The United Nations says conflict in Central Africa is fueled by an illegal-weapons trade that increases cross-border crime and threatens national reconciliation.
Organized crime involved in drug trafficking and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources provides a steady flow of weapons that is making conflict in Central Africa more violent and more difficult to contain.
U.N. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro says the illegal trafficking of small arms and light weapons never happens in isolation.
"Weapons trafficking in Central Africa has complex links, not only to conflict, but also to a number of other criminal activities, which undermine our efforts to engender social justice, foster the rule of law and, ultimately, achieve the Millennium Development Goals," Migiro said. "The link between the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources, and the illicit proliferation and trafficking of arms, has become increasingly apparent."
Migiro says local demand from militia and rebel groups in Central Africa remains strong. While some governments are working to promote disarmament and stop the illegal weapons trade, Migiro says they are often overwhelmed by the scale of the threat and the relative ease with which these weapons cross borders.
"Limited national and regional capacity, porous borders and the spillover effects of conflicts in the region have impeded effective small-arms control," Migiro added. "As a result, Central Africa is awash with illicit weapons, exacerbating inter-communal violence, increasing cross-border crime and threatening ongoing peace and national reconciliation processes."
She says efforts by the Economic Community of Central African States to eradicate the illegal arms trade cannot succeed without a stronger commitment by nations that supply those weapons. Migiro wants a global treaty regulating the arms trade.
The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament Affairs offers training and legal assistance for civil society groups, governments, and regional organizations. Migiro says it will now help draft the sub-region's first legally-binding instrument on the control of small arms and light weapons, ammunition, explosives and equipment supporting their manufacture.
"Other urgent priorities include stockpile management, the security of weapons and ammunition, and measures to control the import, export, transit and re-transfer of weapons," Migiro noted. "More must also be done to build national capacities to mark weapons, keep adequate records and trace illicit ones in line with international and regional standards."
Migiro says it is time all U.N. member states help Central African governments improve weak regulation and enforcement measures to improve sub-regional stability and create conditions for sustainable development.