The Control Strategies of Illegal Small Arms and Light Weapons (SMLW) (2 – 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.
Nevertheless, the issue which enjoyed more attention and experience during the last two decades is the collection of illegal arms from the possession of the individuals and various groups. The states and the organizations adopted four means or strategies for the achievement of this target: imposition of the law, collection of arms by force, the purchase and destruction of illegal arms, the voluntarily collection of illegal arms and finally the collection and provision of arms in return for development projects.
1- Imposition of the law and collection of illegal arms by force:-
From a legal aspect, this option comes at the top of other options, for, as long as the law is preventing the possession of arms without a license then, those who contravene the law should be held accountable and the arms should be confiscated. But this option did not and will not be theoretically and practically a convenient one in the areas in which the role of the state is very weak in the safeguarding of security and in which the impulsive for armament is the self protection.
However, theoretically the state's foremost responsibility is the protection of the citizens and the state cannot prevent the citizen form protecting himself when it fails in protecting him and his properties. And practically, the cost of the application of the law is greater than the cost of provision of protection to its violators. And the state which owns the force and resources for collection of the arms by force and calling to account those who acquire it without a licensing, should better employ these resources in the protection of the citizens. In most of the experiences, the efforts of illegal arms collection and destruction by force did not succeed in the light of insecurity, rather, this mechanism usually succeeds in the towns and places in which the state plays its role satisfactorily in provision of security to the citizens, their properties and wealth's.
2- Purchase and destruction of illegal arms:-
In spite of existence of a number of attempts in this respect, nevertheless, they proved un-useful in the realization of the pursued target for several reasons:-
1- The citizen who spend his money to buy a weapon by an illegal method, do this for the purpose of self protection in a great percentage and he is not lured by money to give up his arms without the provision of security for him, his family and his properties.
2- If this remedy occurred without resolution of the security problem, then some citizens may tend to sell their old arms to the program and they return to the black market to buy new arms, instead of the old ones, and the plan, will produce adverse results, in this case.
3- It is difficult to apply the purchase program due to the porosity, openness and overlapping of the borders and the a abundance of the supply in the black market in the region, the thing which may lead to the flow of arms from safe areas unconcerned with the program, to the implementation area for the sake of obtainment of money, and thus, the financial ceiling required for the realization of the target will rise and may exceed the abilities of the funding bodies.
4- The difficulty of determination of the selling prices as the individual hopes for compensating what he spent in the selling and the finance plans in accordance with this financial capabilities and the prices of the offered (arms) in the nearby black market.
5- Also feasibility of this option is important to consider; need for funding; need for not doing unequal disarmament, making some more vulnerable than others.
These reasons render the success of this trend a very difficult one and we think that it didn't succeed in most of the regional experiences and it will not succeed unless it constitutes a part of a big plan and to be the last phase of a big plan, i.e., there should be a limited and monitored number of arms, and security should be provided to the concerned society; and the society requests a return for the handing over of its arms and ending the problem for good, and this is a rare case, and it in difficult to be attained.
3- Arms in return for development:-
This plan is based on the presentation of development project such as building of health and service centers for the concerned societies in return for collection and destruction of a certain amount of illegal arms.
In spite of this attractive idea, nevertheless, it is theoretically and practically useless. As theoretically the program is at variance with the moral commitment of the state by the provision of the basic requirements without linking them with any other issue like the illegal arms. The contravention of this principle may open a door to the wide political opposition. Secondly: linkage of the development services with the arms may induce the societies which do not acquire arms to do this for the sake of entering the program so as to obtain development projects. As for the practical side, the financial cost far the establishment of the development projects is for greater than the price of the arms and this aggravates the problem of financing.
4- The voluntary collection:
It is the best means for the solution of the problem and the most difficult one because it is linked with the citizen's feeling of security. The complication lies in the relationship between the actual existence of the security threats and the feeling of their existence, or it lies in the discrepancy between the reality of its weight and its enormity in the minds of the people. As the return to the state of tranquility after the disappearance of the security threats, or for the existence of the adequate securing mechanisms for their encountering, is difficult than the moving from the state of security to the state of fear, specially in the case of existence of political interests and dimensions which requires the psychological ware fare as a means in the struggles, but it remains the best means and it requires the provision of security to the inhabitants.
Besides, these experiences and strategies of limited success, some states resorted to another method for the solution of the problem through the work in the other side of the equation, which is an attempt for controlling the demand instead of focusing on controlling and combating the supply. The idea is based on collectivity of the defense duty instead of the professionalism which confines the duty of the provision of security in the professionally affiliated persons with the military institutions, where the defense of the souls and properties, and the keeping of security is a collective duty undertaken by the military institutions and their affiliates on behalf of the society and not professionally. And they have undertaken it with the full support from all the members of the society and its organizations. The aspects of support and participation varies according to the datum, the security conditions, and the size of threats, as it starts with the moral support, and the following of the guidelines and it reaches direct military action under the command of the military institutions whenever it is required. As security is the security of the individual, the state and the society, and it is not just the security of the government or the state. The keeping of security and facing of challenges and threats is also the duty of everybody. Practically, the strategy is applied through the absorption of numbers of the citizens into the reserves of the military institutions to seek their assistance in need in spite of the performance of their civil works of different specializations in the normal conditions. This tends to lessen the demand on the regular manpower and the material spending for the provision of security, and it also ensure the unity of the military culture and the unity of the command for all the individuals in all conditions under the national umbrella. Also it lessens the demand on the possession of arms. As, when the citizen is reassured and the local communities are reassured, especially those far away from the centre, of the existence of the arms in the possession of the state, and the availability of the required military force to encounter the expected threats between the human force of their communities, then they will not tend to possess or use arms by illegal means.
By Dr. Omer Abdel Aziz Ali, 23/05/2012