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The distribution of Iranian ammunition in Africa


Conflict Armament Research Ltd


January, 2013

This report is the result of six years of collaborative investigations and documents the distribution of Iranian ammunition in Africa. It is the first comprehensive study of Iran’s weapons ‘footprint’ in Africa and its findings are significant, not least because until very recently most international observers would have described Iran’s role in this market as negligible to non-existent.

The report focuses primarily on small-calibre ammunition, which is an often neglected—but operationally critical—component of the African arms trade. It also provides clear evidence of Iran’s role in supplying a range of other ordnance to the continent, including mines, explosive light weapons, and larger conventional arms and
ammunition. The report presents findings from extensive field-based investigations conducted in nine African states between 2006 and 2012. These are states that have experienced protracted armed conflict, such as the Darfur region of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. Others, such as Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, have recently experienced destabilising political turbulence or civil war. States such as Kenya, Niger and Uganda have either experienced prolonged
inter-communal violence or find themselves sandwiched between conflict regions where
weapons proliferate unchecked.

In all cases, the report documents Iranian ammunition either in the hands of state forces or in service with non-state factions, including rebel forces, foreign-backed militias, Islamist armed groups and warring civilian communities. The report’s findings are significant from the perspective of regional security and provide important indications that the African arms market is changing in composition. They include the

  • Conflict Armament Research has compiled 14 separate cases of Iranian ammunition in Africa. These cases are distributed in nine countries: Côte d’Ivoire, the DRC, Guinea, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
  • Of the 14 cases, investigations documented only four instances of Iranian ammunition found in government service. The remaining ten cases involve Iranian ammunition circulating in African illicit markets.
  • Conflict Armament Research also documented a growing number of Iranian-manufactured weapons in Africa during the same investigations, ranging from rocket launchers and mortars to anti-personnel mines and larger-calibre ordnance, such as 107 mm rockets.
  • Iran manufactured a majority of the ammunition documented in this report within the last decade, with most production concentrated in 2002–03. There is little evidence to suggest significant supply before this period.
  • Iranian ammunition is in service with a range of entities, including government forces (Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Sudan); warring civilian communities (Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda); and rebel, insurgent and militia groups (Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the DRC, South Sudan and Niger).
  • African governments appear to be the main vectors in the supply of Iranian ammunition (and weapons) to illicit markets in Africa—whether as a result of loss, the" or deliberate policies of arming civilians and insurgent forces.
  • The report highlights only one case (2010) in which there is clear evidence of direct, illicit supply by Iran to the continent. This contravenes the UN sanctions regime on Iran, which prohibits the export of Iranian weapons (e!ective since 2007).
  • Transfers of Iranian ammunition also contravened UN sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire and plausibly violated UN embargoes on the DRC and Darfur. There is no evidence to suggest the direct involvement of Iran in these violations.

The report concludes that Iran is a recent supplier of ammunition to Africa. Despite this, its ammunition ‘footprint’ in the continent is widespread. The 14 cases presented in this report are evidence of this alone and indicate that ammunition circulates in
conflict-affected regions stretching from East to West Africa.

The only case to suggest sustained, large-scale supply of Iranian materiel to African governments is that of Sudan. These transfers include a range of military weapons, ammunition and related equipment. There also appears to be increasing cooperation between Khartoum and Tehran in the defence sector, including in the field of weapons production. In three other cases Iranian ammunition found in service with African
government forces appears to be the result of ‘opportunistic’ supply—delivery during a short period of time, with no evidence of subsequent transfers (although these findings remain subject to revision).

The report notes that African arms markets are evolving, with new suppliers and new supply vectors—both legal and illicit. However, the international community is currently hampered in its responses to illicit weapons proliferation, primarily because it lacks the monitoring capacity to understand illicit transfers fully and, on this basis, to develop appropriate counter-proliferation strategies. The report calls for international
donors to invest greater resources in field-based investigations.

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