African States Turn Back Chinese Weapons Bound for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s African neighbors have generally been feckless in their past relations with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. But facilitating the transport of a shipload of Chinese weapons likely to be used by the Mugabe regime in a bloody crackdown aimed at holding onto power after being voted out of office is apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Chinese ship An Yue Jiang has already been turned away from South Africa and Mozambique. The United States is also involved in the effort:

U.S. intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, and American diplomats have been instructed to press authorities in at least four nations — South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola — not to allow it to dock, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss delicate diplomatic talks.The ship, which is laden with large amounts of weapons and ammunition, already has been turned away from South Africa and Mozambique, and is now believed to be headed for Angola, possibly with a refueling stop in Namibia. The freighter left South Africa after a judge on Friday barred the arms from transiting South Africa and it was not immediately clear if U.S. lobbying had influenced authorities in Mozambique who stopped it from docking over the weekend.

Zambia’s president is lobbying other African nations, according to the Reuters. But a South African union apparently started the ball rolling last week, refusing to unload the cargo.

Now a German bank has an impound order for the cargo in an attempt to recover unpaid debts from Zimbabwe, thought the bank apparently didn’t know the ship contained weapons. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman says its all just “normal military trade” and has nothing to do with what’s happening in Zimbabwe at the moment.

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