Uncontrolled small arms and light weapons proliferating in Africa


According to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) there are more than “a hundred million uncontrolled small arms and light weapons in crisis zones and security challenged environments” in Africa.

“With an estimated population of 1.2 billion in Africa this is an unfortunate and significant ratio of one to 12,” Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, told an event to raise awareness of the nexus between terrorism, organised crime and illicit small arms trafficking.

This estimate of the massive number of small arms in Africa should attract the attention of the African Union, which has as one of its stated aims to “silence the guns by 2030”. Add to this that seven of the UN’s 13 peacekeeping missions are on African soil and the continental body has set itself a task of note.

Voronkov told the launch event for the project to prevent and combat illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons and illicit supply to terrorists, the movement of illicit weapons from one country or region to another was possible due to porous borders and challenges in detecting and confiscating them.

“It is widely acknowledged that the connection between terrorism and organised crime, including illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking, is a serious threat to international peace and security. It is also an obstacle to sustainable development and a menace to the rule of law,” he said.

He used an African example to explain the connection between terrorism and small arms trafficking. Illicit weapons from Libya he said “are finding their way to the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel”.

Since last year, UNOCT and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has worked with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) developing a project to enhance national legislative, strategic and operational capacities to prevent, detect and counter firearms trafficking and other illegal activities related to terrorism and organised crime in Central Asia. This Voronkov said was an example of the “All of UN” approach to support counter-terrorism efforts in member states.