European Arms Fueling Central African Republic War, Study Finds

Guns and ammunition made in Europe, Iran and China are being smuggled into the Central African Republic, fueling conflict that’s witnessed some of the world’s worst human-rights abuses, according to a report by Conflict Armament Research.

Mainly Muslim Seleka forces in the country are using small arms and ammunition from Belgium, the Czech Republic and the U.K., the Brussels-based research group said today. The rebels have also used German military trucks matching those previously exported from the Netherlands to Sudan in 2012, it said.

“European-manufactured shotgun ammunition appears to have been trafficked into CAR from neighboring countries,” Director of Operations Jonah Leff said in in an e-mailed response to questions. “Our findings so far in the Central African Republic shed new light on regional mechanisms of the diversion and re-transfer of weapons.”

Central African Republic has been gripped by violence since a coup by Seleka rebels in March 2013. The takeover was marked by the widespread killing of civilians and other crimes, according to Human Rights Watch. The country is divided between the mostly Christian anti-balaka militia in the west and Seleka rebels controlling the east, while the national army no longer exists, according to the United Nations. The armed groups agreed a cease-fire in July.

The illicit trade of diamonds, gold and ivory funded both sides of the conflict in the Central African Republic, Enough Project, a Washington-based non-profit group focused on ending human rights abuses, reported in May last year. UN troops and a French force of about 2,000 soldiers have so far failed to restore peace.

Anti-balaka militias and armed civilians use 12-gauge shotgun rounds manufactured in Spain, Italy and Cameroon, according to the Conflict Armament Research report.

“Iranian and Chinese-manufactured ammunition supplied to Sudan appears to have been repackaged in Sudan and re-exported in potential violation of Sudan’s end-user agreements with the government of China,” Leff said.

The report also found Chinese-manufactured grenades, originally intended for Nepal, are widely held by Seleka and anti-balaka forces and are common among armed civilians.

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