Beyond Boundaries in East Africa: Part III

Beyond Boundaries in East Africa: Part III

Editor's note: This is the third of a five-part series examining security and development aid in East Africa. Part I provided an overview of the challenges facing East Africa. Part II examined the overlap between public health and security challenges. Part III examines the overlap between small arms trafficking and WMD nonproliferation. Part IV will examine the overlap between counterterrorism and efforts to contain criminal violence. Part V will provide success stories for the security-development model and discuss next steps.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan famously called small arms and light weapons (SALW) "the weapons of choice for the killers of our time." Perhaps in no other part of the world does that characterization ring more true than in East Africa, where the AK-47 is the weapon of choice for insurgents, terrorists and organized criminal syndicates. Regrettably, the weapon's impact goes far beyond its immediate capacity to kill and maim: The trafficking of these arms in East Africa undermines all aspects of human security and diminishes prospects for economic development.

As a result of the many armed conflicts that have plagued the region since the end of colonial rule, the demand for small arms has skyrocketed, resulting in a massive influx of foreign-made weapons as well as an increase in domestic production. Although the aggregate number of small arms in East Africa is unknown, of the 640 million in circulation worldwide, 100 million are believed to be present (.pdf) on the wider African continent.

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