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UN arms embargo on South Africa

In November 1977, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 418, which decided that all states shall ‘cease forthwith any provision to South Africa of arms and related materiel of all types, including the sale or transfer of weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary police equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and shall cease as well the provision of all types of equipment and supplies and granted of licensing arrangement for the manufacture or maintenance of the aforementioned’. The Resolution acknowledged the need for a universal arms embargo, building on the existing voluntary arms embargo, which was imposed in August 1963. The mandatory arms embargo was imposed in response to the increasing violence of the apartheid regime in South Africa, including the response to the Soweto Uprising in 1976.

In December 1984, UN Security Council Resolution 558 requested states to also cease any imports of arms, ammunition and military vehicles from South Africa, though this was not mandatory.

In November 1986, UN Security Council Resolution 591 included in its scope spare parts and components, directly or through third parties, and certain dual use items such as four-wheel drive vehicles. 

In May 1994, UN Security Council Resolution 919 terminated the arms embargo. This was in response to the holding of multi-party elections and the election of Neilson Mandela as President earlier in the month.

Last updated on
Embargo type: Mandatory UN embargoes
Entry into force:
Lifted: 25 May 1994
Establishing document: UNSCR 418