1 March 2018

Sudan: More Is Needed to Stem Illicit Arms

opinion

The government is citing a positive outcome of the ongoing campaign to collect illicit arms from the hands of citizens in the Western regions of Darfur and Kordofan.

It said some 80,000 pieces of armament have been collected from those regions by the end of 2017, while the campaign has commenced in other regions in Central and Eastern Sudan and may include the State of Khartoum, the Capital. The nationwide campaign is scheduled to be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2018.

Some government officials attribute that low turnout, as a report by Sudan Tribune has put it, to the fact that some tribal groups in Darfur that reject the collection of arms have managed to smuggle their weapons to the borderlines between Sudan and the Central African Republic and the state of Southern Sudan to evade the confiscations.

No water-tight statistics is available about the quantity of illicit arms in the hands of citizens but observers estimate the number of weapons in the hands of citizens in Darfur and Kordofan at one million pieces.

Regardless, a number of Darfur state governors have confirmed the positive outcome of the campaign on the overall security situation in their regions.

"The State is experiencing security and social stability as well as an economic revival," said Governor of Central Darfur Ja'afar Abdelhakam. "Some 6,146 pieces of weapons have been seized during the campaign," he added.

Governor of Central Darfur Ja'afar Abdelhakam

According to him weapons seized include small arms, vast quantities of ammunition, in addition to 523 motorcycles, 150 four-wheel drive vehicles the State Government is prepared to compensate for. He said that, in addition, 2020 unlicensed vehicles have been seized and are now subject to customs and licensing procedures.

In Northern Darfur the security has managed to clean up crime hideouts and seize vast quantities of narcotics and liquors and the campaign would continue to eliminate all sorts of waywardness, announced the commission for the collection of illicit weapons.

It said most of the armed robbers who used to plague the citizens were put under arrest.

In East Darfur State the Government said the security situation was now stable and the crime rate has dropped remarkably after the arms collection campaign. Over 7000 pieces of arms were seized during the campaign, said East Darfur Governor Anas Omar.

Governor Omar said the campaign has directly resulted in a stable security situation and a drop in crime rates whereby the State police have recorded just 10 crimes over a period of six months." Incidents of murder, armed robberies and looting have completely come to an end," he said.

Omar said the citizens were now moving around in peace and this was positively reflected on the commercial and agricultural activity in the State.

Abdelwahhab al-Affandi

This state of peace was confirmed by citizens in Darfur region. However, they told Sudanow that they were afraid that such peace would be just temporary because those who hided their weapons might attack them in the future.

Political analysts suggested some ways for overcoming such hurdles. Researcher Abdelwahhab al-Affandi says that the collection of arms "is inseparable from an integrated political operation that restores confidence and balance among all the components of the Sudanese society."

"It is not in the interest of any tribe or group to live in a continuous state of fear and to obtain expensive weapons," he said. "This would dissuade the people from constructive economic activity," said Affandi, adding that a feeling of security should be based on confidence in the Government institutions: The central Government, the Army, the Judiciary, the Police and the local administrations.

"What is needed is a reading of the political state of affairs in the country and an understanding of its incoherent diversity where conflicts prevail due to the absence of a pivotal national idea and the absence of a respected authority which is capable of effecting justice and equality among the citizens without any discrimination," Affandi further maintained.

"It is because of this big national error, there were repercussions and negative interactions on the part of some who tasted the bitterness of aggression until they lost the feeling of security and thus sought the acquisition of weapons as a way out and by any means, without any consideration to the law even if that could threaten the national security whose importance diminishes when it becomes a matter of the life of community or the individual," he said.

Lieutenant General Mohamed Bashir Suleiman

Journalist and Columnist Abdelrahman al-Amin said no one can dispute the collection of illegal arms in principle, because the existence of firearms in the hands of citizens "is the biggest security hazard."

"But it is my conviction that now that the space of security in Darfur is widening, the need is arising for the collection of firearms from the citizens. By this we can stem armed conflicts," he said.

Al-Amin agrees with Affandi upon the need to provide a secure environment for the citizens. "The citizen would not accept to turn in his weapon, unless he feels secure," he argued.

"We have the nomadic pastoralists who move over wide areas and who need to protect themselves," he said.

"Then we also need to resolve the land problems that often lead to conflicts between pastoralists and farmers over grazing zones. There is also need to create sources of income to the local citizens and there is also need to strike security agreements with neighboring countries and to seal off border loopholes through which weapons come through and, finally, there is need for international cooperation in dismantling the hot spots of extremism, terrorism and sources of armaments," he said.

Lieutenant General Mohamed Bashir Suleiman, has maintained that the government should seek to convince the citizens and communities that it is neutral with respect to local disputes.

He said there is need to create a tangible feeling of peace. This, he said, can be attained by the stopping of the war through a peace deal between the government and the rebel groups that also cater for the delivery of armaments into the government stores.

He said there is paramount importance for the achievement of peaceful co-existence and tribal cohesion in Sudan.

He said this can be attained through:

1) The removal of the causes of tribal conflicts over the already meager natural resources of pastureland and water. In this there is need to write down a law for land uses to be complemented with a map showing national lands where nobody has a right other than the central government and lands of the concerned states. Here every state has to draft its own land law which should be coupled with a law for land use to be reached in agreement with tribal groups and with assistance from knowledgeable national bodies. This can help prevent disputes over lands. Tribal groups who may lose their land to the national government should be indemnified. Plans should be made to resettle pastoralists via the creation of grazing farms and other means of living.

2) Drawing plans for tackling demographic differences among communities by encouraging social cohesion away from conflicts.

3) The consolidation of the native administration's authority by advancing its powers and by securing its requirements for enforcing its law. Action should be taken to keep this administration away from politics that may compromise its neutrality.

4) The achievement of economic and human development for the communities that could reduce poverty and stem armed robberies.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the proliferation of illegal weapons is a real threat to the well-being, unity and the very existence of the country. A lot of effort is required from the national, political and social components of the country to counter the factors that caused it and help secure this goal which is the most important recommendation of the National Dialogue Conference, as M.P Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa tells Sudanow.

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