Sourcing and tracing the movement of arms and munitions is difficult but crucial detail-oriented business. In a paper published last week by the Belgium-based International Peace Information Service, Brain Johnson-Thomas and Peter Danssaert argue in favor of ratifying the international Arms Trade Treaty, which would consolidate existing international law against arms trafficking and make it easier to prosecute people and organizations that funnel arms across borders. The paper highlights a series of illuminating case studies on Zimbabwean arms transfers from the past 18 months. The authors argue that these cases could be better combated if the treaty were ratified. The paper is short and to the point, its evidence is well-documented, and it makes a compelling argument in favor of an Arms Trade Treaty that would “require States to strictly regulate arms brokering, transport, and finance,” thus better enabling countries to combat the traffic in small arms.
The paper considers three case studies of arms movement in and out of Zimbabwe, including last April’s “ship of shame affair,” a deal brokered to allow weapons to flow from China to Zimbabwe. A second case study focuses on the movement of weapons and weapon parts from Zimbabwe to Montenegro and the United States this winter.
Danssaert and Johnson-Thomas also provide concrete evidence that entities within the Democratic Republic of the Congo provided Zimbabwe with several ammunitions shipments amounting to at least 53 tons during an eight-day period in 2008. The paper cites the most recent U.N. Group of Experts report, which called Congolese stockpile management “nonexistent” and noted, “The Government does not know how many of its arms are stored at which depots and with which units.” The case provides yet another stark reminder of the practical result of the Congolese government’s inability to control its army: a sizeable influx of weapons to a Zimbabwean regime willing to take drastic measures to maintain power and exploit its country’s resources for its own good.