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Flow of small arms, light weapons, threat to Africa
March 11, 2018, 4:54 pm
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Arms proliferation is a global issue; nevertheless, available data shows that of the 640 million Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) circulating globally, over 100 million are in Africa. Even more worrying is that of the total weapons available, the majority, or around 59 percent, were in the hands of civilians. Government armed forces accounted for 38 percent of the weapons, while the police had 2 percent and around 1 percent found its way into the hands of armed groups.

The influx of SALW has major implications for African countries, as many have experienced direct, indirect and consequential impact of weapons proliferation. Thousands of people, both civilians and military, are killed or injured by SALW each year on the continent.

Proliferation of SALW among civilians, even if does not cause death or injury, is still problematic as it can impact the socio-economic development of community, country and region. It leads to an increase in the rate of criminality, endangering civilians, preventing delivery of humanitarian and economic aid and contributing to rise in the number of refugees or internally displaced persons. Similarly, the number of recovered arms from robbers; not to mention the lingering militancy, terrorism, herdsmen and farmers' conflict and kidnapping further expose the magnitude of the influx of illegal arms and raises questions about the security of lives and property in Africa.

Governments can do more; they can begin by ensuring that arms procured are legally acquired, properly accounted for and that legal dealers are tracked to ensure that arms do not get into wrong hands. Licensed gun-holders should be regularly audited and those possessing unregistered arms should be encouraged to obtain proper license within specified timeframes.

The government could also make sure the efficiency of border patrol units are boosted to stop illegal shipment of arms across porous borders, and that land, sea and air customs are manned by conscientious and ethically-minded customs officials. Military units should also ensure better monitoring of their arms cache, especially in areas fighting insurgencies or in peace-keeping operations. Regional and international agreements should be signed to ascertain the movement of arms and ammunition.

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