New York — In a passionate appeal to governments negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations until the 27th July, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia called on them to "make history in the next few days and change the world for the better." The Nobel Peace Prize laureate reminded delegates via a video message to the main plenary of the importance and urgency to agree on a strong treaty as it represents "a once in a lifetime opportunity to agree tough controls on the arms trade."
President Sirleaf has been a longtime advocate, alongside international agency Oxfam and the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), for the Arms Trade Treaty. She offered to speak directly to delegates at the United Nations to address them on the urgency in having an arms trade treaty.
H.E. Sirleaf supported WAANSA and Oxfam's call that all arms, including ammunition and components, must be included in the treaty.
"The Liberian experience and other experiences in Africa and other parts of the world show that without such a treaty, armed violence and wars will continue to be fueled by irresponsible arms transfers.
"(...) even with a UN and regional arms embargo on Liberia and other countries, more than 2.2 billion dollars worth of arms and ammunition found their way into the targeted countries, thus proving that the current system, without a treaty, is not working.
"The case of bullets and ammunition reminds us of how their absence during the battle for Monrovia between rival armed groups in June 2003 temporarily ended the terror on the City's population until fresh and illegal supplies arrived. That is why this Treaty not only needs to regulate transfers of small arms and light weapons, it also must regulate the bullets and ammunitions which actually kill people, and without which guns may be reduced to silence and peace efforts would bear fruits," President Sirleaf said.
Expressing his support for the sentiments shared by President Sirleaf, Baffour Amoa, President of WAANSA said: "We welcome President Sirleaf's efforts and support. The victims of irresponsible arms transfers would have died in vain should the Diplomatic Conference end without an Arms Trade Treaty."
Oxfam and WAANSA along with other members of the civil society are calling for a strong treaty that would be based on a simple principle: no transfers of weapons when there is a substantial risk that they may be used for serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.
Oxfam Country Director in Liberia Mamudu Salifu said: "The West Africa region has been flooded with weapons for decades, slowing the pace of development and tearing apart the lives of ordinary people. President Sirleaf has demonstrated leadership by addressing delegates directly and we call on all states to urgently negotiate a strong treaty that will save lives and livelihoods."