Bob Denard - The Dogs of War

9 posts

Niccolo and Donkey
The Dogs of War

Toronto Sun

Eric Margolis

October 10, 1995

PARIS - Twelve days ago, the man most feared by African dictators staged what was probably his last, great adventure.

Under cover of darkness, the legendary 66-year old Frenchman, 'Col.' Bob Denard, and 12 white mercenaries, waded ashore outside of Moroni, the seedy capitol of the Comoros, a downmarket group of islands off the coast of southern Africa in the Mozambique Channel.

Denard and his men, joined by local Comoran soldiers, quickly seized Moroni, put the unpopular dictator, President Said Djohar, under arrest, and proclaimed a new government. African states howled in outrage. The man known as 'The Frightful One,' the 'White Devil,' had returned.

The colourful, swashbuckling Denard has always been one of my favorite characters. He is the last of the famous white mercenaries who fought in a hundred little wars during the era of decolonization from 1948 - 1980.

I remember Co. Bob from the Congo days, during the 1960's, and his equally colourful pal, 'Mad Mike' Hoare. Col. Bob, Mad Mike and a handful of white mercenaries routed the entire Congolese Army. They saved hundreds of whites from being tortured, burned alive, or eaten by gangs of savage, paint-daubed, drug-crazed 'Simbas' of Pierre Mullelle and Antoine Gizenga. In Katanga, they humiliated a UN army sent to drive 'President' Moise Tschombe, a stooge of Belgium mining interests, from power.

Col Bob went on to fight in the bloody Biafran war of succession against Nigeria. He battled communists in Angola, with my old friend, Gen. Jonas Savimbi. Denard soldiered in Rhodesia against black guerrillas; he fought in Yemen's civil war; and with the mujihadin in Afghanistan. Frederick Forsyth was later to model the hero of his novel about mercenaries 'The Dogs of War,' on Denard.

In 1978 a young lunatic named Ali Saleh seized power in the Comoros, an obscure, former French colony of no importance. Saleh subjected its 500,000 black, mainly Muslim inhabitants to a reign of terror. He put teenage thugs in charge of every organ of government. A 15-year old headed the police. Gangs of armed teenagers drank, raped and looted.

Comoran businessmen hired Denard to get rid of the madman Saleh, setting up a war chest of some $6 million. Denard recruited old comrades from the Congo, bought an old rustbucket freighter, and stocked up on arms. He eluded agents of France's domestic security agency, the DST, and the foreign spy agency, SDECE, who had caught wind of the plot.

After a long voyage around Africa, Denard and his men landed from rubber boats late at night outside Moroni. PresidentŠ Saleh was lounging in his palace's bedroom, with three, naked, barely pubescent girls, popping bennies, smoking hashish, and watching a porno-flick - when Col. Bob kicked down his bedroom door. A short burst from Denard's submachine gun finished off the teenage tyrant.

Next morning, Denard draped Saleh's riddled body over the fender of a jeep and drove slowly through Moroni, as crowds cheered and acclaimed him as their saviour and king.

Col. Bob appointed a figurehead president and then ably ruled the Comoros for the next 11 years. Not since the white Rajas of Sarawak last century had a European adventurer seized a kingdom for himself.

Comorans loved him, Black African dictators did not. They lived in terror of Denard. After threats by black African states to stop buying arms from France, France finally sent troops to the Comoros in 1989, and overthrew Denard.

Denard returned to France, where he was briefly imprisoned. In 1993, he was charged with plotting a coup against the brutal marxist dictator of the West African nation of Benin. Since then, however, Col. Bob insisted he was in permanent retirement and interested only in raising vegetables in his garden. That is, until last week, when he and his men, some as old as he, stormed ashore in the Comoros.

Once again, black Africa howled in with outrage. A white could not be allowed to rule in Africa, particularly not one so popular. But French PM, Alain Juppe, announced his nation would not use military force to oust Denard. Black African nations evidently felt they lacked the military capability to confront Denard and his 12 white mercenaries.

So the Organization of African States again threatened France with an arms boycott. On Wednesday, President Chirac overruled his humiliated prime minister and sent 600 French commandos to the Comoros. After some fighting, the French troops freed the jailed president and seized Moroni. Col. Bob, decked out in combat gear and ammo clips, limping from his old war wound, surrendered to French troops. The old dog of war had been cornered.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Col. Bob escapes. French security forces have a nasty habit of shooting troublemakers. Hopefully, Denard will be back in his garden after a short stint in jail. This caper was very likely his last. At 66, after a thousand close calls, it's time to hand up the submachine gun, store the grenades, and drink a last bottle of red wine with the boys. The day of the white mercenary is almost past.

