LUSAKA, Africa’s largest trade bloc has expressed concern over the proliferation of small arms and light weapons on the African continent, saying the trend is detrimental to development.
The 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) took up the problem at an African Union (AU) regional steering committee meeting on small arms and light weapons held in Lusaka.
“Small arms are cheap, light and easy to handle, transport and conceal,” COMESA Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya was quoted by the Zambia Daily Mail as saying.
“A build-up of small arms alone may not create conflicts in areas in which they are used, but it is the excessive accumulation of these weapons and the wide availability that has increased tension on our continent and continues to disturb all efforts being made to promote peace in Africa,” Ngwenya said.
The COMESA chief added that small arms were causing the majority of human rights abuses, including killing, maiming, rape, disappearances, torture and forced recruitment of children by armed groups.
AU defense and security division head Tarek Sharif said at the meeting that there is a need for a stronger resolve to ensure that small arms and light weapons are not easily available to unauthorized individuals and groups.
He further revealed that AU member states are keen on including small arms and light weapons in the Arms Trade Treaty.
The UN General Assembly adopted the global Arms Trade Treaty in April last year, aiming to regulate the industry and keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals. The treaty is to come into force on Dec. 24, 2014.