Experts ponder what to do about small arms flows

03Apr 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Experts ponder what to do about small arms flows

Politicians are said to be contributing to illegal arms trade by supporting and deliberately arming rebel groups to accomplish their narrow interests.

Ambassador Ramadhan Mwinyi

A senior government official made this observation in Dar es Salaam yesterday at an Africa parliamentary workshop on addressing illicit trade of small arms and light weapons organized by the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA).

The two day workshop was attended by members of Parliaments from 13 countries.

Ambassador Ramadhan Mwinyi , the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said that most arms trafficking was conducted by private entities and criminal cartels, but “the sad truth is that certain governments and politicians like us also contribute to this trade. This is totally unacceptable.”

He said that Tanzania and other Great Lakes countries feel the painful consequences of illegal trade in small arms as Tanzania is surrounded by conflict prone countries. Most of the weapons used in those conflict may end up in Tanzania, he pointed out.

“In some places in border zones one can buy such a weapon as cheaply as Sh. 60,000 which shows how serious this problem has become, and it needs to be addressed accordingly,” he further stated.

Illicit trade in small arms and light weapon is also linked to the poaching cancer where Tanzania is a victim as it has lost thousands of elephants and other endangered species.

Terror in our region and elsewhere in the world has also escalated because of trade in small arms and light weapons, he told the gathering.

“I am glad to say that up to date we have marked 90 per cent of all the firearms owned by the police force, prison services, wildlife department and 32 percent of arms owned by civilians,” he pointed out.

Earlier in her opening remarks, Deputy Speaker Dr. Tulia Akson said that small arms and light weapon touched off humanitarian catastrophes in the world, though some parts are more affected.

The continuation of trading in small arms has been caused by inadequate regulation of traffic, thereby fueling conflict and civil wars resulting in deaths, lifelong injuries and various forms of violence to millions of people around the world.

“The impact is far reaching not only to the victims of small arms and light weapons but also family members,” noting that for each five persons falling to light weapons, 10 others in the family of such individuals will also be negatively impacted.

“Addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons must take place at all levels for it to be successful at any one level,” she said, pointing at the need to address the matter at national, regional and international levels.

It is a holistic approach addressing simultaneously the same challenges, as this is the only way to succeed, she emphasized.

Francis Wairagu, team leader and director of operations in the Regional Center for Small Arms (RECSA) said that over the years consensus has emerged that there are negative and mutually reinforcing links between armed violence, insecurity and development.

The death toll in armed violence is higher than total casualty of any disease or calamity, with Africa losing about $18bn annually to armed violence and conflicts, he pointed out.

Dr. Pindi Chana, an activist and organizer, said that the workshop needs to come up with a plan of action “to provide a blueprint of sorts to move forward with some easy to implement, non time consuming but essential steps or initiatives.”