed and, in December 2006, 400 humanitarian aid workers were evacuated. . Recently, a small African Union force in Haskanita was attacked by rebels and 10 AMIS soldiers were killed. UNAMID has fared no better. In January 2008, barely a week after the initial deployment, a patrol inside clearly marked UN vehicles was attacked by Sudanese soldiers. No casualties were reported, but if the peacekeeping forces cannot protect themselves, they have no hope of protecting millions of people at risk.

Refugee camps remain extremely vulnerable to both ground attacks by the Janjaweed and air attacks from the regular Sudanese military. In addition, those in the camps have little to no access to food and water. Humanitarian assistance for refugees and IDPs in both Darfur and Chad will be ineffective without security. Janjaweed militias and government forces can strike unsuspecting camps that have no means of defending themselves. International efforts to protect these people are slow and may fail, as they have before. Decisive military action, no matter where the political process stands, is needed before the millions at risk either die from violence or the lack of basic necessities.

PMF Capabilities

When comparing a PMF to a national military or a coalition, PMFs have two significant structural advantages: political and financial. National armies, in general, are large, expensive, slow to deploy, and subject to the political processes of the governments that control them. The armies of developing nations are in many cases underfunded and poorly equipped. These factors become exponentially more complicated when a coalition of different national forces is required. Each country’s military has its own chain of command, procedures, and culture. They do not often mesh well with those of another military. And there are many cases of national armies committing human rights abuses and commiserating with the “enemy”, as occurred during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Singer contrasts this with PMFs:

their effectiveness lies not in their size, but in their comprehensive training, experience, and overall skill at battlefield judgment, all in fundamentally short supply. . . . Utilizing coordinated movement and intelligent application of firepower, their strength is their ability to arrive at the right place at the right moment.

The inability to raise the funds needed to launch a multinational force is often the reason one is not employed. If none of the major powers offer their services, UN peacekeeping missions are often dependent on whatever monies participants can raise, and they usually have to proceed without the necessary budget. There is a peacekeeping fund, but member states often neglect to pay those dues and peacekeepers are forced to pay out of pocket in hopes of being reimbursed later.

The AU is in many ways worse, as some member states do not pay their dues at all. Many AU states cannot afford to provide adequate compensation for members of their respective militaries, let alone send their troops and equipment thousands of miles away for months at a time. The AMIS force was long in disrepair and should have been recalled much earlier if it were not for the current dire circumstances.

PMFs are smaller, faster, and cheaper. The Executive Outcomes operation in Sierra Leone was 4 percent the cost and size of a similar UN operation, and even though they did not leave a sustainable peace, it was by many measures more effective. In Sierra Leone, a group of four private soldiers played a crucial role in an Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) operation. A Nigerian lieutenant colonel said of them: “without these guys, we would have run out of food and ammo and fled the front.” While not a PMF per se, the effectiveness of just four men demonstrates how successful private military services can be.

Building an international coalition is time consuming and requires great political effort. The institutions constructing the international force, in this case the UN and the AU, must negotiate separately with each country on issues of troop strength, deployment, mandate, rules of engagement, duration, and objective. Each country may have different demands and conditions, which will likely be affected by what other countries have agreed to, and deals will be negotiated and renegotiated. Unfortunately, the agreement each country accepts is just that—an agreement. No enforcement mechanism is in place to hold a country to its word. Often there are no official agreements at all, only vague assurances.

On the other hand, there are fewer obstacles when contracting a PMF. Once approved, an agreement is reached between two parties, and a contract is written. A smaller, more effective force can be deployed in a fraction of the time it would take for a large, multinational force to assemble all of its parts in the field. Unlike national forces, PMFs are bound to perform their services as agreed or payment is withheld. Once the ink is dry on the contract, a PMF can get to work immediately.

Consider the case of Rwanda, where 800,000 civilians were killed in less than 100 days. Hampered by financial constraints, political maneuvering, buck-passing, and indifference, the world failed to prevent the genocide even though there was a UN peacekeeping mission on the ground before the genocide even began. In the aftermath, there were still vulnerable populations in UN-administrated refugee camps. Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the UN, said “when we had need of skilled soldiers to separate fighters from refugees in the . . . camps in Goma, I even considered the possibility of engaging a private firm.”

