East Africa: States Drag Their Feet in Signing Arms Treaty

As the proliferation of small arms in the region raises concerns over their devastating effect on civilian population, governments have on the other hand been dragging their feet in ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.

Commonly known as ATT, the treaty came into force on December 24, 2014, after the requisite 50 countries out of the 193 UN General Assembly member-states ratified it. The ATT is the first international, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for regulating the trade on conventional arms.

But among the 15 countries affiliated to the Regional Centre for Small Arms for the sake of controlling the flow of small arms in the region, only Seychelles and the Central African Republic have ratified the treaty. Burundi, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Rwanda and Tanzania have signed it.

According to the director of International Development and Capacity Building, Gen (Rtd) Christo Fataki, the RECSA region is lagging behind in ratification or accession to the treaty. RECSA is therefore lobbying governments to ratify and implement the treaty by pushing for the harmonisation of legislation in line with the instruments.

"The challenge is that the magnitude of the menace caused by arms proliferation is too big compared with the commitment and efforts made to eradicate it. Countries within RECSA do not perceive arms proliferation and misuse as a security and development problems. More attention is given to redress measures and supply side rather than addressing prevention and demand factors," said Gen Fataki.

So far, 130 countries have signed the treaty, and 104 countries have ratified the treaty, the latest being Canada on August 19. In Africa, 39 countries have signed the ATT and 9 have ratified it. This comes as the global trade in conventional arms has risen to an estimated $70 billion business, while the black-market trade for illicit small arms stands at $1 billion.

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