Memorandum from the Campaign Against Arms
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
is opposed to all military exports, but recognises that, despite
its negative effects on human rights, security and the economy,
the arms trade will not end overnight. As an interim measure,
therefore, CAAT is seeking an export licensing policy with an
emphasis on restraint, especially on exports to governments which
violate human rights or to countries in areas of conflict. This
leads CAAT to focus its campaigning on sales to particular countries,
one of them being Zimbabwe.
2. In March 1980 the UK agreed to provide
£75 million in training and aid to the Zimbabwean army. That
same year, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned down a deal
for Soviet-built hardware that had been brokered by his political
rival, Joshua Nkomo, declaring that he did not want to enter into
the ongoing trade relationship of buying spares and hiring Soviet
instructors that this purchase would necessitate (Guardian
11 June 1980).
3. The following year, British Aerospace
sold eight Hawk jets to Zimbabwe for £20 million, thus cementing
the relationship and effectively bringing Zimbabwe "on side"
in the battle for influence over the developing world. The Zimbabwean
military continued to buy UK planes throughout the 1980s, including
six Hawker Hunters and additional Hawk jets to replace those destroyed
in 1983 by arsonists. This arsenal was augmented in 1985 by the
purchase of seven additional Hawks and 13 Hawker Hunters.
4. In the mid-eighties Zimbabwe received
a large shipment of arms from Poland and other Eastern bloc countries.
It also negotiated with the Soviet Union for the purchase of MiG-29
fighters but, in 1987, turned down the deal. During 1987, the
UK government offered Harrier and Hawk jets to Zimbabwe, possibly
with the express intention, and certainly with the effect, of
heading off the deal with Moscow. Zimbabwe cancelled a further
£400 million in orders for Soviet Union arms in 1992.
5. Following Zimbabwe's intervention in
the Democratic Republic of Congo in August 1998, there was, according
to Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain MP, "a very clear change
of policy" regarding the licensing of equipment for "aggressive
ends" (Quadripartite Committeethe Defence, Foreign
Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry committees17
July 2000). However, there was no formal or informal embargo,
and licences for components for military goods continued to be
granted. The DRC conflict dragged on, and in June 1999 the Presidency
of the European Union issued a Declaration committing Member States
to "rigorous application" of the European Union Code
of Conduct on Arms Exports regarding the region. Again, there
did not appear to be any substantial change in UK arms export
policy (Quadripartite Committee, 17 July 2000).
6. In January 2000 "The Guardian"
broke the news that Prime Minister Tony Blair had pushed through
licences for controversial arms sales to Zimbabwe (Guardian
20 January 2000). Mr Blair determined, against public opinion
and the recommendation of his own Foreign Secretary that BAE Systems
could sell spare parts for Hawk fighter jets to the Zimbabwean
government. On 24 February 2000 the Government duly announced
that seven licence applications for Hawk spares would be granted.
7. It was well known that Hawk fighter jets
had been, and could again be, used for bombing raids in the DRC
conflict. Regardless of the presence or lack of an arms embargo
on Zimbabwe, the licensing of Hawk spares blatantly contravened
both UK and EU Guidelines. Tony Blair argued that the UK had commercial
obligations to fulfil a contract originating before the Labour
government came to power. However, these obligations could have
been overridden by a ministerial licensing decision (Quadripartite
Committee, 17 July 2000). Business interests appeared to be the
determining factor for Government policy.
8. On 3 May 2000 then Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook MP announced that the UK government would "refuse
all new licence applications for exports of arms and military
equipment to Zimbabwe" and that this would "include
all licences for spare parts in connection with previous contracts".
(Hansard 3 May 2000, col 150). He also reported that the Secretary
of State for International Development had suspended the department's
support for Land Rovers for the Zimbabwean police, halting the
supply of the remaining 450 vehicles.
9. Nine days later Mr Cook announced that
all extant licences would be revoked (Hansard 12 May 2000 col
493). Of the seven Hawk spares licences granted in February, most
of the goods of one licence and approximately 20 per cent of another
had been exported. The other five were returned unused (Quadripartite
Committee 17 July 2000).
