In a new report entitled the Military Balance published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, China is now supplying 2/3rds of African nations with weapons, illustrating a major push by Beijing to grow their influence in the region.
The country still accounted for only 5.9 per cent of global arms exports from 2011-2015, well behind the United States and Russia, by far the world’s two largest arms exporters.
Mr Dempsey, on the IISS report, said: “China has exported to Africa for decades. It’s not a phenomenon per se… but we’re seeing more advanced equipment being exported by China, maybe because they can’t get it elsewhere… armed UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicles] to Nigeria for example…more types that affordable from elsewhere.”
Mr Dempsey added, however, that is hard to verify the quantity of sales as often the countries are not very transparent or no values are attached to them.
The IISS report claims that China is capitalising on the void left in the post-Cold war era – by replacing obsolete Soviet systems from the inventories of the Warsaw Pact states. “Although the level of technology may not be wholly indicative of the full capabilities of China’s defence industry – nor be equivalent to Western capabilities – these exports reflect the threat levels and robust operating environments of the continent,” the report adds.
What is most concerning are the nations that have become the major buyers of Chinese weapons. They include:
- Cape Verde
- Equatorial Guinea
What’s so concerning about the list of nations that China is supplying is the brutal dictatorships that rule over the people and have a long history of committing horrible atrocities against their people, including genocide.
For example, Equatorial Guinea’s president Obiang Mbasogo was declared by state media to be “the country’s god” with “all power over men and things. That means he “can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell.”
This has lead to kidnappings, unlawful killings, torture, and even accusations of cannibalism. All this is made even worse by the oil boom which has lead him to acquire a fortune in excess of $600 million.
In Angola, things are just as bad. Here is what Forbes said while including José Eduardo dos Santos as one of their 5 worst African dictators:
But for all its resource wealth, the vast majority of Angolans still live in the most horrid socio-economic conditions. 68% of the country’s total population lives below the poverty line of $1.7 a day, while 28% live on less than 30 cents. Education is free, but it’s practically worthless. Most of the schools are housed in dilapidated structures and there is a severe deficit of skilled and qualified teachers. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund, 30% of the country’s children are malnourished. The average life expectancy is about 41 years while child and maternal deaths are extremely high. Unemployment levels are very high. But José Eduardo dos Santos is unaffected. Rather than transforming Angola’s economic boom into social relief for its people, he has channeled his energies towards intimidating the local media and diverting state funds into his personal and family accounts. Dos Santos’s family controls a huge chunk of Angola’s economy. His daughter, Isabel Dos Santos has amassed one of the Angola’s largest personal fortunes by using proceeds from her father’s alleged corruption to acquire substantial stakes in companies like Zon Multimedia, a Portuguese media conglomerate and in Portuguese banks Banco Espírito Santo and Banco Português de Investiment among others.
The list goes on and on. The Independent closed with this:
Amnesty International’s Arms Control Researcher Patrick Wilcken said to The Independent: “There’s been a long history of irresponsible arms supplies to African countries which have then ended up being used to commit dreadful atrocities.
“Chinese-manufactured weapons and ammunition have spread across the continent through illicit trade, and have been found in the hands of armed groups and government forces in places like South Sudan, Darfur and the Central African Republic.
“China – or any other arms exporter – must not send weapons where there’s a risk that they will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations.”
Should the U.S. step in to stop some of these deals to stop future atrocities? Share your thoughts in the comments below!