Archbishop Desmond Tutu comments on the “Ship of Shame” that was carrying Chinese arms for Zimbabwe. It seems to be headed back to China after offloading “construction materials” in Luanda, but it might be headed for Congo-Brazzaville. Others speculate that a ship-to-ship transfer is still possible. So far the biggest loser is China, whose reputation in Africa for doing business without bothering about human rights is now becoming a liability.
IN the present scandal of the attempt to ship tonnes of arms and ammunition to Zimbabwe, it is the Chinese who have spoken the most sense. Chinas foreign ministry said the countrys shipment of mortar shells, rockets and bullets was perfectly normal trade.
It certainly is. Shipping arms to African governments who could use them to abuse their own people is an abhorrent but almost daily occurrence. And at present there is nothing the international community can do about it because there are no effective global controls on the arms trade.
If you want to export weapons to a country that commits gross abuses of human rights, then you can. If you want to sell expensive kit to governments struggling to feed or educate their people, its really no problem. You might have to use a few tricks to get around the flimsy patchwork of controls that presently exist but its easy and its done all the time.
The case of the An Yue Jiang and its cargo is different because it happened at a politically fraught time, for both Zimbabwe and China, and because the whole world has heard about it.
Archbishop Tutu calls for the UN to do something constructive about international arms trade. I hope they get off their collective asses, too.