corporate responsibility development politics

Why is Britain selling arms to Madagascar?

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has launched an interactive feature that allows users to browse the data on arms sale from Britain. The information has been available publicly before, but has not been easy to navigate. This presents it very clearly, showing what was sold to whom and when. It’s a valuable tool, especially given our current government’s enthusiasm for promoting our ‘defense and security’ sector.

Every country has a right to defend itself, and it’s not wrong to sell weapons – except that we don’t just sell defensive technologies, and we don’t just sell them to countries that need defending. We have a habit of arming repressive regimes and colluding in their oppression, in the name of British jobs. We were still exporting weapons to Libya until a month before our own forces went into action against Gaddafi’s regime. British-made vehicles were filmed chasing protestors through the streets.

Much of the attention around this has focused on arms sales to the Middle East, and David Cameron’s frankly shameful tour of the region in the company of the UK’s biggest arms companies in the middle of the Arab Spring. But there are other, smaller cases. Browsing the data, this is the one that caught my eye:  last year, British arms companies exported over a million pounds worth of weapons to Madagascar.

The order includes hundreds of combat shotguns, rifles, and ammunition. The combat shotgun is an offensive weapon designed for use at close range or for crowd control.

Now let’s just remind ourselves of who is in power in Madagascar. This is a government that came to power by military coup in 2009. The country was promptly suspended by the African Union, who then took the unprecedented step of imposing sanctions on its self-appointed president, freezing his overseas assets. EU development aid to Madagascar was frozen. The US dropped its preferential trade agreements under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

President Rajoelina, a former DJ and the world’s youngest head of state, promised elections within a year, but it is 2012 and he is still in power. He has repeatedly agreed deals and road-maps to elections and the return of the country’s democratically elected president, currently in exile in South Africa. He has repeatedly broken those agreements.

Is this the kind of regime we should be selling combat shotguns to?

If you agree with me that this is not okay, visit the CAAT site for more information on what you can do about Britain’s arms trade.


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