Weapons in the Central African Republic

First the UN and now the EU have banned exporting weapons to the Central African Republic.

So I thought I’d take a quick look at where the weapons are coming from. This is going to come in two parts. First I’ll cover what is in official documentation. Then I’ll go back and take a peek at journalistic and NGO reports, which in this case turn out to contain far more useful information.

Step one is trade database Comtrade. According to that, Spain has consistently send small quantities of guns and ammunition in, month by month. A bit further back we see Slovakia, with a $1.5m shipment in May 2011. France, the former colonial power which still considers itself peacemaker in the region, has chipped in smaller chunks.

These are just total amounts sold, in fairly broad categories. To see some detail of specific transfers we can turn to
Then you can look at the UN Register of Conventional Arms. This shows international sales of weapons systems, as reported to the UN. It only contains heavy weaponry — in the self-description, “seven categories of arms, which are deemed the most lethal ones“. There’s also a smattering of information on small arms, which gets submitted even though it isn’t quite required.

The official database is less useful than the version by SIPRI, which combines it with other data sources.

Here we can see a separate transfer from Slovakia in 2008 for 3 armored vehicles. There are a couple of helicopters from Ukraine in 2011, and a plane from the USA back in 2006.

It’s slim pickings, though. Even for a small country (CAR’s population is about 4.5 million), this is clearly not enough to supply a war. The weapons come from elsewhere: old stocks, imports from neighboring countries, or transfers kept off the books.

In a day or two I’ll come back and take a look through the less official sources of information, and see what arms transfer routes we can infer.

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