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South African Entertainer Speaks Out Against Small Arms and Light Weapons


The second World Summit on Small Arms gets underway today at the United Nations in New York. It’s a follow-up to the UN Program of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which was agreed upon in 2001. It committed UN member states to collecting and destroying illegal weapons, criminalizing the illicit trade in small arms, and setting strict import and export controls, among other things.

One of those taking part in the campaign against the spread of small arms and light weapons is South African music and film star Zola. From New York, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how he got involved.

“A few months back I had an opportunity of going to Ethiopia with UNICEF…. And we were sent into a very remote area up north of Ethiopia, where there’s a tribe called the Homa people. And we were supposed to do a report on their lifestyle…but we discovered that they had a lot of guns. Almost everybody was walking around with a Makarov or an AK-47 or an M-16…because of the tribal feuds that they’ve had and the previous war they had gone through.”

When he returned home he told the media what he saw and was asked to take part in the current campaign. Zola says he hopes his efforts will influence and educate young people about the weapons.

“Yeah, that’s the whole idea. If you have somebody in the public who’s very much in touch with the young people on the street, you feel like you have an influence in the crowd. And then that’s when you find a responsibility to do something about it. So, if we can talk about arms, we can talk about small guns and we can talk about what they do to kids in Darfur, for example. And then maybe we can get a message across. And if it takes an African to come into this country and talk about the damage that the guns are doing, maybe there can be some form of moral awakening in terms of what the guns are really capable of.”

Zola says when he visited Ethiopia he says many children with the weapons, adding in their culture they are considered a warrior at a very young age.