With a rise in conflicts across the continent and the abuses that come with them, African Parliamentarians are now calling for limits to the circulation of small arms and light weapons.
Meeting in Yaounde this week, parliamentarians from Cameroon, Chad and Tanzania who form part of the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons came face-to-face with the disturbing reality of how fast these weapons are spreading.
The Executive Secretary of the Forum, Karin Olopson told Timescape Magazine that “globally, 223,300 persons are killed every year all around the world by these weapons.”
Africa alone counts over 100 million small arms and light weapons circulating illegally, and all of this comes with a huge human and economic cost.
“You can imagine the human cost, as well as the social and economic cost for nations. If we look at Africa for example, there is research that states that 100 million uncontrolled small arms and light weapons are circulating on the continent. This is a serious threat to security and sustainable development,” Olopson said.
“It is particularly threatening to girls and women because, in Africa, approximately 45% of girls and women are subjected to gender-based violence and in several instances; these weapons are used to commit these crimes.”
Hon. Elibariki Emmanuel Kingu of Tanzania explained how the unrest in his country’s neighbours was leading to an influx of illegal arms into Tanzania and threatening the country’s security.
“Because of the civil unrests in Burundi and Rwanda, we had a lot of immigrants from the two countries, and they came in with arms and killed lots of people. And because we also border DR Congo, you see the Congo has a lot of rebels and weapons, like the M23, and even as we speak there are tensions between Congo and Rwanda, so the security instability of our neighbours affects the security of Tanzania.”
“The porosity of the borders, especially in East Cameroon, the socio-political crisis in the North-West and South-West, and the Boko Haram group in the Far-North aggravate the proliferation of these weapons,” explained Ngalim Eugine Nyuydine, an expert on small arms and light weapons.
Participants said the time has come for Africa to “silence the guns.” But that, according to Ms. Olopson would require strict respect for the Arms Trade Agreement that requires that “all the countries that export arms must do a risk assessment to ensure that those weapons are not going to be used to commit violations of International Humanitarian Law or human rights violations or abuses against women and girls.”
Hon. Kingu called on all parliaments to “enact laws that protect borders and that prohibit the importation of illegal arms. We must do all of these to protect especially our women because women are the most vulnerable group when it comes to the circulation of small arms and light weapons”.
The theme of the 21st June parliamentarians’ forum was “Connecting the Dots: Improving the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the UN Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda through Enhanced Parliamentary Engagement and Action in International Processes”.