I have been working as a researcher in a number of regions of Africa, focusing on conflict and its causes. I have observed many significant factors in aggravating conflicts, and in this posting I do not want to add to the large literature on the causes of conflict, but rather to address one important technological element in those conflicts.
In all my field research I have observed one common instrument used by all parties to a conflict, whether rebels and governments. This is the Toyota Land Cruiser. This vehicle is manufactured for civilian purposes in Japan, but now it has become the favored weapon of war in Africa and plays an important role in enabling insurgents and governments to conduct war in their preferred manner, and also to expand their theaters of operations. It is especially widely used in dry areas such as the Sahel and Sahara and in Somalia.
I have seen the Landcruiser used by rebels to transport weapons, ammunition and supplies. They adapt it to fix anti-aircraft guns which they use against ground targets and people, or heavy machine guns. Equipped with a high degree of mobility and first-strike capacity, the nature of rebellions has changed. Instead of trying to control a population and build a civilian support base, most rebels now use Landcruisers on operations that spread terror among civilian communities. They strike in order to demonstrate their power and capacity and to send a message to the public that they are able to inflict harm on governments. In addition, the Landcruiser has been used widely in illegal activities especially human trafficking, trading in small arms, attacks on traders by looting their trucks and goods, and even mounting assaults on banks or other public service that provide assistance to the ordinary citizen in towns or villages. All these offensive actions which spread fear among civilian communities involve using the Toyota Land Cruiser, which can therefore be considered one of the tools that aggravates conflict in Africa.
African governments spend large amounts of money to buy Land Cruisers to use them for war instead of using their resources in the field of development. Also various regional and international powers supply rebels with Landcruisers in order to destabilize or overthrow governments in ways that serve their interests.
What I would like to highlight in this post, that the Toyota Company and the Japanese government receive huge economic benefits from selling this Land Cruiser battleship to African countries, while this proliferation of land battleships aggravates conflict in those same countries.
Ethically, should not Japan and those companies and governments that are involved in and benefit from distributing these Land Cruisers in Africa, which are used for military purposes, bear some responsibility for aggravating conflicts and the attendant loss of life and property?
As activists work on achieving peace and security in Africa, we have to find ways to reduce the role of Land Cruisers in aggravating conflict in Africa. We should demand mechanisms to restrict or prohibit its distribution and use for military purposes. Perhaps the sale of Land Cruisers to Africa be monitored and regulated in the same way that the arms trade is scrutinized.
The Japanese government and the Toyota company must bear some responsibility for distributing the material means for aggravating and prolonging conflicts in Africa. They should also find ways of putting conditions on selling Land Cruisers and monitoring their distributors and agents to know where these vehicles will be exported and for what purpose. They should contribute to peace and development efforts by offering economic assistance for the social development for those suffering communities negatively affected by Land Cruisers battleships.
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