The alternative considered by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was to hire Zairian troops to provide security for the camps. One option was to employ 10,000 troops to protect the camps but the Security Council would not consider it because of the disastrous U.S. mission in Somalia, which was still fresh in the minds of the Council. In the end, the UN deployed 1,500 Zairian troops with a vague mandate to “improve public order.” These soldiers were poorly equipped and underpaid. The UN paid then-president Mobutu who in turn paid the army. The Zairians soon became the source of insecurity to those in the camps and many soldiers extorted money from the refugees. Many of the soldiers had ties to the FAR, the rebel group protect against whom the Zairians were originally commissioned to provide protection.

According to Executive Outcomes internal documents, the PMF could have prevented the genocide. EO claimed that if they had been contracted when reports of the genocide were first surfacing, they could have put troops on the ground within fourteen days. Four weeks later they could have fully deployed 1,500 personnel, with full air and fire support. A six-month operation would have cost $600,000 a day, totaling up to $150 million. Contrast that figure with the UN force which deployed after the genocide had ended and cost $3 million a day. The genocide might have been prevented at the fraction of the eventual cost.

Military Provider Firms

If a PMF were contracted in Darfur, the situation would demand a military provider firm. According to Singer, military provider firms are “defined by their focus on the tactical environment.” Executive Outcomes is the original model. Today, the premier firms are Aegis Defense Services, DynCorp International, Armorgroup, Airscan, Erinys International, and Blackwater. Today’s top firms are all distinguished by their wide range of military services.

Air Defense. A number of firms have experience providing fighter jets, attack helicopters, troop carries, and air defense systems. Sukhoi is a private aircraft holding company that has leased its planes, including supersonic fighter jets, to a number of sovereign governments. Sukhoi’s jets have been used in a number of operations. Ethiopia leased an entire air force, complete with trained pilots, mechanics, and experienced commanders responsible for generating mission plans. Ibis Air International provided aircraft for Sierra Leone’s government in the mid 1990’s. Avient has operated fighter jets and attack helicopters for a number of clients on the African continent. The American PMF Blackwater offers cargo and personnel carriers and DynCorp offers aircraft maintenance and modification services, as well as trained crews. Companies like Vector Aerospace and Evergreen Aviation own a wide range of combat aircraft, including helicopters, and often subcontracted by other military providers for their hardware.

Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence. Military providers do not simply sell hardware and the services of soldiers. There are many firms involved in more specialized tasks, such as collecting intelligence and reconnaissance. Airscan, a PMF based out of Florida, specializes in aerial surveillance and has been contracted by the Colombian and Angolan governments. Currently, they protect U.S. Air Force and NASA launch sites and have been used by private companies to protect their assets abroad. Armorgroup offers surveillance teams and equipment specially trained in counterterrorism, as well as state-of-the-art alarm and security systems. Sukhoi leases unmanned surveillance drones and Blackwater offers remotely piloted dirigibles with sophisticated technology that can record, store, and relay information to operators on the ground in real time. According to their website, Blackwater has contracts for airships with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. DynCorp provided military observers for the U.S. military in Kosovo, which fulfilled the U.S. obligation to the international verification mission.

Security. Many firms either specialize in security or offer it as part of their services. There have been many instances of their employment in field operations by private companies, sovereign governments, non-state actors, and international organizations. It is impossible to know exactly how many private companies rely on PMFs for the security of their operations in hostile environments, but the extent of their activity is global.

Many sovereign governments contract PMFs. DynCorp provides personal security for Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan. The governments of Sierra Leone and the DRC have used many different PMFs to protect their natural resources. The most prominent example of the United States hiring a PMF for security purposes involves Aegis Defense Services, who currently has a $293 million contract with the U.S. government for its services in Iraq. The company has been hired to provide security for the Program Management Office, which both supervises the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq, and monitors all PMF operators within the country. Erinys International has also been hired to protect Iraqi oil installations, and has deployed 14,500 troops to that effort.

Non-government organizations (NGOs) and international aid and relief agencies are hiring PMFs with increasing frequency. The International Red Cross is probably the best example of an NGO relying on PMF services. It has hired security advisors to ensure its humanitarian supplies get to the people in need. While such actions have caused controversy in many circles, and have raised questions of neutrality and impartiality, it seems intuitive that NGOs operating in combat zones should have their resources and personnel guarded.

