Guns for Mugabe

China sends some help

The An Yue Jiang, a ship belonging to China’s state-owned shipping company, has docked in the South African port city of Durban. It is carrying a cargo of “77 tonnes of small arms, including more than 3m rounds of ammunition, AK47 assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades”.

The cargo is bound for Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe is insisting on remaining president despite not winning the election. Violence has already broken out, and could get worse.

The Chinese foreign ministry has ducked for cover. The South African authorities have thrown up their hands saying—quite reasonably—that they can’t legally stop the shipment over land into Zimbabwe. But the South African transport workers union has refused to unload or move the containers.

Now Chinese soldiers have been reportedly been spotted in Zimbabwe (well, they were spotted in New Delhi too this week). It remains to be seen whether the next ship from China will arrive with enough trucks, truck-drivers and porters to deliver the arms shipment to Mr Mugabe.

Now there’s probably nothing illegitimate about selling arms to the Zimbabwean government. Just like there was probably nothing illegitimate in China selling the Rwandan government US$750,000 worth of machetes in 1993. Machetes, of course, didn’t carry out the subsequent genocide. Extremist Hutus did.

4 thoughts on “Guns for Mugabe”

  1. The China connection exists also in the arms that the myriad militias use in Eastern Congo. It’s an indirect connection – the weapons get to Eastern Congo through the proxy wars that other bordering nations bordering Congo are fighting. Here’s an interesting article on it:

    An excerpt:

    “Before arriving in Beijing, I attempted to make arrangements with the two major arms manufacturers, one of which likely would have made the gun I purchased in the Congo. I went through official channels, meeting with diplomats in the foreign ministry government-affiliated think tanks and industry contacts, but to no avail. These companies, Norinco and Poly Group, are notoriously cloistered: Though ostensibly private corporations, they are in fact controlled by high-ranking military and government officials. And though both companies boast such diversified businesses as real estate, film production, engineering and heavy machinery, Norinco and Poly are still China’s largest arms manufacturers. And in China, of course, weapons production is a state secret, not privy to prying eyes of Western journalists.

    So much so, in fact, that friends in Beijing quietly suggested that I purchase multiple SIM cards for my cell phone — lest my translator and contacts be tracked by curious security officials. And so, after a week of dead ends and no specific history of where my Kalashnikov might have been produced or how it ended up in Congo…”

  2. Hari:

    An informative excerpt. It is no use directly contacting the companies themselves because they will not talk to strangers. The only way to do business with them is through a third-party, a murky world of arms dealers, middlemen and hustlers. The arms deals themselves are brokered through dummy companies, offshore banks, and other circuitous routes. Shipments are then made through other countries, ostensibly the customer, but are either re-routed or just smuggled to the “real” customer.

    This gives China the political cover it needs for denial plausibility when confronted with the facts.

  3. The only hope remains that somehow the people fight back to ensure Mugabe doesn’t come back to power again. It’s a been a long road of suffering for them.

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