Overcoming hurdles in curbing illicit arms flows in Africa

2017-12-13

On 4 September 2017, the African Union (AU) celebrated the inaugural launch of African Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit weapons. The decision to declare September as African Amnesty Month is the latest of several initiatives that demonstrate the AU's commitment to curbing illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) throughout Africa. It is a major contribution to the organisation’s vision of silencing the guns by 2020.

Achieving this bold objective – of encouraging voluntary civilian disarmament as part of efforts to rid the continent of illicit SALW – will not come easily.

Disarming civilians is one of the most complex arms control measures

Dr Nelson Alusala, a senior researcher with the ENACT project at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), was invited as one of the keynote speakers at the inaugural launch. ‘One of the most complex arms control measures is disarming a civilian,’ said Alusala, highlighting the importance of amnesty in Africa’s disarmament. The success of such an amnesty is deeply linked to developmental objectives in many African societies.

‘The AU and the United Nations [UN] have, for years, sought to address this challenge,’ says Alusala. ‘The AU, in particular, has put in place several mechanisms to combat illicit arms flows – in line with its vision of silencing the guns by 2020. So too have the regional economic communities [RECs] and regional mechanisms [RMs]. However, the challenge lies in implementation.’

Encouraging voluntary civilian disarmament is a bold objective, but won't come easily

Although the AU bears the biggest responsibility for coordinating issues of peace and security on the continent, the complementary role played by the RECs and RMs is equally important for the success of the AU’s vision.

In a press statement released after the amnesty month launch, the AU Peace and Security Council and event participants took note of the ISS presentation. The ENACT project at the ISS endeavours to remain a committed partner to the AU in ensuring the success of the amnesty and other initiatives.

Africa could influence the direction of the new UN PoA on small arms

ENACT has recently released a research paper and will soon launch a policy brief on arms control in Africa. In 2018, ENACT will closely monitor developments concerning the UN Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms, which is up for review. The PoA is intricately connected to the International Tracing Instrument, Sustainable Development Goals and Arms Trade Treaty. Africa could have an influence on the direction of the new PoA, particularly as African countries are most often the victims of the proliferation of SALW.

For recent analysis on arms control in Africa, click on the following:

For more information, contact:

Nelson Alusala, Senior Researcher, ENACT/ISS, nalusala@issafrica.org, +27 12 346 9500

ENACT is funded by the EU and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime.

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ENACT is funded by the European Union
ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in
affiliation with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime
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