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


376 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-679-31197-1
DDC 338.8'8




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton, a former columnist for the Queen’s Journal, is a
Toronto-based freelance editor and writer.


In this book, award-winning journalist Madelaine Drohan explores 10 case
studies involving corporations that employed armed force as part of
their business practices in Africa. Beginning in the 19th century with
Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company, her discussion moves
on to document the behind-the-scenes Machiavellianism of such notorious
offenders as King Léopold II of Belgium, the De Beers Group, Union
Miniиre, the entrepreneur Roland Walter Rowland, Shell Petroleum,
Ranger Oil, the financier Rakesh Saxena, Calgary-based Talisman Energy,
and the army officer Salim Saleh. Drohan analyzes the specific
circumstances of each case that led to the use of force, and notes the
abiding failure of regulatory agencies to prevent abuses of power. She
concludes with an examination of how such abuses might be prevented or
mitigated in the near future.

This is an extraordinary book: well researched, forcefully argued,
urgently relevant. Drohan’s case studies, filled out with exacting
detail and insight gleaned from interviews with key figures, do an
extremely effective job of describing the intimate connections between
mercenaries and big business, past and present, in Africa. Multinational
corporations, as she shows, continue to exert a de facto colonial rule
in many regions, guaranteeing their own ascendancy, and the exploitation
of native peoples, with their manipulation of private armies. Her
diagnosis of the “gaping hole at the international level in the laws
that apply to corporations” is powerful and persuasive, as is her
description of the business community’s dogged resistance to reform.
As Drohan forbiddingly concludes, “If corporations wait too long,
there is a risk that a new Auschwitz or Bhopal will lead to an instant
set of global rules that they had no hand in creating. It is in their
best interest to help update the current set of outdated laws to reflect
today’s realities.”


Drohan, Madelaine., “Making a Killing: How and Why Corporations Use Armed Force to Do Business,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,