The Devastating Impacts of Proliferation of Arms in Africa: A Perennial Challenge with Irreparable Human Costs

By Olusegun Akinfenwa*

Flash back:The human cost of uncontrolled arms in Africa | Oxfam International

Ethnic, religious, and political wars are some of the crises daily fueled by this continuation of SALW proliferation in Africa. In many African countries, there is hardly an election without bloodshed. For instance, one of the continent’s deadliest-election related violence occurred in northern Nigeria in 2011. The violence, which started with widespread protests by supporters of the then main-opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, who is now the president, lasted three days, claimed 800 lives and displaced over 65,000 people in 12 states. Political violence like this has been a rising pattern since 2000 and has also occurred in Algeria, CAR, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Sudan, and many other countries.

According to a 2017 report, privately owned firearm, licit and illicit, in some African countries is as follows: Libya 900,000; Nigeria: 2,000,000; South Sudan 3,000,000; Sudan 2,000,000; and Somalia 750,000. Due to the easy access to arms, warring parties, who should settle ordinarily their scores amicably in dialogue, often resort to violence.

This begs the question: who is responsible for the proliferation of arms into these violent-torn African? Many findings have shown that this has both external and internal influence.

If arms proliferation remains unchecked in Africa, the continent will not be free of wars and unrests, which have been the major factors for its current shambolic socio-economic status.

Apart from its numerous human costs like deaths and displacements, there are also economic losses to these crises.

A report by the World Council of Churches showed that armed conflicts cost Africa billions of 18 US dollars annually. Another study also showed that some 24 African countries, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, spent around 300 US billion dollar between 1999 and 2007. “This sum is equivalent to international aid from major donors in the same period. If this money was not lost due to armed conflict, it could solve the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria,” the study found.

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