Poor stock control of arms stockpiles is a critical vulnerability for African militaries, two new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) aver. The reports, tracking arms flows in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),
Mark Bromley and Paul Holtomin Arms transfers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo: assessing the system of arms transfer notifications 2008–10 warn the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC, Armed Forces of the DRC) is “one of the main sources of arms and military equipment for the FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda)] and other armed groups.”
They caution that while some of the acquisitions by armed groups were the result of thefts and seizures … reports also identify FARDC officers and units involved in the diversion of arms and military equipment to non-governmental groups in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. “The complete lack of stockpile management by the FARDC has been frequently cited as one of the main challenges to preventing illicit arms flows in the DRC. The November 2009 Group of Experts report recommended that all international donors supporting security sector reform (SSR) in the DRC ‘should include stockpile management as a pre-condition for providing assistance to [the] FARDC’. However, while the UN Security Council recommended in December 2009 that the Congolese Government ‘promote stockpile security, accountability and management of arms and ammunition as an urgent priority’, it fell short of recommending this kind of conditionality in donor assistance.”
“In these circumstances, maintaining the system of notification remains an important element of international efforts to prevent a deterioration of the security situation in the DRC. Fully implemented, the notification system would provide a measure of oversight of arms transfers to the DRC and assist the Group of Experts in its efforts to trace illegally held arms and ammunition.”
Pieter Wezeman in his reporton Arms flows and the conflict in Somalia writes the most significant modification to the arms embargo on Somalia was made in February 2007, when states were explicitly permitted to supply arms to Transitional Federal Government (TFG) security forces. “Judging by reports of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, non-state actors in Somalia have acquired arms and ammunition from a variety of sources and by a variety of channels. In general such acquisitions have involved low volumes of ammunition, small arms and light weapons (SALW) and a few heavier, crew-served infantry weapons such as portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
“Some supplies have been provided directly by backers in neighbouring states. In particular, Eritrea is thought to have supplied arms and other assistance to Somali opposition groups. Commercial arms markets in Somalia have flourished openly despite the embargo and are important sources of arms and ammunition for non-state actors and criminal groups. Captured TFG and AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] stockpiles are another source of arms and ammunition for opposition groups, and it has been reported that Ethiopian, TFG and AMISOM personnel have sold materiel to non-state groups
“The Monitoring Group considers commercial imports, mainly from Yemen, to be the most consistent source of arms and ammunition for Somali opposition and criminal groups, although since June 2008 curbs on domestic arms sales in Yemen have apparently reduced the volume of exports to Somalia and driven up prices in Somali markets. Arms purchases by opposition
groups have reportedly been facilitated by financing from Eritrea, private donors and Somali diaspora groups.
“TFG forces are also considered a major source of arms for non-state armed groups in Somalia. In 2008 the UN Monitoring Group estimated that as much as 80 per cent of the arms, ammunition and other materiel supplied to support the TFG had been diverted for private purposes, to the Somali
arms market or to opposition groups. It is alleged that members of the TFG security forces have sold their weapons, Wezeman says.
Wezeman also questions AMISOM’s stock control. “Although the UN Security Council has urged the international community to support AMISOM with arms, several factors must be taken into account regarding arms supplies to the AMISOM troop contributors.” This includes the los and sale of weapons as well as the democratic credentials of Uganda. “One possible approach to avoiding the risks associated with supplying individual troop-contributing countries is to supply arms directly to the AU or to AMISOM. Such an approach has been used by, among others, Canada, which has since 2005 loaned 105 armoured vehicles to a pool of African countries specifically for use by the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) peacekeeping forces in the Darfur region.