The recent acquisition of Chinese-made anti-riot gear by the Ugandan police ahead of a presidential election this week has re-ignited discuss over China supporting authoritarian regimes in Africa.
This came only two weeks to the Ugandan vote where President Museveni is facing tough competition from the opposition, who want to end his 30-year hold on power.
Civil society groups described the move by the government as suspicious, adding that it is aimed at intimidating the opposition and their supporters.
Human Rights Network-Uganda, a local rights group has reported cases of opposition politicians going missing and several arrested but not taken to court.
The gear that included riot-control vehicles fitted with water canons, CS/VP3s armored personnel carriers and cement mixers was from Poly Technologies, a leading Chinese arms manufacturing company, which also supplied similar equipment before the 2011 presidential polls in Uganda.
Anti-riot machinery made in China were used to suppress the protests after the 2011 election in Uganda. At least 33 Ugandans were killed amid reports by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that China sells arms to authoritarian governments.
Many of the law enforcement and crowd control police equipment from China that includes, electric shock guns and spiked metal batons has been described by Amnesty International as cruel inhumane and torture weapons whose use has to be stopped.
According to Amnesty International 2013 Report, State of World’s Human Rights, Chinese arms manufacturers have played big roles in fuelling armed conflicts and support of authoritarian regimes across Africa.
Chinese Foreign affairs ministry denied the claims made by the international rights group.
“But I would like to remind you that the organization in question has always had a strong bias against China. So I think it’s questionable whether the report is real,” China’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Hua Chunying, told CNN.
In 2014, Amnesty International slammed China after about 1,000 tons of small arms were discovered headed to South Sudan despite an arms embargo that had been placed on the Africa’s newest country by the United Nations.
Pieter Wezemann, a researcher at SIPRI from Sweden, told DW that China is a key exporter of arms to African governments.
Unlike the arms trade with Western powers like the US, EU and Canada, Chinese military deals do not come with conditions such as respect for human rights and democracy.
Wezemann said China was not the only country involved in such practices, but also other some Eastern Europe countries such as Russia and Ukraine.
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