LUANDA, ANGOLA—Operators of Keliba Temporary Services of Angola announced Monday that they have been swamped with unemployed citizens seeking temporary mercenary work.
"It's a madhouse," said Imaculada Bimbi, manager of Keliba Temps. "When we open up in the morning, there is a line of camouflage-clad men waiting at the door."
When the rebel UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola] and the Angolan government signed a cease-fire in 2002, they ended the civil war that plagued the southwest African nation for more than 25 years, but left several hundred thousand mercenaries jobless. Around 75 percent of these soldiers-for-hire eventually turned to temping.
"Some call us five or six times a day," Bimbi said. "Others sit in the waiting room cleaning their rifles and flipping through back issues of Angola Today, just waiting for jobs to come."
Bimbi said that, because Keliba Temps maintains a waiting list and keeps applicants on file for six months, there's no reason for the men to spend the day in the office.
"If the UNITA insurgents were able to locate mercenaries on the planalto, then we should be capable of finding them in their homes," Bimbi said. "But they sit here and drink pot after pot of complimentary coffee, litter banana peels and dried fish tails on the floors, and wash their bandannas in the bathroom sink."
Bimbi explained the mercenaries' reluctance to relocate to regions with more favorable employment climates.
"Many have lived in Angola all their lives, and do not want to go all the way to the Congo or Sierra Leone to find work," Bimbi said. "Now, Angola will always have a need for qualified, experienced mercenaries, and the work they do is very valuable. But we simply have too many workers and not enough jobs."
Last month, Keliba Temps was forced to hire several extra staff members to handle the influx of mercenaries. Although Bimbi considered hiring a mercenary for the front-desk position, none of the applicants had the proper qualifications.
"Working the front desk requires communication skills, a professional appearance, patience, and the ability to type," Bimbi said. "I can't tell you how many keyboards have been split apart with machetes during our standard typing test."
Bimbi said early attempts to place mercenaries among the non-mercenary workforce ended in disaster.
"My first week here, I sent a mercenary to work on the assembly line in a PVC factory," Bimbi said. "I later learned that the mercenary had, in his former job, blown up the line supervisor's vegetable stand and kidnapped his teenage daughter."
Bimbi now attempts to do more thorough background checks.
"But it's hard," Bimbi said. "Most of our clients' references turn out to be dead."
According to Bimbi, the agency has even had problems after successfully placing a mercenary within his field.
"We always have to chase them down for their paperwork," Bimbi said. "They demand payment, but they won't hand in their time sheets. They're very good at hunting stray dogs and roasting them outside the office in that garbage can, but not so good at reporting their hours."
Keliba Temporary Services is not alone. Many Angolan temp agencies have reported problems with too many unemployed mercenaries and not enough requests for beheadings, ambushes, and torchings.
"A few months ago, we had an employer who had five mercenary openings on a team that he was sending into Namibia to overtake a rice convoy," said Jonas Lukamba, manager of the Manpower Professional Servicing branch in Menongue. "But since then, there has been nothing. We held a weekend workshop to train a group of kidnappers, torturers, and renegade pilots on Excel, but the seminar ended in bloodshed."
The mercenary field is so flooded, Lukamba said, that he regularly receives phone calls from employment agencies across the country asking if his branch has openings for mercenaries.
"These calls are very irritating," Lukamba said. "Every time the phone rings, 15 heavily armed men leap to their feet and rush the counter."
"Perhaps one day soon, a corrupt warlord will rise to power in Angola and need men to hack apart villagers and urinate on the remains," Lukamba added. "Until then, all I can do is try to get these men working as telephone solicitors."