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Oxfam slams Britain for selling military equipment to Uganda

Oxfam has criticised Britain for a legal loophole that allowed the sale of military equipment to Uganda, which were used to quell opposition demonstrations.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 13:21 IST

British charity Oxfam has criticised Britain for a legal loophole that allowed the sale of military equipment to Uganda, which were used to violently quell opposition demonstrations.

Oxfam said that a South African-based subsidiary company of British defence and aerospace giant BAE Systems had supplied armoured vehicles to the east African nation despite political concerns which made London suspend some aid last year.

The Oxford-based group said that under the current British export control legislation, arms manufacturers that cannot sell directly to a foreign country can nevertheless do so legally by using offshore subsidiaries.

"Loopholes in British arms laws have allowed the sale of military equipment to the Uganda government," Oxfam said in a report.

"The lack of international controls on the arms trade is making a mockery of national arms laws," said Phil Bloomer, Oxfam's policy director.

"This report shows that loopholes are allowing subsidiaries of British companies to make weapons sales that British based companies would not have had authorized," he added.

Bloomer said that the proceeds accrued from sales by subsidiary companies, even if not directly sold by Britain, were beneficial to the parent companies.

According to the Oxfam report, Lands Systems OMC -- the South African subsidiary -- has sold Uganda at least 32 armoured vehicles since 2002, with the latest delivery of 12 vehicles brought in shortly before the February 23 elections won by incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.

The vehicles were used to quell demostrations in Kampala in November following the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye after returning from exile in South Africa, the report said, adding that they were also used by the army to patrol an opposition rally in which at least two people were killed and several injured.

Security officials also used the vehicles to disperse opposition supporters four days before before polling day, which also resulted in injuries, two of them serious.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 13:21 IST