On Tuesday morning, a handful of activists from the collective “Act for Peace” hurled red paint on the window of the Reformist Movement (MR) headquarters in Brussels. They also attached stickers condemning the war in Yemen. Through the action, the activists were protesting against licences for arms export, granted by the Walloon region to Saudi Arabia.
For three years Yemen has been in the grip of a bloody war which has brought a coalition in the country, led by the Saudi kingdom, into conflict with rebel groups. One of the bigger customers for the Walloon armaments industry is Saudi Arabia. A resolution voted in June 2017, by the federal parliament, with MR support, demanded an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, the Minister-President, Willy Borsus, went on to grant export licences to the country.
The collective is, more particularly, protesting against the sales of light weapons by FN Herstal, as well as a CMI Defence Belgium contract with Canada, for the supply of gun turrets for mounting on tanks. The argument put forward by the collective is that these tanks are then sent to Saudi Arabia.
The activists condemn, “Ten thousand deaths, three million people displaced, a cholera epidemic, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.” They go on, “All of these reasons, even when cumulated appear to be insufficient for Belgium to stop selling weapons to this country.” The activists are targeting the “MR for being complicit in this activity.”
The activists’ action has occurred at the time when a parliamentary delegation, led by the Senator Alain Destexhe (MR), is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of the Inter-Parlementairy Union (IPU).
When questioned at the beginning of the year, the Walloon Minister-President, Willy Borsus (MR) had stressed that since 2017, the Walloon region has no longer been granting export licences for arms going to Saudi Arabia intended for the conduct of the country’s military operations abroad. Such export licences have been issued for the Saudi Arabian Royal Guard Regiment and the Saudi Arabian National Guard Forces, two army corps which only conduct their operations within Saudi Arabia.