August 15 2010 at 01:09PM Get IOL on your
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Next » 1 2 The UN may regard South Africa's recent arms exports to strife-torn Somalia as a "technical" violation of its embargo.
This means that South Africa is most likely to be named and shamed in the next report of the UN Security Council's Monitoring Group on Somalia, although no penalties are involved.
The Security Council's 1992 arms embargo against the highly unstable east African state was relaxed in 2007, but military exports to Somalia must still get a prior exemption from the UN's Somalia Sanctions Committee.
Now a senior Security Council official and an arms management expert have confirmed that South Africa has probably violated the embargo for the second time.
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It appears that South Africa made no prior application for an exemption to furnish Somalia with R4.5-million worth of Category A weapons and R162 000 worth of Category D weaponry last year.
Category A weapons are sensitive major implements of war such as fighter aircraft and submarines and Category D consist mainly of de-mining, mine-clearing and detection equipment and riot gear.
Kiho Cha, senior political affairs officer of the Security Council, confirmed this week that no exemption request was made for the export of the weapons. "It sounds like it may have been in technical violation," he said.
It comes amid a stand-off between the National Assembly's defence committee and the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) - which approves arms deals between South Africa and other countries.
MPs want to be assured that the committee is fully capacitated to weigh up the often delicate decisions, but Parliament is still deciding whether the defence committee should have oversight over detailed NCACC quarterly reports.
The DA said last year that South Africa was in danger of signing off on deals with human rights violators - mostly because of a lack of capacity and stringent oversight.
A group of civil society organisations recently revealed that half of South Africa's defence exports in the past decade went to 58 countries that failed to meet at least one of the criteria that the NCACC must apply.
The al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia groups have been in violent conflict with the transitional government for three years.
In a recent reply to a question by DA MP David Maynier, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the items exported to Somalia included three mine-protected vehicles sold to the authorities, another for de-mining services and three more for demonstration purposes.
Radebe gave no information on the Category D conventional weapons exported, which had already been noted in the NCACC's annual report for last year.
Guy Lamb, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said he, too, received an indication from the UN Security Council Subsidiary Organs Branch - which administers arms embargoes - that no clearance for last year's exports had been obtained.