Even though it has outlawed mercenaries, the UN employs a wide range of PMFs. The UN has relied on the LifeGuard to protect its staff and offices in Sierra Leone during the war and ECOWAS hired two different firms in the same conflict. Both UNICEF and the World Food Program have hired security advisors in the past. Currently seven different UN bodies are using Armorgroup to protect their staff and operations. Defense Services Limited specializes in providing security for international organizations, including the protection of humanitarian aid convoys.

As part of the funding scheme for peacekeeping operations, nations that contribute troops and equipment can profit when they are reimbursed for their services. In effect, these nations’ military forces are being hired just as any PMF would be. According to a recent British House of Commons Green Paper, “a private company which had an interest in continuing business for the UN could be held to much higher standards [than sovereign nations]—and these would include standards on behaviour and human rights as well as efficiency in carrying out agreed tasks.”

With any operation involving a PMF, precautions must be taken to ensure accountability. There have been many reports of human rights violations by PMFs, and human rights groups and sovereign governments would voice their concern about sending such firms to Darfur. With such a public undertaking, regulating the PMFs involved would be possible even with certain difficulties. The PMF industry craves the respectability such an operation would impart, and is it willing to accept the accountability involved. A retired general who works for MPRI, a military consultant firm, says, “we as a company want regulations” as it would boost credibility. The previously cited Green Paper indicates there would be “no difficulty in monitoring the performance and behavior of a PMC employed” by an international organization.

The International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), a trade organization for the industry, has its own detailed Code of Conduct to which its members must adhere, complete with enforcement mechanisms and a Standards Committee. Most of the leading PMFs are members of the IPOA. Internal regulation of the industry is not a longterm solution, but it does indicate a willingness to be held accountable. If a PMF was engaged by a multinational institution to go into Darfur and clear guidelines were provided, it could set a standard for the industry that could eventually bring greater respectability. Additionally, the firms could mount a public relations campaign for the operation that would include embedded reporters and a very public signing procedure; the media would be part of the monitoring process. If a standard of accountability and legitimacy were set for the industry, firms would be forced to comply in order to remain competitive. Utilizing PMFs in Darfur offers not only a solution to the suffering throughout the region, but also paves the road to a regulated private military industry.

The recent controversy over Blackwater’s actions in Iraq may diminish the industry’s hopes of legitimacy. Iraqi public opinion of PMFs was low before the current controversy and now even the government is taking a stand against such organizations. At first glance, it seems unlikely that the United States, the EU, and the UN would even consider risking a similar debacle in as high-profile a situation as Darfur. However, the PMF industry remains committed to regulation and the respectability that comes with it. The PMF industry’s tarnished image might make it easier for a regulatory body to make considerable demands and bring it into peace operations under the terms of the international community.

Engaging a PMF in Darfur

There is a great deal of intense activist and NGO effort being applied to the Darfur situation, focusing primarily on establishing a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Darfuri rebels, in addition to pressuring foreign governments and international institutions to make the Darfur conflict a priority. Unfortunately the UN and many governments are mired in the details of the negotiations of the proposed UN/AU hybrid force. Leading activist John Prendergast warns not to “put the cart before the horse” and says that a peace deal is a prerequisite for a peacekeeping force. That sentiment is valid but a peace agreement is unlikely and perhaps even impossible. There must be a contingency plan to provide security in Darfur.

Leading scholars have considered interventions and the possible role of PMFs. P. W. Singer envisions three roles for private military firms in a peacekeeping/intervention mission: one, as security and defense of humanitarian groups; two, as the “teeth” of the operation and as a “rapid reaction force”; and three, as the entire operation. Paul Williams and Alex Bellamy, in their article “The Responsibility to Protect and the Crisis in Darfur,” picture four scenarios for any peacekeeping mission, not necessarily involving PMFs. The first mission would be to put troops on the ground to protect civilians, refugee and IDP camps, and to set up a no-fly zone. The second would encompass the goals of the first mission plus troops to maintain a ceasefire. The third would combine the first two and add the resettlement of refugees and IDPs, while the fourth would accomplish all of the above plus help in the transition to and implementation of a peace agreement. However, they note that the UN Security Council has “yet to authorize military intervention for humanitarian purposes within the territory of a fullyfunctioning state without the latter’s consent.”

