Many countries yet to ratify Arms Trade Treaty despite 500,000 deaths

20Apr 2016
Edward Qorro
The Guardian
Many countries yet to ratify Arms Trade Treaty despite 500,000 deaths

WHILE the proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons is said to be claiming 500,000 African lives every year, only two countries have signed and ratified the Arms Trade Treaty.


According to the executive secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA), Théoneste Mutsindashyaka, such deaths occur in the context of armed conflict and violence.

Mutsindashyaka, who was speaking during RECSA 10th ordinary session yesterday, noted that the proliferation of such weapons posed a serious threat to the region thus constituting a tough obstacle to sustainable development.

“Researchers have established that proliferation of small arms and light weapons constitutes one of the main drivers of fragility in our region and thus hinder sustainable development,” said Mutsindashyaka.

He noted that the cost of armed violence could not only be found in the deaths and injuries of innocent people, but also in the impact it has in the society.

Even with such horrifying reality, Mutsindashyaka emphasized that the efforts invested in fighting the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons were not consistent with the magnitude of the problem.

“There has been inadequate capacity by member states to implement small arms interventions, where the accession and ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty is very low, with only six countries having signed it and two ratifying it,” he revealed.

The first legally binding instrument to regulate global trade of conventional arms, the Arms Trade Treaty entered into force on December 24, 2014 and has currently 67 State Parties, of which 10 are in Africa.
A total of 130 states, including 67 in Africa, have already signed the Treaty.

According to UN guidelines, small arms and light weapons include rifles, pistols, revolvers and all weaponry of not more than 100 mm calibre.

Thanks to their light weight and ease to circulate, such weapons have encouraged proliferation.
Last month, President John Magufuli surrendered his two personal guns – a shotgun and a pistol – to the Police Force for verification under an order issued by Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda.

The verification exercise at State House in Dar es Salaam was supervised by Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander Simon Sirro. Magufuli, thus, became the first person to implement Makonda’s order aimed at curbing crime in the city through monitoring of available weaponry.

The President commended Makonda and the Police Force for the verification exercise and urged owners of firearms across the country to also get their weapons verified. He also called on the police to double their efforts in tackling an apparent increase in local criminal activities.