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Kvaerner-company in South Africa: Negotiating on $30 mill. arms contract with Sierra Leone

Several African countries is on the list of trade partners of Kvaerner's subsidiary Techno Arms in South Africa. The partly owned company became linked to Kvaerner after the take-over of Trafalgar House in April 1996, and the signal at this time was that Kvaerner wanted to sell out the arms manufacturer and sales office in South Africa. On the list of last year's activities is a visit to Sierra Leone, where the company negotiated on a $30. mill. contract. They still keep in touch with powerful people in that country. A little less than two years after Kvaerner bought Trafalgar, NorWatch met with Ratomir Andrejevic, the executive director of Techno Arms, and he is very optimistic.

- Together with Kvaerner we have a great potential here on the African continent. The knowledge of arms is the supreme within the art of engineering, he says.

Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.

Several African countries is on the list of trade partners of Kvaerner's subsidiary Techno Arms in South Africa. The partly owned company became linked to Kvaerner after the take-over of Trafalgar House in April 1996, and the signal at this time was that Kvaerner wanted to sell out the arms manufacturer and sales office in South Africa. On the list of last year's activities is a visit to Sierra Leone, where the company negotiated on a $30. mill. contract. They still keep in touch with powerful people in that country. A little less than two years after Kvaerner bought Trafalgar, NorWatch met with Ratomir Andrejevic, the executive director of Techno Arms, and he is very optimistic.

- Together with Kvaerner we have a great potential here on the African continent. The knowledge of arms is the supreme within the art of engineering, he says.


By Tarjei Leer-Salvesen
Norwatch

In 1988 Ratomir Andrejevic established the company Techno Arms in South Africa. He had patented a new type of pump action shotgun and he also was widely experienced as a gunsmith. Two years later he allied with Cementation Africa, a company where British Trafalgar was the largest shareholder. The British had money and contacts, Andrejevic had broad knowledge on weapons.

The range of business grew and soon included the manufacturing of four different pump action shotguns and also sub-machine guns with built-in silencers. In early 1996 most of the manufacturing staff of about forty people were retrenched. The few remaining were transferred to Cementation Engineering, a fully owned subsidiary of Cementation Africa. Since then, the company has specialised within arms trade, and have also maintained contact with previous customers and supplied spare parts for their weapons. There is still about 38.000 guns left to be sold from the Techno Arms' warehouse.

The customers of Techno Arms are many and varying. Andrejevic explains that the company has deliveries to the South African police, but also to private people. They also export arms to police and armed forces abroad.

- We sell shotguns, pistols and revolvers to private customers. We have a range of types from Korea, Argentina, the US, Germany and Yugoslavia, he explains.

- So you do trade with Yugoslavia?

- Oh yes, I'm from there myself, he smiles.

Sierra Leone
They have sold their own and imported products to customers in South Africa over several years. And they have exported arms. Asked which countries Techno Arms is trading with, Andrejevic replies:

- Let us start with the most democratic ones: The US, Switzerland, Germany, and recently Russia. Then there is a few others that I am not sure if our new Norwegian owners are quite happy if I mention.

As he continues talking, some of the other countries he mention is including Malaysia, Thailand, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Also the United Arab Emirates is mentioned.

- Sierra Leone, we had a large contract going there in 1997. I believe it was a thirty million dollar contract. I went there, and I brought a range of guns for demonstration means. I lost that contract, and there was one of these sudden changes of government that Africa experiences from time to time. The guns are still there, I couldn't take them with me. But I have kept in touch with powerful people in their army, and I hope to make a deal anyway, he says optimistically.

The sudden change of government he refers to, is described in a 1997 Amnesty International report as a brutal military coup. Low ranking officers of the national army overthrew the elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on the 25th of May last year, and the president then flew the country. This happened a little more than one year after the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary United front (RUF). The officers that overthrew President Kabbah formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which is at present led by Major Paul Koroma. more than one hundred people is said to have died as a cause of the violence that broke out on the days of he coup.

Amnesty describes the situation that has followed the coup as very bad. Political opponents to the regime are arrested and detained. Nigerian nationals have been deliberately targeted for harassment, ill-treatment, arrest and detention by AFRC. There has been reports on the usage of torture both by soldiers and RUF forces. Amnesty also says violence, including murders and rape, broke out in Freetown following the coup.

"The knowledge of arms is the supreme within the art of engineering."
Ratomir Andrejevic, executive director Techno Arms

Strict regulations
- We can not sell all our guns just to anybody or countries under UN Embargo, there are strict regulations where which regulate export and import of weapons. Take these short barrelled shotguns, for instance. We sell some models to private people. But the ones you can attach a bayonet or a grenade on, we sell only to the police or for export. Also sub-machine guns are regulated for private use here in South Africa, but pistols and revolvers we sell a lot of, he says proudly and poses with his private arsenal, a gold bladed Italian Beretta and an Usi.

- I am both an arms trader and a policeman, Andrejevic continues. He shows his badge and explains:

- For us authorised gun dealers it is very important to assist our country and other countries from illegal arm dealers to prevent illegal arms from export and import.

"We (Techno Arms and Kvaerner) can do wonderful things together."
Ratomir Andrejevic, executive director Techno Arms

Kvaerner
Asked how he feels about Kvaerner, he says optimism is the best word to describe how he feels. He has explained the new owners that the activity must be maintained, or shut down for ever. If it is not properly maintained, they will loose their valuable customer-contact. The customers will need refill of arms, repairs and spare parts. He holds up a letter from Kvaerner Eureka with "Kvaerner Defence Division" written on it, where Kvaerner shows their interest for Techno Arms and their products, and Andrejevic says he has great plans on how to increase the activities again.

In a letter NorWatch sent Kvaerner's PRO, Marit Ytreeide, the following question was raised: «Does Kvaerner aim towards operating within the intention of Norwegian arms trade policy? The company refuses to answer.

Asked whether Kvaerner has made any ethical consideration on arms trade with countries such as Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yugoslavia and the other countries at Techno Arms' list, the company again fails to answer.

In stead of answering, Ytreeide writes:

"Kvaerner's ambition is to become one of the world's leading companies within engineering- and construction services. As a part of the international development of the company, Kvaerner bought the publicly noted British company Trafalgar House. This company, in turn, held a 49,9% share in the Engineering company Cementation Africa, which partly owns (70%) Techno Arms. This should show that the activities of Techno Arms is a small part of our company and of little importance. It does definitely not belong to the core activities that will be continued.

Concerning sale of operations, one must not forget that Kvaerner at present is selling many operation to pay its debt. In this situation one has concentrated on larger units. Sales of subsidiaries in partly owned companies will, as one surely will understand, come at a later stage."

Let it be clear that the sale of Techno Arms has been «just around the corner» for nearly two years, and that Andrejevic just recently has been equipped with new cards with the Kvaerner logo printed on it. This is how he describes he relationship with Kvaerner:

- We (Techno Arms and Kvaerner) can do wonderful things together. Our companies suit one another well. I cannot think of a better partner than them, he says, and does not believe Kvaerner will sell him out.

See also Embarrassed by Techno Arms.

Kvaerner in South Africa
When Kvaerner bought Trafalgar House in April 1996, they took over the 49,9% share in Cementation Africa, a large engineering and construction group in South Africa. Cementation Africa has a share of 70% in Techno Arms, where the only other shareholder is the executive director himself, Ratomir Andrejevic. Techno Arms is the largest of only two private companies in South Africa with a license to manufacture guns. The three largest shareholders of Kvaerner is Bergesen, Folketrygdfondet and Orkla.

Norwatch Newsletter 3/98

- Annonse -