Irish security company has South Sudan in its sights
Published 07/10/2012 | 05:00
After tackling Uganda's reputation for police brutality, Glenevin is looking for new work in Africa, says Tom Lyons
Glenevin, a security and reputation consultancy set up by three former army rangers, is pitching to advise the first president of South Sudan on how to handle the local and international media.
The company led by Joe Ryan has just completed a €5m one-year contract advising the Ugandan government on how to reduce its reputation for police brutality and counteract unwarranted negative comment in the international press.
Mr Ryan told the Sunday Independent that Glenevin now employed 40 people in Africa after less than three years of working there for both African countries and advising international companies, such as Tullow Oil and Diageo, on reducing risk, cost and product loss.
Mr Ryan went to Africa in 2010 after he stepped down as executive chairman of Freightwatch International, a logistics company, having sold his shares as part of a $10m private equity investment in the firm from backers, including the Kroll family.
Mr Ryan, along with his business partners Leo Harris and Jonathan Pim, said Glenevin's job was acting as anti-piracy consultants in the Seychelles, before going to Nigeria to advise international companies on anti-corruption.
"We learned a lot in Nigeria," Mr Ryan said, "It was very difficult. You come to a realisation that not every problem wants a solution. It was very messy in terms of corruption."
The company had better luck picking up commercial contracts in Kenya before it gradually built up its contracts in Uganda, where it had a contract advising Tullow Oil on its massive oil find there.
Mr Ryan got to know the family of President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president since 1986, and he managed to convince him to tackle the poor reputation the country's police had abroad.
"When we started out, 84 per cent of negative media comment on Uganda mentioned the police," Ryan said, "We neutralised that by the end of our contract."
Ryan said he hired about 20 Irish people to train 151 Ugandan police offers in public order management. This helped Uganda's police force to treat people involved in rallies less violently. A media response unit to counter-attack "sensationalised" coverage was also established.
Glenevin's other big challenge, Mr Ryan said, was to counteract the Kony 2012 viral media campaign which linked Uganda to the Lord's Resistance Army leader.
The Irish consultancy advised the Ugandan government on how to get across its message that Kony hadn't been in Uganda for years and that its army was trying to track him down.
In South Sudan, Mr Ryan said Glenevin was trying to win the contract to advise its new president Salva Kiir Mayardit, a general during its long-running war with Northern Sudan.
"There are big issues over oil and territory," Mr Ryan said, "He needs to have national unity by winning the support of the general populace before he can deal properly with those issues. That's where we hope to come in."
Mr Ryan stressed that Glenevin did not act as a "spin-doctor," to military dictators.
"We don't defend everything. When criticism is justified we advise on how to address it but when comment is wrong or biased we help them to rebut it."
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