Report. Cameroon is a country in armed conflict between the French-speaking central government and a breakaway English-speaking region in the southwest. The Italian Constitution should have prevented the weapons sale.

Italy sold millions of weapons to Cameroon. Was it legal?

Every year the Italian Senate publishes a small report on the authorizations to export arms to foreign countries approved under law n.185 of 1990 (“Government Report to Parliament on Italian Arms Exports”). The document is somewhat cryptic and full of gaps because it indicates only the figures and not what type of weapons were sold. However, some information can be drawn from it.

What is particularly striking are the 35 million sales allocated to Cameroon in 2017 (in previous years it was zero): a single authorization for automatic weapons, torpedoes, bombs, rockets, missiles and electronic equipment. In Cameroon, a military escalation is pitting the central government against separatist groups in the southwest English-speaking region, renamed Ambazonia in october. The rebel leaders are all in prison. However, there have been violent attacks, with dozens of deaths (34 on May 26 alone) and thousands of displaced people and refugees seeking shelter in neighboring Nigeria.

According to the latest report on the country published by Amnesty International, on June 11 the Cameroonian armed forces were responsible for “arbitrary arrests, torture, illegal killings and destruction of property.” All falsehoods according to the minister and government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary, who asked the national and international community to ignore the disinformation attempt. For its part, Amnesty said its conclusions were based on in-depth interviews with more than 150 victims and eyewitnesses of the violence perpetrated in the English-speaking regions in recent months. The report documents the violence of both the army and the separatists and argues that the government’s crackdown has gradually turned into an armed conflict, leaving the population crushed between two opposing forces.

Under Italian law, these conditions bar any kind of military export. Therefore, one has to question the verification conducted by parliament. Indeed, the law indicates that “the export and transit of armaments materials are prohibited when they are in conflict with the Constitution (…) when they are directed towards countries in a state of armed conflict (…) towards countries whose governments are responsible for serious violations of international conventions on human rights.”

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