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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Move to ban small arms in Africa
Guns in Somalia
Small arms make ethnic conflicts more deadly
Countries in East and Central Africa may move to ban the civilian ownership of small arms in a bid to fight insecurity in the region.

It is estimated that there are 100 million illicit small arms in Africa, crippling development in many areas of the continent.

Somali gunman
War-torn Somalia is both a source and a market for small arms
Some countries like Kenya and Tanzania have blamed the increase in violent crimes on the small arms that are smuggled into their countries.

However, a United Nations report earlier this year accused Somalia's neighbours of breaking an arms embargo on the war-torn country.

The BBC's Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi says measure being considered at a conference on the trade in small arms in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, are:

  • Plans to enhance the capacity of police, customs and border guards
  • The prohibition of the civilian ownership of all light weapons, semi-automatic rifles and machine guns.
Delegates to the Nairobi conference were reminded of just how devastating the proliferation of small arms has been for their countries.

A summary of the consequences described how the sub-region has been ravaged by the easy availability of light weapons which are used in inter-ethnic conflicts, by urban criminals, and by cattle-rustlers.

Daunting task

Some areas are no-go areas for development workers, thus depriving whole communities of much-needed help.

And the majority of victims are women, the elderly and children.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Marsden Madoka told delegates that the task was a daunting one and that their respective governments had to demonstrate unwavering political determination to follow through initiatives.

Kenyan cattle
Cattle-rustling is a major problem in East and Central Africa

He said it was crucial that the conference came up with concrete proposals to eradicate the problem.

Observers from civil society agreed with the urgency of his message.

Haruun Ruun of the New Sudan Council of Churches said that unnecessary suffering had to come to an end, so that people and communities could develop.

Two years ago, the countries of the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa launched an initiative to combat the problem of small arms trafficking.

This week's conference has been called to review the steps taken so far.

The UN report accused Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti of selling weapons to various Somali factions despite an international ban on selling weapons to Somalia.

See also:

03 Jul 02 | Africa
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25 Sep 99 | In Depth
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