“Iraq is a very strange place,” said Fred Kasenge, as he bent down to tighten the laces of his red and black running shoes. His race number, twenty-one, was scrawled in black marker on the back of his right hand. Kasenge is one of an estimated 6,000 Ugandans contracted as security guards in post-war Iraq.
“I have been in this country for three months and I have never seen a child," he said. "I have not heard the sound of a child crying or laughing. Where are all the children? It was hard for me to leave my family behind.”
Widespread unemployment among Uganda’s 28 million people has attracted the attention of companies in the security industry that are looking for cheap labor with military experience. Kasenge had little choice but to sign a contract with an American private security firm working in Iraq.
Consulting-Security Management Group (SOC-SMG) provided Kasenge with a one-year contract. This Nevada-based security firm will pay Ugandans like Kasenge $700 U.S. dollars per month. This monthly salary is more than 10 times the amount earned by a security guard in Uganda. Recruiting efforts abroad by American private security firms have met some resistance.
In 2007, the Nambian government deported two U.S. citizens employed by SOC-SMG as foreign recruiters. Nambian officials had determined that SOC-SMG had violated local laws prohibiting mercenary activity. However, charges of illegal activity in Nambia have not hurt profits. SOC-SMG clients include the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.