Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The Problem of the High Circulation of Illegal Firearms in Africa

20.12.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
A major drama of armed conflict since the advent of independence, which has been the main landmark of traffic of all kinds in the continent of Africa continues to form all the attention on the security plan. Despite all the good measures put in place for the eradication of wars and the strengthening of the security of goods and people, the continent continues to mourn its men and children who have been smuggled and illegally armed. Far from basic trafficking, the weapons traffic that has made its nest is primarily to supply arms and ammunition to vague entities in violation of international or national regulations on arms sales. According to the UN, arms trafficking estimated at more than $ 1.5 trillion a year, is one of the four most lucrative illegal activities in the world with drug trafficking and prostitution.

The arms trade market has never been stronger in Africa than today despite the fact that no weapons are manufactured on the continent. Since the Libyan crisis caused by the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, it has even increased causing a collapse in the circulation rate of illegal firearms in the continent. As the main gateway for illegal guns leaving for the central belt of the Sahel, the crisis in Libya has created a flow of arms and ammunition of all kinds that has been a detonator of crisis in many African countries. The West, the most affected zone as in Mali. In a context marked by porous borders, the presence of transnational criminal networks and corruption, governments alone are unable to effectively fight the threat. So, to counter the wave of traffic, solutions have been adopted by the regional authorities. Only so far, these resolutions have not yet produced a concrete effect.

The magnitude of the traffic

The price of the flow of contraband weapons circulating in Africa is almost priceless. With figures constantly increasing for a continent smuggling has reached extents that easily explain the production of terrorist groups in the continent. Be it with “Boko Haram”, the “Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance” in Senegal, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Ansar Dine, the movement for uniqueness and jihad in West Africa, among others, the traffic is guaranteed and the traffic is almost an evidence. It is estimated that more than 500 million illegal small arms are circulating on the African continent. West Africa, with Nigeria in the lead. For the director of the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament (UNREC), Anselme Yabouri, 350 of these 500 million illegal weapons circulate in Nigeria alone, about 70% of the total number. Other countries like Angola or Cameroon, despite the internal conflicts, can still boast of not too high figures even if they are in clear progression. In the case of Cameroon, there are currently more than 23,000 illegal weapons in circulation in the country. The case of Angola worries a little more because in just 2 years, since 2017, about 7,143 illegal firearms have been collected.

The more illegal weapons circulating on the continent, the more deaths are accumulating. The main consequence of this plague is nothing more than exacerbation of conflict and death. According to a study by “Small Arms Survey”, a center attached to the Institute of Advanced Studies and Development in Geneva, carried out over the period 2012-2017, arms trafficking kills 45,000 people each year in Africa and feeds regional conflicts mainly in the West of the continent. For Small Arms Survey researcher Matthias Nowak, who confirms these figures, “throughout Africa, there are 140,000 deaths and killings related to armed conflict per year, of which 45,000, one-third of all violent deaths, are caused by the use of firearms “.

Juicy trafficking organized around the circulation of illegal weapons in Africa is fueling several conflicts. In an attempt to block the trade that is “killing Africa,” several measures and solutions had been adopted by the African Union. After the failed implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) measures, which indicated to the international community that priority should be given to post-conflict countries to achieve the disarmament, the reintegration of fighters and the destruction of weapons stocks, it was the turn of regional dynamics. The West African countries, like Côte d’Ivoire and Benin, had, in turn, adopted common dynamics that aimed at eradicating the plague of small arms and light weapons.

In doing so, they cited, inter alia, the three-year renewal, starting in 2001, of the suspension of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the transfer and manufacture of small arms and light weapons. These successive failures to cope with the rebirth of illegal guns on the continent, however, were not enough to stem the will of African states to reduce the considerable flow of such weapons. Very recently, the AU seemed to find a lasting solution with the adoption of the project “Silencing the Guns in Africa”; except that, in view of the forecasts, the objective will not be achieved. During the 28th Ordinary Session of its Assembly held in January 2017, the AU adopted a main roadmap based on the practical steps to silence guns in Africa by 2020 (UA roadmap). ) (AU, 2020). The roadmap included a number of practical measures and modalities of action to address the underlying causes of conflict and the instruments and vectors of violence in Africa. The prevention of the flow of illicit arms circulating on the continent and to the conflict zones and the mapping of the illicit flows of small arms on the continent were also the key axes of this project.

To date, only the mapping of illicit arms flows on the continent has been successful. This report enabled the AU, in partnership with Small Arms survey, to make available to legislative bodies a synthesis of information gathered in this regard from AU Member States, regional economic communities, regional entities, a small arms mandate and specialized civil society organizations. For this section, the authors’ objective of contributing to the identification of the trends and rationale for the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons, but also the gaps that still need to be filled in related policies and knowledge has been achieved.

The imperative of setting up new control measures

All AU Member States consider that the main illegal flow they face is cross-border land-based trafficking in weapons and ammunition. It is this traffic that facilitates the circulation of illegal weapons from one African country to another. In this context, armed groups, including terrorist organizations, have demonstrated their ability to displace arms and assault cross-borders, forcing new the project “Silencing the Guns in Africa” ​​which certainly will not achieve its main objective. Small Arms Survey’s new report calls for a new wave of solutions that must be adopted. This set of measures first recommends that states improve control over their own weapons, which sometimes, through the defense and security forces, find themselves in “black circuits”. The report also recommends the reinforcement of port sites with scanners, to facilitate the detection of illicit shipments that will be brought across borders.

Ultimately, the report mentions another initiative that is sometimes overlooked. This indent of the report recommends strengthening the fight against corruption, which is absolutely fundamental to definitively defeat this plague.In addition to the measures mandated by the Small Arms survey report, the DRC and Rwanda also deemed it vital to prohibit and sanction all arms sales to non-state actors and called for the adoption of a binding instrument on tracing and the motif of small arms.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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