Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Campaign Against Arms Trade

  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.

Recent Developments

  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 Committee—the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry committees—17 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 elections.


  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 are unacceptable.

  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 Military Spending

  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 2000—above 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

May 2002

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