The Control Strategies of Illegal Small Arms and Light Weapons (SMLW) (1-3)
Most of the definitions of small arms and light weapons agree that they are the personal arms used by an individual person of a less than one hundred millimeter caliber. The extensive proliferation of the illegal small arms and light weapons is considered among the greatest challenges facing most of the African states.
The threats of the small illegal arms are not only confined to the security aspect, rather they go beyond that to extended effects on the political, social, economic and cultural life.
In spite of the complexity and significance of all axes of the small arms issue, e.g., history of arms proliferation, the motives behind armament and the regional dimensions of the problem, the arms control strategies remain as an important axis in this issue.
This paper is an attempt to review and discuss the most important strategies of control of illegal arms, and to study their feasibility in the light of the current circumstances of the states which are concerned with this conference. The paper is based on all the international experiences in this field, with emphasis on the Sudan's experience in detail, through the discussion and analysis of the possibility of success of their strategies in case of their application in other states in the region.
According to the estimates of the concerned corporations concerning the issue of small arms, there are about sixty millions pieces of illegal weapons spreading in Africa, South of the Sahara, and their history goes back to the days of the cold war when the big states used to compete in the armament of liberation movements and separatist movements supported by them on one hand, and supporting the ruling regimes which are opposed to these movements, on the other hand. In spite of the fact that it started with political motives, nevertheless, the usages of illegal small arms became wide and extended in the aftermath of the several wars between a number of states in the region, besides the internal civil wars, which made the usages to include the organized crime, smuggling, and in a great rate, the desire for self-protection and this renders the research of the small arms a very complex issue due to the change of impulses across time and place.
As the defense of the people's souls and properties is in the first place, the state's most prioritized duty, nevertheless, when the state with its constitutional institutions come short of carrying out this duty or fail to perform it, then it will be carried out by the citizen and the local societies with the impulse of the instinct and in a manner which may not be the optimum one for the achievement of an undisputed objective. Therefore, the constant objective of the program of the small arms and light weapons control is the reaching to the normal state, that is the protection of man, his properties and the society with its capacities, falls within the constitutional rights provided by the state in servicing all the citizens without pushing them to the arms, possession and contravention of the law for the sake of protection.
The theoretical framework:
The theoretical framework for the arms control is based on the steady relationship between the possession and use of the illegal weapons, its motives, means of possession and usage. This relationship is founded on a hypothesis, that the illegal possession and use of the weapons is not the original rule, rather it is a contingent behavior to which people are forced, at the existence of certain motives thereto. No armament is carried out except after the availability of appropriate means thereto. This means that the control of the possession and use of illegal arms starts with the analysis of the impulses and means of the illegal armament.
Pursuant to the theoretical framework, there exists a triangle of three sides; and it must be completed, so that whoever is desirous of possession and use of arms in an illegal manner, whether he is an individual or a group, will be able to do this. The first side is the impulse or the will, as the will is the basic constituent of the human behavior. As was mentioned before, most of the illegal armament activities started with political motives, then they deviated into criminal ones, before, this was to lead to a wide desire after the expansion of the weakness of security, wars struggles, and inequality into a wide movement towards the self-defense and protection of properties.
Besides the will (impulse) there are the (means) which are confined to two basic elements: the obtainment of the weapons by an economically appropriate and safe manner, and then, the ability to use the weapon or to be trained upon it, and hence, the elements of the possession and use of illegal arms are completed. As, when there is a will for this and with the availability of the resources which provide the weapon to the individual, which will enable him to use this weapon, then the cycle of the small arms is completed as a basic threat to the security and the society. These three elements, necessarily, become the practical point of departure for the development of the various arms control strategies.
Small arms control strategies:
Since the end of the cold war in the beginning of the nineties of the last century and the emergence of the small arms file on the surface, the efforts of thinkers, politician and executives were bent on the solution of the problem through the axis of the arms itself, and this is made through the halting of the supply, draining its sources for combating the possession through several projects and the legal attempts to control the traffic itself, on one hand, and to work for withdrawing what was in the possession of the citizens through multiple mechanisms, on the other hand. However, the question of the training, did not find any attention or effort during the last two decades.
In consideration and analysis of these experiences, we find that the issue of training on the small arms and light weapons is among the easiest requirements, due to the easiness of perfection of use of small arms and specially the (AK 47), the Kalashnikov, which is considered the most widespread in Africa, south of the Sahara and the African Horn. Since several decades, training used to be in need of complicated requirements and trainees, nevertheless, with the increase of the numbers of the demobilized from the regular forces of who were linked with their tribes, parties and local communities, the circle of training had been enlarged, which had been before confined in the trainees who were provided by the arms supplying states. Currently, the issue of training does not constitute any axis for combating illegal arms, specifically after the enlargement of the circle of training of the reserves in all the states of the world through the popular armies and the national service and other reserves designations.
As for the aspect of the supply of arms, a number of groups, national, regional and international organizations were created which are working for the crystallization of legal and political visions and are trying to control the arms export and its exit form the source of manufacturing to the developing states on one hand and the control of its smuggling between the states, on the other hand. Nevertheless, most of the efforts for the control of the supply didn't succeed in the past, and it appears that their chances of success are poor in the future for several reasons, which may be summed up in the following:-
1- The conflict of interests of the arms manufacturers and exporters with those who are working in its control and the strength of the impact of the two groups on the political decision, which makes the control of manufacturing a very difficult question. As the western states are the ones which are leading the combating initiatives and they are themselves the ones which provided many movements with arms, which in turn are in conformity their political and intellectual objectives, like what happened with the Afghanistan's resistance during the war against the Soviet Union. Also, the western companies are the ones which manufacture and export arms to the states which come under accusation by some others, that they turn the legal arms to un-legal arms through the support of the opposition movements. The conflict of commercial and ideological interests between the exporting and importing states which makes the issue of control of exportation a difficult thing for the control or suspension. As those who had been enemies to the western states, had been friends of the eastern states, like Hamas, and Hizbo Allah who were seen by some as terrorist movements, and were seen by some others as two movements of legitimate resistance which deserve support and armament.
2- The characteristics of the small arms, which resist the hard and tough environmental conditions and the longest age of its use renders its defect and going out of operating a rare thing with a negligent percentage. Whereas some pieces which started the service since forty years ago are still working effectively in locations other than those in which they initially started their service?
3- The enormous dumping of the markets during the cold war, makes the existing arms in the market sufficient to complicate the problem even in the case of halting of manufacturing and exporting in the future, as the available number in the world is estimated at six hundreds millions pieces.
4- The intense overlapping between the legal and the illegal and easiness of the arms movement from the legitimate corporations to outlawed users, through the governments' support of insurgent movements in other states, or through the spoils of continuous military battles between the warring parties.
By Dr. Omer Abdel Aziz Ali, 22/05/2012