South Africa takes fire for arms sales to blacklisted nations
A new report finds that the government of South Africa has made $1.7 billion in arms sales over the past decade to 58 blacklisted countries that do not meet South Africa's own criteria for arms customers, including those with poor human rights records or ongoing internal conflicts.
Johannesburg, South Africa
According to the South African watch group, Ceasefire Campaign, South African arms merchants have sold $1.7 billion worth of weapons in the past decade to “problematic” countries that are either involved in internal conflicts or with poor human rights records. The arms sales would appear to be in violation of South African law, which prohibits the sale of arms to countries that are on United Nations embargo lists, have poor human rights records, or that are involved in conflicts.
“These arms can be used by countries to further deteriorate those human rights, or used in local conflicts, or they can be used in countries that have poor controls over what is going to happen to those arms in the future,” says Rob Thomson, a member of the steering committee for the Johannesburg-based Ceasefire Campaign.
"As a country, we passed this act, and it was seen as part of a new South Africa that would be a responsible player on the international stage with regards to the matter of arms,” says Mr. Thomson. “But now, we seem to have ignored that responsibility.”
South Africa is, of course, just one of many arms merchants in the world. The United States dwarfs all others, selling $15 billion in arms in 2009, and many of the US’s top customers are the same “problematic” countries cited in the Ceasefire Campaign report. But South Africa’s role as an arms dealer conflicts with its aspirations to be a problem solver in Africa, a voice of the developing world, a champion of human rights.
According to the Ceasefire Campaign report, South Africa sold weapons to 58 countries between 2002 and 2009 that failed to meet the criteria of South African law in one way or another, including Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Libya, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. But the lion’s share went to five countries -- India, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia – that either have ongoing internal conflicts, poor human rights records, or poor control over their purchased arms.