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English: Chinese arms in the eastern Congo & Rwanda.

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Armes de guerre
Armes de guerre

Chinese Arms in Conflict Zones
China is hardly alone in transferring arms that eventually are used in African conflicts. Arms from many countries, including the United
States have shown up in these conflicts. Although there is no evidence that China has in recent years been transferring arms to
African rebel groups, Beijing has actively sold small arms and light weapons (SALW) to African governments.

Some African governments transfer these weapons to rebel groups that either serve their interests in neighboring countries or they transfer
them to groups within their own country as Sudan did when it supplied weapons to the Janjaweed in Darfur. Some of the Chinese weapons found
in African conflict zones were purchased on the open market by organizations active in African conflict zones.

Between 2000 and 2003, China delivered by value about 13 percent of all arms to Sub-Saharan Africa; this percentage increased to almost 18
percent between 2004 and 2007. Transfers of small arms and light weapons are especially hard to track; statistics are suspect and
probably understate the amounts for all countries. Since 2000, China delivered SALW to at least twenty-seven of Africa’s fifty-three
countries. Three of the largest recipients–Sudan, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire–have experienced significant internal conflict.

China sold a large quantity of weapons to both Ethiopia and Eritrea during their 1998-2000 war. Ethiopia purchased ammunition, light
mortars, AK-47s and vehicles. The ammunition was one-third the cost of its Russian equivalent and just as good. Chinese mortars were
light and easily deployed by two soldiers in rugged terrain making them more appropriate than their American counterparts. Because its
small arms and ammunition are relatively inexpensive, China is becoming the provider of choice for the generic version of the AK-47.

Chinese arms have appeared frequently in the eastern Congo and Rwanda.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Rwandan army, Hutu militias and the opposition Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF) used Chinese weapons, among others. The Rwandan government reportedly purchased them from independent arms dealers.
Those used by the RPF came from Ugandan government stocks. The Hutu militias obtained them from stocks sold initially to the DRC and
Seychelles. Two rebel groups in the DRC also used Chinese weapons.
SIPRI reported that the Mai-Mai organization obtained them from several neighboring countries while Rwanda provided those used by one
faction of the Congolese Rally for Democracy. In one analysis of weapons collected in Ituri District of the DRC, 17 percent were of
Chinese origin. China was Zimbabwe’s primary supplier of arms when it sent troops to the DRC in 1998 in support of Laurent Kabila. The
China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation sold numerous arms to the Taylor regime in Liberia between 2001 and 2003.

China’s most controversial military sales concern Sudan where there have been two major conflicts–the North-South civil war and the crisis
in Darfur. China provided up to 90 percent of the SALW delivered to Sudan between 2004 and 2006. It also delivered more sophisticated
equipment. In terms of all armament deliveries to Sudan, however, China said it is providing only 8 percent of the total. The
government of Sudan reportedly transferred some of these weapons to the Janjaweed militia in contravention of the UN arms embargo. China
also joined other countries in helping Sudan to develop its own weapons manufacturing capacity. Most ammunition used by all parties
in Darfur is manufactured by Sudan or China.

It is important to reiterate, however, that arms from many nations are in use in African conflict zones and by total dollar value China is
not the leading arms merchant to Africa. It may, however, be the largest provider of SALW to Africa.

China’s Involvement in African Conflict Zones
China in Africa
The Jamestown Foundation
The National Press Club – Washington, D.C.
20 May 2009

China’s Involvement in African Conflict Zones
David H. Shinn
Adjunct Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University

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