The London-based charity Oxfam is criticizing loopholes in British law allowing the sale of military equipment to Uganda. Oxfam says a South African subsidiary of British defense giant BAE Systems sold vehicles to Kampala that have been used in putting down protests.
Brendan Cox is the spokesman for Oxfam’s Arms Control program: “What we’re talking about is personnel carriers with armored plates, machine gun hatches, rotating machine guns on the roof, bullet proof windows…These are high specification military vehicles.”
Under current British law, arms manufacturers cannot sell directly to foreign countries – but subsidiaries of British companies can.
Cox says he does not think the BAE subsidiary, Lands Systems OMC of South Africa, has broken any South African laws: “South Africa does indeed have its own national arms controls, but one of the problems is that they are not as strict as they should be. They don’t have the same standards as the UK or the EU over where the weapons are sold. So while the Lands Systems OMC would not have gotten an export license for the vehicles in the UK, they did in South Africa. The problem is this patchwork quilt of different standards and legal frameworks, and…[it] doesn’t make sense that by having a subsidiary based offshore you get around national controls and sell arms to places that your own government would not allow.”
Brendan Cox is the spokesman for Oxfam’s Arms Control Campaign. English to Africa reporter William Eagle asked him for more details on the equipment being sold to Uganda. Oxfam is advocating an international arms trade treaty, an idea Cox says is supported by more than 40 governments. As for Britain, he says the government has criticized Kampala for human rights abuses, and has not sold weapons to Uganda since 1997.