Yet even so, no black tyrant in Africa will sleep soundly in his palace until Denard is dead. For who knows, Col Bob and his senior citizen mercenaries might be somewhere out there in the sultry African night.
Niccolo and Donkey
Bob Dylan Roof

Are there any books by or about Denard? He sounds like the last white man.

In English? No. The only one I could find is called Last of the Pirates: Search for Bob Denard which mostly seems to be an investigation of wether he killed Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah (probably). Before this, Denard had placed Abdullah in power and set up a little fiefdom for himself. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Said Mustapha Mahdjoub and took many wives. He also controlled the presidential guard and owned hotels and much of the land on the island. In this respect, Denard reminds me of Dutch privateers who worked for the Ottoman Empire and set up the anarcho-mercantilist Republic of Salé .

Xavier Renou and Pierre Lunel seem to be the best authorities on Denard but none of their books have been published in english.


For a good book on a similar subject matter I recommend Stuart Christie's Stefano Delle Chiaie: Portrait of the Black Terrorist . Christie is a British anarchist who obviously finds Delle Chiaie repugnant but this book is a straight forward account of his actions. Delle Chiaie was an Italian neofascist who took part in Italy's "Years of Lead" as well as Operation Condor in South America.
Niccolo and Donkey

Maybe we can pull material together here on Denard?
Translated interview with Xavier Renou on Denard . Please excuse some of the poorer translations, I tried to clean up what I could.

Renou comes off like a typical leftist hyperventilating at the scope of Denard's "crimes" and seems to brush off the fact that the socialist Mitterand supported Denard as well. The fact of the matter is that a large portion of the French non-Marxist Left was quite nationalistic and supported French colonialism. Even the French Communist Party, one of the most staunchly Stalinist in Europe, opposed the independence of Algeria. To this day France still retains more of her colonial outposts than Britain.


What were the motives of Robert Denard? The money? The power? The ideology?

They are all three at once. At the beginning, [he[ seeks a life of adventure. Expelled from the French army after a brawl in a bar, he became first policeman in Morocco, then a mercenary in Katanga in 1961. If it is a notorious anti-Communist whose commitment to the extreme right is known, is not provided an ideologue. He will work under presidents of [the] right, but does not interrupt [his] collaboration with the French State when François Mitterrand was elected.

As [he] age, it is more money that motivates. In the Comoros, [he] creates a small empire [which] consists of agricultural land, hotels and a presidential guard which he sells the services of mercenary activities on the continent.

Robert Denard led operations for his personal account or secretly for the French State?

The two. He acted consistently with the green light or orange of the French political authorities. But in doing so, he sought first to enrich. It is the principle of the privateers who were always the same master. Robert Denard has always served the political of the France, the 'Franch Africa'... At no time, he is in is emancipated.

When he took control of the Comoros, was done with the backing of Paris, because it allowed France to circumvent the embargo in South Africa and sellproducts to a country which practised apartheid.

One could characterize Robert Denard as a "romantic" figure. Would you?

[He] was an adventurer but I find it moderately romantic. He went to Africa [to] defend neocolonialism, mining companies. He committed murder and acts of torture...It is first a dirty policy instrument. It is not for nothing that Africans called him and others, the

In the 1980s, [he] [w]as folkloriséd. We did go to someone old, outdated. We invited him in talk shows on TV that he tells his memoirs. It was as if this was not so serious and past. However, it was more serious and more current than told us.

What place takes Robert Denard in the history of mercenarism in the 20thecentury?

He made the transition between two eras, between a mercenary, ad hoc and disorganized and a much more sophisticated mercenarism, with private military companies.
In the 1960-1970s, former colonial powers are endeavouring to confiscate the independence of African countries by organizing a few poorly strung mercenary operations in order to maintain the operation of the riches of the subsoil. In the 1980s, but especially at the end of the cold war, there is a trivialization of the use of mercenaries as an instrument of foreign policy. There where in the late 1960s, a few nickel-plated feet could make the difference, there are now much more substantial means, with sophisticated arms.

The small arm mercenaries that Robert Denard [used] in Comoros in the 1980s is an embryo of private mercenaries company, as we know them today.

Did Robert Denard [answer] for all his crimes?

Never. He was sentenced to very lenient sentences, [which] he has not [served]. His trials were staged. What the French authorities have had to punish? Do pretend to condemn [him] was good enough. Bob Denard is an agent who has always acted on behalf of the French State. And today, he is left with his secrets.

And a much more positive obituary from The Telegraph .

Niccolo and Donkey
Bronze Age Pervert

I disagree with one sentence: " The day of the white mercenary is almost past." is almost just beginning. In the general weakening of state power, there will be no one to stop men like Denard from taking over all these rickety turd world places. It will only be a matter of time before some American or South Afreakan veteran sees what can be taken, and takes it...