A new report on arms transfers shows that countries in Africa purchased
only a fraction of the conventional weapons sold worldwide between 2004
and 2008. But the report notes that even small volumes of arms can
have a destabilizing impact on many conflict-ridden countries on the
The report released by the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, known also as SIPRI, indicates
the vast majority of African countries are minor recipients of
conventional arms when compared to countries such as China and India.
as a whole accounted for just seven percent of the world total, with
the lion's share of the arms imported by Algeria and South Africa.
Arms transfers to sub-Saharan countries, excluding South Africa,
accounted for only two percent.
But a significant portion of
those arms, including combat aircraft, armored vehicles and multiple
rocket launchers, was delivered to the government of Sudan in
Khartoum. The Sudanese government has been fighting a six-year civil
war with rebels in western Darfur and is in a shaky political alliance
with former rebels in the south.
Sudan also has tense
relations with neighboring Chad, which in recent years has repeatedly
accused Khartoum of backing anti-government rebel groups.
Africa researcher, Pieter Wezeman, says although Sudan imported
significantly less arms than Algeria and South Africa between 2004 and
2008, he believes any arms transfer to Khartoum escalates the risk of
"They (arms) are not
enormous quantities. But size does not really matter because they
import weapons to actually use them, for example in Darfur, and, of
course, there is a risk that they may play a role in tensions between
Khartoum and South Sudan," Wezeman said. And there might even be a risk that these
weapons may play a role in tensions between Sudan and Chad."
says rising hostilities between Sudan and
Chad may be linked to new data about arms transfers to Chad. He says the central
African country imported five times more conventional weapons between
2004 and 2008 than the previous four years.
the past few years, the government of Chad has gotten considerable
revenues from oil exports, and it seems as if they used some of those
to buy weapons considerably more than they did before," Wezeman said.
Kenya is also mentioned in the SIPRI report as a major
arms-importing country in sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2007 and 2008,
it took delivery of 110 Russian-built T-72 tanks and 11 BM-21 multiple
A consignment of 33 tanks and
other heavy weapons seized by Somali pirates last September raised
troubling questions about the final destination of the arms. Kenya
insists the weapons are for its military. But western military and
intelligence sources have speculated that Kenya may be helping South
Sudan build up its forces before an expected referendum on independence
Wezeman says the end-user of the arms shipped to Kenya is still unknown.
is no hard evidence that those weapons were intended for the government
of South Sudan nor have they been spotted there. But the suspicions
remain. And if they are for the government of South Sudan, then that
is a worrisome development that could be considered destabilizing."
and southern rebels signed a peace deal in 2005, ending one of Africa's
longest and bloodiest conflicts. But the possibility that Sudan's
oil-rich south may secede after the referendum has stoked what
observers say is a major arms build-up in Sudan.