Most wars fought
during the 1990’s took place in countries that are poor – to poor to
buy weapons, however millions of small arms and light weapons are simply
given away by militaries that are downsizing, or they are recycled from
one conflict to another. In some lands there is such an abundance of
assault rifles that they are sold for as little as six dollars or can be
traded for a goat, chicken, or a bag of clothes.
produced weapons and small caliber ammunition have since late 1945, for
the greater part killed an estimated 50,000,000 people around the world.
small arms are popular, is that they are rugged and remain operational
for years. Rifles such as the AK-47 and the Ml 6, which soldiers carried
in the Vietnam War, are still being used in wars of today. Some rifles
used in Africa date back to World War I. Further, guns are easily
transported and concealed. A column of horses can carry enough rifles to
outfit a small army.
Cheap weapons have
not disrupted life in the industrialized world, excluding where drug
dealing and political terrorism flourish. The rich states have failed to
recognize the horror, suffering and hardship this evil has brought to
the lesser developed countries, especially in Africa. Experts currently
estimate that +/- 500 million military style firearms are currently in
circulation around the globe.
from low cost and wide availability, there are other reasons why small
weapons are so popular. They are lethal. A single rapid-fire assault
rifle can fire hundreds of rounds a minute they are also easy to use and
maintain. A child can be taught to strip and reassemble a typical
assault rifle. They can also quickly learn to aim and fire that rifle
into a crowd of people.
global traffic in guns is complex. Huge supplies of guns pass legally
from nation to nation. After the Cold War, armies in both the East and
the West were reduced, and governments gave or sold excess equipment to
friends and allies. According to a writer at the Peace Research
Institute in Oslo, Norway, since 1995 the United States alone has given
away more than 300,000 rifles, pistols, machine guns, and grenade
launchers. It is reasoned that giving weapons away is cheaper than
dismantling or storing and guarding them. Some analysts estimate that
perhaps three billion dollars’ worth of small arms and light weapons
legally cross national borders each year.
The illegal trade,
however, may be much larger. Black-market weapons usually have to be
purchased. In some African wars, paramilitary groups have bought
hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of small arms and light
weapons, not with money, but with diamonds seized from diamond-mining
areas. The New York Times commented: “Where
governments are corrupt, rebels are pitiless and borders are porous. The
glittering stones have become agents of slave labor, murder,
dismemberment, mass homelessness and wholesale economic collapse.”
Having read the
above, let us not forget that behind every illegal diamond that
is seized we must have willing buyers, where do these unscrupulous
buyers come from? How ironic that a gemstone traded for assault
rifles may later be sold in an elegant jewelry boutique as an
expensive symbol of eternal love!
are also linked to the illegal trade in drugs. It is not unusual
for criminal organizations to use the same routes to smuggle drugs in
one direction as they use to smuggle guns in the other. Weapons thus
have become a virtual currency, bartered for drugs.
When wars end, the
guns used in them often fall into the hands of criminals. Consider what
happened in South Africa that experienced a shift from
politically motivated violence to criminal violence. Political violence
there took the lives of some 10,000 people in just three years. When
that conflict ended, criminal violence soared. Competition between taxi
drivers resulted in “taxi wars,” where thugs were hired to shoot the
passengers and drivers of rival companies. Increasingly’, military
type assault rifles were used in robberies and other crimes. The number
of homicides committed with guns reached horrific proportions, it was
recorded as the second highest rate in the world for countries not at
The knowledge that
criminals are armed and dangerous creates fear and insecurity. In many
developing countries, the wealthy live in virtual fortresses, surrounded
by walls and electrified fences that are guarded day and night.
Residents of developed countries also take precautions. This is true
even in places that have not experienced civil strife.
No human can
measure the deadly work of cheap mass produced weapons; nor can we tally
the dead, the wounded, the bereaved, and the shattered lives. Yet, we do
know that the world is awash with arms and that their numbers keep
rising. Increasingly, voices cry for something to be done. But what can
My African brothers it is time to “WAKE
UP” we don’t need cheap weapons that have been dumped here by the
developed countries, we don’t need to fight and kill each other.
Destroy your cheap weapons; resolve your differences through dialogue
THE SENSELESS KILLING OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS. Let us channel our
energy toward a constructive cause and let us rebuild our land to its