OAU's Bamako Declaration on Small Arms Proliferation

Dear friends:

This is for your information and follow-up if and where necessary.

Last week ministers, military commanders and diplomats of Organization of
African Unity's (OAU) members states together with United Nations (UN) and
European Union observers met in Bamako the capital of Mali in West Africa to
look into the devastating effects of small arms and light weapons on the
continent.

The purpose was to find out how the weapons of destruction can be stopped
from being in the hands of non-state rebel actors, ethnic militias, criminal
gangs and terrorist groups in the African continent.  Considered as small
arms are revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines,
sub-machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns.

The light weapons which apply to ammunition and explosives include heavy
machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable
anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-aircraft
missile systems and mortal of calibres less than 100mm.

In his speech the OAU secretary-general, Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim reeled out
the effects, casualties and consequences of the illegal proliferation of the
Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in circulation in the world. According
to him 100 million are in Africa and eleven million circulate illegally in
Africa.  Following the current statistics about two million Africans have at
one time or the other died from the scourge of SALW in the past 10 years in
West Africa alone. The weapons are massively responsible for 90% of war
casualties with 50% being civilians, 85% of which are children.

"We must recognize that the widespread availability of small arms and light
weapons in Africa has contributed to the development of a culture of
violence, to massive violations of human rights and international
humanitarian law, the aggravation of the plight of refugees and displaced
persons besides causing millions of deaths and injuries among civilian
population" said Mr. Salim.

"Across the continent", he noted, "criminal activities are on the rise as a
result of the easy availability of small arms and light weapons.  It has
contributed to the phenomenon of child soldiers in Africa, with its
psychological trauma and other consequences."

Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, under secretary-general, UN Department for
Disarmament Affairs took the floor after and blamed the illegal
proliferation of small arms and light weapons for the "prolonged and
aggravated conflicts" in the continent.  These include the Liberian civil
war, the dastardly Revolutionary United Front's (RUF) activities in
Sierra-Leone, Zaire, Congo, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Somalia and
the ethnic militia skirmishes in most countries of the continent including
the sophisticated activities of armed robbers.

Mr. Dhanapala said further: "the proliferation of such weapons has led to
the triumph of the bullet over the ballot in too many countries as efforts
to stem cross national flows of such arms continue to suffer from lack of
financial and technical support.  Hence we see a vicious circle of
underlying social and political conflicts escalating all-too-easily into
armed attacks, followed by retaliatory blows, the tragic spiral of revenge,
competitive rearmament, new profits for mercenaries and illicit arms
traffickers and the further aggravation of the underlying conflicts."

"The result is a series of setbacks for development and reconstruction, new
obstacles to peace-keeping and peace-building and worst of all, a prevailing
sense of hopelessness among entire societies, especially among the young. It
is almost impossible to overstate the implication of this threat to the
dreams and aspiration of citizens throughout the continent."

"Virtually all the solemn principles and objectives found in the UN charter,
for example, are jeopardized daily by the proliferation and use of these
weapons.  This on-going tragedy is setting back economic development by
creating new distinctive to foreign investment.  It is creating new
obstacles to the achievement of human rights objectives, including the most
fundamental of all the rights to life."

"An the constant flow of these weapons across borders is also floating the
fundamental principles of self-determination and non-interference in
internal affairs that lie at the heart of our present system of
international relations"

In the ensuing deliberations, each country's delegation pledged its
willingness to fully implement the decisions of the conference.  Finally,
the OAU Ministerial Conference came out with an African common position
tagged the Bamako Declaration on the illicit proliferation, circulation and
trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

In order to promote peace, security, stability and sustainable development
on the continent, the Bamako Declaration noted that it is vital to address
the problem of the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking in
SALW in a comprehensive, integrated, sustainable and efficient manner. 
These will be done through the following:

- ensuring the behavior and conduct of member states and suppliers are not
only transparent but also go beyond narrow national interest;
- promotion of measures aimed at restoring peace, security and confidence
among and between member states with a view to reducing the resort to arms;
- promotion of structures and processes to strengthen democracy, the
observance of human rights, the rule of law and good governance as well as
economic recovery and growth;
- enhancement of the capacity of member states to identify, seize and destroy
illicit weapons and to put in place measures to control the circulation,
- possession and trafficking of small arms and light weapons involving all
sectors of the society and
- Institutionalization of national and regional programs for action aimed at
preventing, controlling and eradicating the illegal proliferation,
circulation and trafficking of such weapons in Africa.

The conference recommended that each member state put in place national
coordination agencies or bodies and the appropriate institutional
infrastructure for policy guidance, research and monitoring on all aspects
of small arms and light weapons proliferation, control, circulation,
trafficking and reduction.

Countries, among other things, are also to:

- Enhance the capacity of national law enforcement and security agencies and
officials to deal with all aspects of the arms problem including appropriate
training in investigating procedures, border control and specialized actions
and upgrading of equipment and resources;

- adopt as soon as possible where they do not exist, the necessary legislative
and other measures to establish as a criminal offence under the law, the 
illicit manufacturing of, trafficking in and illegal possession of SALW,
ammunition and other related materials;

- develop and implement national programs for the voluntary surrender of
illicit SALW, identification and destruction by competent national
authorities and where necessary, of surplus, obsolete and seized stocks in
possession of the state, with appropriate international financial and
technical support;

- take appropriate measures to control arms transfers by manufacturers,
suppliers, traders, brokers as well as shipping and transit in a transparent
fashion; and

- Develop and implement public awareness programs and encourage the active
involvement of civil society in the formulation and implementation of a
national action plan to deal with the problem.

With kind regard.

Ade. Adenekan.
Executive Director.
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Pan-African Reconciliation Council &
African Centres for Peace Education and Training,
P.O.Box 9354 Marina,
Lagos City,
Nigeria.

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