10. Important questions need to be asked
about what changed between January and May 2000 that caused contractual
obligations, which had been so compelling before, to vanish into
thin air. Certainly, civil unrest during early 2000 escalated
to the point that even members of the elite began to be affected
by it, notably white landowners whose farms were illegally squatted
by Mugabe's supporters. Presumably this, or the media storm associated
with it, provided the motivation for an embargo that civilian
lives in the DRC could not.
11. The nine-member British Military Advisory
and Training Team, which provided peacekeeping instruction to
South African Development Community countries, was pulled out
of Zimbabwe in March 2001 as a signal of the UK's disapproval
of the expulsion of two journalists.
12. An arms embargo was amongst the sanctions
brought in by the EU on 18 February 2002 following the expulsion
from Zimbabwe of the head of the EU observer team for the Zimbabwe
13. CAAT was pleased at the introduction
of these embargoes, albeit they were imposed very late in the
day. As well as the direct effect of stopping military equipment
being sent to a country, an announced embargo also sends an important
message that the actions of the Zimbabwean government and military
14. The following analysis provides reasons
why the UK and the European Union should continue their embargoes.
Destabilisation of Central and Southern Africa
15. Zimbabwe is currently involved in an
illegal war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a war in
which the presence of foreign troops has been condemned by the
UN Security Council and Secretary General. The DRC government
of Joseph Kabila is being kept in power by Zimbabwean and Angolan
troops (BBC News, 26 April 2002). This goes against the 1999 Lusaka
accords, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, that call for the withdrawal
of all foreign troops from the DRC.
16. As a result, the Consolidated EU and
National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, issued in 2000, should
prohibit arms exports to Zimbabwe. Criterion Four states that
export licences will not be issued if they affect "The Preservation
of regional peace, security and stability".
17. Zimbabwe's participation in the war
in the DRC clearly makes it a country ineligible to receive arms
from the UK or other EU member states.
18. In addition to issues concerning the
present stage of the DRC conflict, Zimbabwe has also been accused
by the United Nations of illegally exporting landmines and of
supplying arms to former DRC President Laurent Kabila's forces
while he was in opposition, though the government denies this
(Jane's World Armies, May 1998).
Lack of Respect for Human Rights
19. The Consolidated Criteria also state
that the UK government will take into account "The respect
for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final
destination". Internal human rights abuses, well documented
by many agencies, mean Zimbabwe should be ineligible for arms
exports from the UK or other EU countries.
The High Cost to the Zimbabwean Economy of Present
20. The Consolidated Criterion Eight states
that the UK government will take into account "The compatibility
of arms exports with the technical and economic capacity of the
recipient country, taking into account the desirability that states
should achieve their legitimate needs of security and defence
with the least diversion for armaments of human and economic resources."
21. Military spending by Zimbabwe was 6.1
per cent of GDP in 2000above the average for Sub-Saharan
Africa (4 per cent) and far above the IMF recommended maximum
of 2 per cent (The Military Balance 2001-02), International Institute
for Strategic Studies). It is a ridiculously high figure for a
country facing no external threat. The country is in the midst
of its worst recession since independence with huge food and unemployment
problems and inflation of well over 100 per cent (Financial
Times, 1 May 2002). The basic essentials for life, most needed
by the poor of Zimbabwe, are under severe pressure, regardless
of a war no one can afford to fight.
22. As Zimbabwe clearly fails to meet the
Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the
UK government should retain an embargo covering all goods needing
a licence under Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods
(Control) Order 1994.
23. There is no reason why a sequence of
events similar to that in Zimbabwe should not happen again when
consideration is being given to the granting of licences for the
export of UK arms. Next time it might pass unnoticed. The Quadripartite
Committee suggested that, but for a leak, the issue might not
have become known until the end of 2001, nearly two years later.
To address this lack of transparency it proposed that a system
of prior scrutiny of arms export licences, operated by the Quadripartite
Committee, should be "put in place forthwith". CAAT
believes this is the very minimum that needs to happen with regard
to prior scrutiny. It would prefer full parliamentary and public
disclosure in advance.
Campaign Against Arms Trade