6 December 2017

Rwanda: Disarmament, Arms Limitation Top Agenda of Regional Security Experts Meet in Kigali

Review of the geo-political situation in Central Africa, as well as the disarmament and arms limitation programmes in the sub-region are key items on the agenda as Kigali hosts the 45th meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa-UNSAC.

At the start of the session on Tuesday, Rwanda assumed the chair of UNSAC for the next six months.

The UNSAC meets twice a year at the experts and ministerial level with an agenda consisting of: a review of the geopolitical situation in Central Africa and reports pertaining to disarmament, terrorism and armed conflicts, piracy and maritime security.

Rwanda last hosted such a meeting in 2013.

Opening yesterday's session, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Claude Nikobisanzwe, cited Rwanda's return to the regional bloc Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which allows the country to join forces "with our regional partners to find effective solutions to our problems."

Nikobisanzwe said: "Today, we face serious challenges such as those currently being confronted by our brothers in the Central African Republic (CAR), or the growing menace of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram."

To have a united and prosperous continent, he said, states have to embrace ongoing efforts against the proliferation of illicit arms. The African Union aims to do away with illicit arms by 2020 so that the continent can focus entirely on economic development agenda.

"This committee, therefore, handles important issues regarding the future of this continent since, without peace and without security, it will be impossible to realise the aspirations of our populations."

Since 2011, the Secretariat of UNSAC has been the responsibility of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) based in Libreville, Gabon.

At the opening of the meeting yesterday, Cameroon's Anne Chantal Nama, the outgoing chairperson of the 45th meeting of experts of the advisory committee, handed over to Rwanda's Diyana Gitera, the director general of multilateral cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nama said the new session offers participants the chance to continue reflecting on the search for solutions given the same security challenges impacting the entire sub-region.

The 45th meeting of UNSAC meeting is being attended by 11 members of the committee; foreign affairs ministers and experts. In addition to members of the committee, observers represented by regional and international organisations are also attending the meeting, namely UN sub-organisations, AU and ECCAS representatives, and Regional Centre on Small Arms and the Economic Community of Western African States.

Nama stressed that the sub-region's security challenges require a holistic approach if they are to be dealt with.

She was of the view that the effective implementation of a regional strategy against terrorism and the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons will be an important step in the various processes which the sub-region must undertake.

In the 1980s, faced with an increasing number of armed conflicts in their region and lacking viable regional mechanisms to effectively respond to these conflicts, the members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) sought the assistance of the UN, and submitted a proposal, on November 28, 1986, which called for the establishment of an advisory committee on security questions in Central Africa.

The Committee's mandate is to encourage arms limitation, disarmament, non-proliferation and development in the sub-region. It is a sub-regional grouping of 11 countries: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Last week, Rwanda launched an eight-day disposal and destruction operation for more than 130 tonnes of unexploded ordinance and waste ammunition in the Eastern Province, as part of its continued efforts to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

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