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Promoting Democracy and Selling Weapons: The hypocrisy of western countries in Africa

March 10, 2011

By Fiorenzo Conte

If you are the government of a western country you are probably a democracy and as a consequence you will encourage, at least officially, the primacy of democracy around the world – i.e. you will be what is called a liberal interventionist. So if you witness a society rebelling against an authoritarian regime you will probably be forced to publicly laud their efforts. However, you also must support the economic interests of your firms abroad. After all, you are the government of your country and you are accountable to your citizens before the citizens of other countries. Never mind if the firms you are trying to support sell weapons and these same weapons are bought by the dictators to crush the very same revolt against them, which you lauded. National interests or better the interests of some firms comes first; the interests of people around the world can wait. An article by Reuters about an arms deal in Chad illustrates the priority for the US government when it comes to making a choice between democracy in the world and national economic interests.

“When Lockheed Martin wanted to sell C-130 military transport planes to the government of Chad in early 2007, the U.S. embassy in N’Djamena was ready to lend a hand.

Never mind that, by the embassy’s own reckoning, the Chadian government probably could not afford the planes, was dishonest about their purpose and planned to use the aircraft to crush a pro-democracy rebellion.

“Our conclusion is that, like it or not, our interests line up in favor of allowing the sale in some form to go forward,” the then-ambassador wrote to the State Department.”

This case and more recently Cameron’s visit in Egypt to promote the sale of weapons ( see here the comment of  Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, which inspired this post ) are two example which lay bare the contradiction and hypocrisy of western countries: they claim to promote democracy and at the very same time they provide the weapon that serves to stifle any pro-democracy revolt.


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