The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: Clerics Push for Eradication of Illicit Arms in Africa

THE fight against proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is critical for peace and security in Africa, Peter Omurangi Otim, head of the Peace and Security department of the African Union (AU) has said.

Otim was speaking at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultative meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which went underway last week.

Otim stressed that partnership with faith-based organisations is essential in addressing the illicit proliferation of SALW and its devastating impact on peace, security and stability in many African countries.

The regional consultation was organised by the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) under the theme "Ecumenical Advocacy to Combat the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in Africa."

This regional consultation is a follow-up of a consultation organised by the CCIA jointly with the All Africa Conference of Churches on peace and human security in Africa in Kigali, Rwanda earlier this year.

Otim said: "SALW are responsible for destabilising the African continent through drug trafficking, terrorism, transnational organised crime, mercenary activities, looting, as well as domestic violence."

He also reminded participants that the AU is primarily addressing the illicit proliferation of SALW.

"Africa is greatly affected by the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of illicit arms, especially small arms and light weapons, and the result is a negative impact on security, safety, economic and social development".

According to Otim, small arms sustain conflicts in the continent, forcing millions into the life of refugees and displaced persons.

Illicit small arms, he added, have also led to the diversion of scarce government resources from critical sectors like health, education and agriculture to public security - thereby affecting social and economic development.

He also identified continued availability of illicit small arms as a major challenge in the implementation of peace agreements and the effectiveness of peace-support operations in Africa.

The consultation was attended by around forty African participants.

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