The UK government has kept selling arms including sniper rifles, pistols, combat shotguns and assault rifles to an illegitimate regime born out of a military coup in Madagascar, according to an informed source.
The government of Madagascar was toppled in March 2009 after the Malagasy army occupied the president’s palace and ousted the troubled but yet democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana.
The president was forced into exile in South Africa by the army, who then installed a new president - a former DJ and the world’s youngest head of state, Andry Rajoelina.
The army promised to hold elections through a transition government, but several attempts to this end have ended in failure, with the latest attempt scheduled for May 2013.
After the military coup, Madagascar’s membership at the African Union was suspended and the EU and many other donor countries also suspended their aid programs to the country.
Since then, the country has been in a state of chaos with smuggling gangs known as the ‘rosewood mafia’, running most of Madagascar’s affairs, yet and despite all of this, the UK government has kept its arms exports licensed to the country in 2012 including assault rifles, combat shotguns, pistols and sniper rifles.
This comes as the army continues to be unaccountable with Amnesty International reporting on extra-judicial killings by Madagascar’s security forces.
Meanwhile, the Small Arms Survey for 2011 has reported that military personnel routinely rent out their weapons to supplement their incomes, and that there is a “complete lack of small arms stockpile management”.
Also, a UN investigation found evidence of widespread collusion between armed forces and smuggling gangs.
“The availability of firearms appears to be rising at an alarming rate”, says the investigation, which heard reports of armed robbery conducted with military weapons, and the presence of private militias on the island.
Nevertheless, Britain has been supplying an illegitimate regime with weapons, and permitting arms exports that might be used in criminal activity.
According to the source, quite recently, at a meeting of the Committees on Arms Export Controls of the House of Commons the issue of arms sales to Madagascar was raised.
When asked if there was a risk that these so-called ‘anti-piracy’ shipments might end up in the wrong hands, Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to reassure the committee that the companies involved would need to store the weapons in proper arsenals, “usually with the country’s national security organisation”.
But, since Madagascar’s forces are known to collude in criminal activity and support the undemocratic regime, this is no reassurance at all.
And, it’s time for Britain to come clean about its arms sales to Madagascar, because there are a whole series of unanswered questions.
However, the UK coalition government defends the policy of flogging weaponry to dictatorships in the Middle East region and South Africa irrespective of all human rights concerns and the countries’ undemocratic regimes.