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Making a Killing: How and Why Corporations Use Armed Force to Do Business

by Madelaine Drohan

In a story unlikely to endear her to editors of the business pages, journalist Madelaine Drohan tackles the growing corporate use of mercenary armies to protect their business interests. Making a Killing focuses on Africa, an area of the world that rarely registers on the radar screens of world media. As Drohan illustrates, the continent has suffered an unbelievable trail of tears thanks to colonial control, plunder of natural resources, and the application of brute force when the locals protest their exploitation.

Throughout the 20th century corporations seeking to maximize their African profits have brought in private armies that think nothing of mowing down protesters, staging coups, and protecting by force the interests of companies in far-off Portugal, Belgium, and Canada. Drohan presents 10 case studies, from the historic destruction of the Congo for rubber and Cecil Rhodes’ rampages through southern Africa to modern examples including Shell in Nigeria and the Canadian firm Talisman in Sudan.

While the concluding chapter is strong, readers may get weary of Drohan’s case-by-case approach. Transitions linking the individual stories or a cursory global overview of the problem would have helped, as each chapter reads like it was written as a separate magazine piece. The text also tends to get lost in a forest of details, making it difficult for readers to build up a sense of empathy for the victims.

That said, Making a Killing is a good primer for readers concerned about the human cost of the unimpeded flow of oil and diamonds to their first-world markets.