Nuclear Arms And Light Weapons Of West Africa, African Security Review, 13 ( 3 )

Nuclear Arms And Light Weapons Of West Africa, African Security Review, 13 ( 3 )

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Week 9: Bah, A. (2004), Micro-Disarmament In West Africa, African Security Review, 13(3), pp. 33-46.

Alhaji Ms Bah analyses the measures taken against small arms and light weapons in West Africa, where he says about 100 millions weapons are in circulation , especially in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Mali . The author highlights the fact that the ‘unchecked proliferation of illicit weapons’ represents a serious threat to human security and political stability , as the majority of victims are civilians. He quotes the United Nations, which declared that they “destabilize regions, spark, fuel and prolong conflicts, obstruct relief programmes, undermine peace initiatives, exacerbate human right abuses, hamper development and foster a culture of violence” . Furthermore, he notes that fighting illicit arms trade would help revive West African countries’ socio-economic development . A development in dealing internationally with this issue has been the creation of National Commissions composed of government representatives on one hand, and of the representatives of civil society on the other hand. This enables a different approach than the traditional state-centric one , although security issues are still considered from the latter . In addition, new measures have enabled monthly dialogues and cooperation between governments, police and local gunsmiths .

Furthermore, Bah points out the importance of a transnational cooperation, as arms are constantly shipped from one country to another, and as there are hundreds of illegal border crossing points between countries. Finally, Bah reports that for cooperating efficiently, countries must harmonize their methods and efforts in the fight of illicit arms trade, and, in particular, need t...


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...to remove small arms that are circulating when a conflict ends. However this programme has not been very efficient so far . Indeed, many civilians have kept firearms after conflicts ended, mostly for reasons of self-defense, but also to work as mercenaries, as, because of the lack of education and employment, they often do not have many other job opportunities .

As ‘guns outlast peace agreements’ , and as politics constantly changes, states fall behind the growing illicit trade of firearms. The author’s suggestions are to take care of the socio-economic issues, such as poverty, health and education, and to clearly identify possible conflict zones to be able to take appropriate measures over time . A third suggestion is to increase and improve controls, to exchange information and to better cooperate between states, and finally to adopt ‘supply-side initiatives’ .

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