15th July 2000: Africa Day of Action on Debt
In this Jubilee Year, with the G8 leaders meeting in Okinawa for a summit from 21-23 July 2000, Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network, a member of the Jubilee 2000 coalition, is highlighting the fact that twenty per cent of Africa’s debt is attributed to arms procurement.
Conflict provides a lucrative market for arms dealers and in order to purchase arms poor countries cut expenditure in health and education and must borrow exchange from international creditors. As such a vicious cycle of debt, underdevelopment and conflict is created. This has contributed to the high incidence of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). In fact 31 of the total 41 HIPCs are located on the African continent and 23 of the 41 HIPC countries are experiencing, or have recently experienced, conflict.
Stuart Ullathorne of CAAT’s Christian Network responding to the Chancellor’s latest debt relief announcement on African countries in conflict said:
It is all very for the Chancellor to propose the cancellation of debt as an incentive to end conflicts, but he does so without any mention of the role that the international arms trade has in fuelling conflict. The West and indeed the UK is a major supplier of arms to developmentally needy countries, diverting essential resources, thereby often steering countries towards war.
The Chancellor also cites Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso as countries to target with his
initiative. The UK is supplying small arms and ammunition to the Sierra Leone government – a fragile network of different factions and militias, which continue to use child soldiers. Meanwhile arms reach the rebel forces courtesy of Western businessmen using third countries, Liberia and Burkina Faso. This is a stark example of the government failing to do any joined-up thinking: together with the cancellation of the debt burden on these countries, the government must tackle the issue of brokerage. If it fails to do this, it will be helping to ferment a situation which will flare up again and again as the West continues to flood Africa with arms.
In May this year, the Bishop of Lebombo, Denis Singulane, visited Britain with a delegation from Angola and Mozambique. At a meeting organised by Partnership for World Mission he explained the problems of living in a region of conflict and how the situation was gravely aggravated by arms imports. He referred to a
swords into ploughshares scheme that he had launched recently, where people brought weapons and bullets for conversion into useful items.
Contact Rachel Harford at CAAT on 020 7281 0297
There will be Jubilee 2000 campaign actions across Africa.
Contact Tarela Diffa at Jubilee 2000 for details on +44-(0)-20 7739 1000 x250