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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Living in the shadow of the gun
Eileen Clarkson of Oxfam Scotland travelled to Kenya as part of the Control Arms campaign with David and Ozlem Grimason, whose son was killed by a gunman in Turkey.

On the day a new report reveals the cost of conflict on African development, she tells the BBC Scotland news website why there should be an Arms Trade Treaty.


When I was pregnant with my first child, the midwife told my group of first-time mothers that such would be our love for our babies that we would 'take a bullet for them'.

Eileen Clarkson
Eileen Clarkson is from Oxfam Scotland

Seven years later I sat and spoke to two mothers in Turkana, a remote part of Kenya, and heard how they had lost their children to bullets.

Between them Eworton Amudgangi and No Poeto lost seven children in one night when raiders attacked their village.

Eworton and No described the noise, the screaming, the shooting and the shock of what had happened.

I travelled to Turkana as part of the Control Arms campaign, with David and Ozlem Grimason, who themselves had lost a child because of firearms.

Following the death of their baby son, Alistair, who was killed by a gunman in Turkey, they had become successful campaigners and agreed to support the Control Arms campaign.

During our visit we attended a local peace festival, which brought together warring Turkanan and Dassench factions from neighbouring Ethiopia.

Tension between the two groups ran high, both David and myself were asked to speak about why we were there.

Assault rifles

I have not given many speeches in my life, and certainly never one where members of the audience were casually holding AK-47 assault rifles.

Despite the intense heat, and my nerves, I did my best.

But it was a Turkanan elder who then stood up and made one of the best cases for arms control that I have ever heard.

He asked: 'Why do we have guns? Where are they coming from? Guns aren't made around here, so how have they become part of our lives?'

People around the world had been putting pressure on politicians to have the United Nations introduce an Arms Trade Treaty, which would make it necessary to have a licence in order to export arms.

Eworton Amudgangi and No Poeto (Pic: Oxfam)
Eworton Amudgangi and No Poeto lost seven children in one night

I had heard a number of sound intellectual arguments on the subject but it struck me that this man, from a poor and remote part of Africa, could argue the case much more convincingly.

He and the people he represents live daily with guns and have to live with the consequences, which are so often tragic.

The Control Arms report on Africa's Missing Billions points out that as a result of conflict and armed violence the continent has suffered terribly not only in human terms but in economic ones as well.

Like the Turkanan elder, the report states most of the guns - 95% - come from outside Africa.

And it estimates that the cost of armed conflict to the poorest continent in the world is at least $18bn annually.

The report urges the UN to make swift progress towards a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Senior politicians around the world, including the Defence Secretary, Scotland's Des Browne, must keep up the pressure to ensure an ATT becomes a reality.

The Africa's Missing Billions report, like so many reports, points out that conflict disproportionally affects the most vulnerable people - women and children.

Given the devastation that firearms have brought to their lives that is something Eworton and No understand better than most.


SEE ALSO
MSF pull out of town in Darfur
10 Oct 07 |  Africa
The rise of Kenya's vigilantes
09 Oct 07 |  Africa

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