Africa has been devastated by conflicts perpetuated by small arms and light weapons, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today, calling for a global pact to rid the continent of the scourge.
“Because of their lethality and ready deployment, they may be described as Africa’s experience of weapons of mass destruction,” Ojo Maduekwe said at United Nations Headquarters.
Nigeria, he said, believes the best and most effective way to prevent, combat and eradicate the “illicit and deadly trade” is through a legally binding international agreement, coupled with the political will of all States to curb the uncontrolled proliferation of these weapons.
“There is need, therefore, for urgent action to criminalize oil bunkering, the sale of oil so acquired and the use of its proceeds to fuel new crisis situations in Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, through the proliferation of small arms and light weapons,” the Minister said.
The same zeal applied to addressing the issue of “blood diamonds” must now be harnessed to address the problem of “blood oil” that threatens the Gulf, he added.
Also highlighting the dangers posed by small arms and light weapons was Cambodian Secretary of State Ouch Borith, who said that they undermine security and livelihoods.
Speaking as a country ravaged by conflict for over 20 years, he said that the South-East Asian nation understands first-hand the suffering wrought by the weapons.
The official underscored the importance of the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. “Over the years, Cambodia has taken practical measures to strictly control the use and circulation of arms and ammunitions, as well as to eliminate the illegal procurement and sales of arms.”
He said that landmines and unexploded ordnance pose do not only threaten stability, but are also a humanitarian risk, “as the innocent victims become permanently traumatized and physically handicapped, while their families suffer untold misery of spiritual and material deprivation.”
Earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the first-ever report to the Security Council on small arms.
In that document, made public in April, Mr. Ban observed that currently most conflicts are fought using mainly small arms and light weapons, being widely used in inter-State conflicts as well as in civil wars, terrorism, organized crime and gang warfare.
The report stressed the need for collaboration between the Council and the General Assembly to curb the illicit flows of arms and ammunition to crisis and conflict areas.