23 December 2014
Since the 1970s, Ethiopia has been in the company of North Korea’s most loyal military customers. Amongst other things, Pyongyang has been a source of munitions, armored personnel carriers, tanks and tank parts, artillery and rocket fuel. In addition to these forms of assistance, North Korea has helped Ethiopia construct, operate and upgrade two weapons factory complexes—today known as the Gafat Armament Industry and Homicho Ammunition Industry.
From Ethiopia’s perspective, contracting to North Korea for the initial supply of weapons production technology was a means of reducing long-term dependence on foreign military suppliers. (More comically, according to the Ethiopian Chief of Defence Staff, North Korea’s help in this regard also allows Ethiopia to meet its peacekeeping obligations). Yet in practice, the effects of Ethiopia’s investment have been mixed. On the one hand, it has indeed learned to build certain varieties of small arms and munitions domestically, and now even exports its wares to countries like Sudan. On the other hand, it does not seem to have been able to easily or entirely eschew North Korean assistance, and may still depend upon their goods and services.
Securing North Korean help to establish and operate arms factories in the late 1980s was neither politically poisonous, nor outright illegal, in the way that it is today. It was first with UN Security Council Resolution 1874 (2009) that a clear prohibition against purchasing “all arms and related materiel, as well as…technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms or materiel” from North Korea was articulated. For this reason, the UN Panel of Experts (established pursuant to Resolution 1874) has taken interest in signs of recent, continuing involvement of DPRK entities in the operations of the Homicho Ammunition Industry. And it is for the same reason that further investigation is needed into potential North Korean links with the second small arms plant in Ethiopia—the Gafat Armament Industry—about which new information dating to the period shortly before the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, has come to light …..