How much does it cost to overthrow the government of Gambia?

More than 220k, apparently:

The gang allegedly numbered 18-20 people and spent $220,798 on the attack, including $4,000 on two sniper “Barret” .50 calibre rifles that the accountant who compiled their expenses said were “not really necessary, but could be very useful”. Each man had $4,000 to cover costs while they were in Gambia.

But the coup attempt failed and this week, US federal prosecutors charged a Texas businessman with conspiring with a former US Army sergeant and others to orchestrate an attack in Gambia on the last two days of 2014.

There is more here in the FT.  And here is a tidbit of note:

US authorities accuse Cherno Njie, a 57-year-old US citizen of Gambian descent who made a small fortune in the housing industry in Texas, of bankrolling the coup.

The article is interesting throughout, there was at least the ostensible motive of restoring democracy to the country.  I wonder to what extent he viewed this as a philanthropic rather than selfish venture.


One expects the US to attempt to exercise monopoly over conduct of foreign policy but nonetheless does not come out looking too good here in supporting Garmbia's ruler.

...not a problem, since American law does not necessarily apply to people with Federal job titles.

Our Feds are prosecuting that Texas/Gambia guy under "The Neutrality Act" that dates back to 1794. If that law was uniformly enforced... most U.S. presidents, their staffs, and CIA type folks would have been jailed:

[18 U.S. Code § 960 - Expedition against friendly nations]

"Whoever, within the United States, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

For that money, they could have bought a whole swarm of small drones that could carry explosives and/or poison.

You can't just measure it in money.

You have to measure it in time served in jail.

Does anyone know of any good Gambian restaurants?

There was a more expensive coup attempt in another small West African country paid for by Margaret Thatcher's thug son, Sir Mark Thatcher in 2004.

Sir Mark paid for a planeload of mercenaries to land on the island where the capital is located and take it over. The plane was intercepted while fueling in Zimbabwe.

By installing a new government, Sir Mark wanted to gain oil concessions.

What US law did he break?

The Dogs of War is the classic tale of a mercenary coup in Africa. They clearly had better ideas for success than this latest group.

Forsyth based his DOW loosely on actual mercenary coups, which happen every so often in Africa (Thatcher's son got caught up in one not so long ago in Equatorial Guinea I think). Forsyth is also having one of his novels "The Kill List" (about drones, Muslims) made into a movie...

And it's The Gambia, not Gambia.

Forsyth was apparently involved in setting up a coup for the losing Ibo secessionists in the 1967-1970 to take over another African state as a refuge. But it never came off.

That's why the novel "The Dogs of War" consists of roughly 380 pages of meticulous detail on all the preliminaries of staging a coup, and the last 20 pages consist of very thinly drawn bang-bang-boom-boom. His boys never got past p. 380 in real life.

@SS - precisely why I liked DOW. The buildup was awesome.

Forsyth wasn't just imagining what it would be like to hire mercenaries to overthrow an African regime.

I know it is against US law for US individuals to overthrow a foreign government. However, it seems strange to call this law the *Neutrality* Act since the law essentially requires the US government to choose sides in a foreign civil war, namely the side of the incumbent government. As far as I know, there is no equalizing law that requires the US government to sanction any foreign government that attacks or imprisons political dissidents. Obviously, there are many examples of authoritarian governments that the US does not sanction under the reasoning that we cannot indiscriminately intervene in other countries' affairs. Why, then, should we have laws that require us to intervene on behalf of those governments?

Also, why is it constitutional for the Legislature to pass a law that requires the Executive to choose a certain side in every future foreign civil war of this type? I thought that the Executive has most of the power to make foreign policy, with the Senate having only an Advise and Consent role. Shouldn't the Executive branch have the power to decide which side to take, if it takes any side, in a foreign conflict? (The Senate, of course, would retain its power to not consent to any treaties negotiated by the Executive.)

The executive does have this power. What the Neutrality Act does is essentially to define the default position, basically, that we support the status quo. If one does wish to go over and fight in a foreign war, you can apply to the State Dept for permission, and they will selectively grant it, based upon current Administration policies. It is under this regulation (basically you request license to "export" knowledge and training) that groups like Blackwater and the hundreds of other companies can either actively engage in war, or directly support it via logistics, IT support, etc.

Also, while the term has gotten abused in the past year by this administration, the primary method used is simply prosecutorial discretion. On your way back from fighting the Sandinistas? The "State Dept" would like to ask you a few questions, and you're on your way.

For a somewhat related example of a US company supporting a rebel, check out the ProPublic article "Firestone and the Warlord". While it is a little overwrought in its moralizing, it does a decent job of laying out Firestone's legal defense for when it paid "taxes" to a "de facto government" in Liberia. Not quite apples to apples, but as with most law, it demonstrates there is more gray area then most folks assume.

The cost of a more serious coup attempt would be well within the means of many rich, so why don't we see this more often? An independent sovereign country has many advantages, such as tax considerations. Even a very small country would have considerable value for this purpose.

And it wouldn't have to be a coup. If it's a democracy and the population is small enough, you could just buy them off with pure water, health clinics, food subsidies, free Internet, etc. The Republic of Google could be a very nice place to live. People would be fighting to get in.

@MT - because of bait and switch with prices. Google what happened to the husband of economist C. Romer, namely, economist P. Romer, when he tried to set up a free charter city in Honduras...the old Latin American switch-e-roo. Hence I think the real cost of a serious coup attempt to set up a new country is a lot more than $220k as claimed.

David Romer, not Paul Romer, is married to Christina Romer.

A bunch of mercenaries took over an island state off the coast of Africa in the late 1970s or so as their retirement home. But the OAU and the UN didn't recognize it and eventually they had to leave.

Bob Denard and his four coup attempts in the Comoros:

As we found out in Iraq, the cost of taking over a country is much higher than the cost of deposing the current regime.

50cal sniper rifle for just $2k? That sounds like a bargain.

An African immigrant made a fortune as a real-estate developer in Texas? Don't tell Steve Sailer's commenter-votaries. Their heads will explode.

While the coup failed, the fact that such a cheap coup was plausible raises the question as to why there are independent African states.

Given that many African states are richly endowed in natural resources, yet are unable to defend their states, it seems logical that foreign powers should simply take over African countries.

After all, it happened before.

What is preventing it now? It seems that in the wake of the two World Wars colonial rule and annexing territory became morally taboo.

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