A Plan for PMFs in Darfur

A sustainable peace agreement between Khartoum and the Darfuri rebel groups is extremely unlikely to occur anytime soon. Governments and international institutions must use all of their political resources to facilitate an agreement. In the meantime, millions of people remain at risk from disease, starvation, and death at the hands of the Janjaweed and from the bombs and guns of Sudanese helicopters. Therefore, a private military firm, or a number of firms, should be contracted to do the following:

• Secure and protect refugee and IDP camps from attack;
• Secure and protect civilians in Darfur, and across the border in Chad, who are at risk from attack;
• Set up a nofly zone around the camps and atrisk communities;
• Provide security for humanitarian organizations working in Darfur, including defending supply convoys on land and cargo landings from the air;
• Employ human surveillance specialists and reconnaissance technologies to monitor the movements of rebel groups and militias, and provide intelligence on their location and operations.

The private military industry can provide all of these services. This plan would provide the desperately needed security and basic necessities for millions of people in Darfur and Chad while international efforts continue working on a ceasefire and a peace agreement between the Darfuri rebels and the Sudanese government.


The most pressing question is who would contract this force. There are four options: a government or coalition of governments, the UN, the AU, or a private group of citizens and nonstate institutions. The contraction of PMFs in Darfur by a government or coalition of states would be seen as the equivalent to an invasion. Khartoum would have significant ammunition against this option and there is little political will among governments to become involved, let alone send in a private army. Even though the UN uses PMFs, it does so discreetly. However, if such action were taken decisively, and with the full public support of the P5 (the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France—all permanent members of the Security Council) and many prominent developing nations (South Africa, India, Brazil, etc.) there would conceivably be sufficient consensus to proceed. The plan would be subject to the scrutiny of every member state and would likely be bogged down in procedure and debate, but the UN has the international legitimacy to confer such a precedent.

The AU is an intriguing employer. There are some in the organization who would organize a force of their own, if they had the resources and the manpower. Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, has said, “we would take on additional tasks if we had the resources and the mandate.” But then again, there has been a general call for “African solutions to African problems.” This might be a workable solution, and one that would enable the AU to control and take credit for the safety of the Darfuris and others at risk. PMFs, however, are expensive, and the hiring of PMFs may not be seen as “African solutions” to some.

A private citizen or a group of individuals could, with enough money, hire a PMF themselves. Khartoum would certainly cry foul, but it would be impossible to know how the UN, the United States, and China would react to such a precedent. And the firm(s) contacted may not want to get involved with a contract so loaded with uncertainty both operationally and politically. But the hiring of a PMF or group thereof, by a group of private citizens, some of them internationally known, has the prospect of sparking a debate that is likely to redefine the role of PMFs in future conflicts. Powerful governments and multilateral institutions might decide that it is too risky for PMFs to be contracted by private citizens, and decide to restrict PMFs or ban them outright. But it is these very same entities that use PMFs so frequently. It would be a bold challenge to the UN’s own R2P doctrine if concerned and empowered citizens were willing to apply R2P when the UN itself would not. Even an attempt to hire PMFs might just be the wakeup call that the United States and others need to realize that their constituents demand decisive action in Darfur. The actors/activists George Clooney and Don Cheadle recently offered to meet UNAMID’s needs by donating $20 million of their own money for the purchase of helicopters that the mission so urgently needs. Citizen involvement in peacekeeping efforts has already begun, we may be closer to the private employment of PMFs than we realize. This option, while risky, is the best choice because it has the greatest potential to break the diplomatic and operational stalemate.

Although a negotiated agreement between the government of Sudan and the Darfuri rebels is the only way to achieve sustainable peace in the region, the refugees, IDPs, and other civilians cannot wait while the international community deliberates and the government of Sudan sabotages the process. The fastest, most efficient and most effective way to protect them is to engage a PMF now. The world may not have prevented the death and displacement of millions of Darfuris, but it still has a chance to prevent further tragedy. Although Kofi Annan said, “the world may not be ready for privatized peace,” the world must prepare itself because Darfur cannot wait.

Jayce Newton is a MA candidate in international security poli-tics and conflict resolution at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, and is currently employed with a leading activist campaign concerned with the crisis in Darfur.