“Only an armed man can have political rights” – Old Swiss tradition
The impact of Small Arms (SALW) on Africa’s largest state with a $345billion GDP has become increasingly evident and globally worrisome as the spate of insurgency activity in Nigeria’s North East rises exponetially with Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen, Niger Delta militants, Badoo cult amongst other militia recording huge killing sprees and swats of violent territorial take-overs in the face of hapless state security architecture, lack of a proactive intelligence and infiltration tactics and dynamically inept antiterrorism apparatus. There is also the gradually growing yet wide spread proliferation of craft (locally made) weapons, a component of the oft-steady weaponisation of the West Africa subregion which is recorded to house over 150 million SALW, 30% of the 500 million within its 12 member states. Data and tracking shows Nigeria alone houses 350 million SALW which technically implies two guns per citizens. This continues to paint a macabre picture of Nigeria, the region with states of Anglophone and francophone composition at the brink of failed statehood. All these fueled by religious, ethnic, deep sectarian divisions as well as a corrupt, nepotistic and culpable government, fights for resource management control, military truncations of democracy and sit-tightism of leaders, a decrepit educational system and as with particular reference to Nigeria which has over 10.5 million out of school children (the largest in the world) and a disenfranchised and economically under engaged youth population. Other Africa nations are plagued by a similar challenge of leadership and Management of statecraft.
In the quest to curb the weapons and ordinance plague, Nigeria’s Presidential Committee (PRESCOM) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) became prompted to rigorously engage with Small Arms Survey, Geneva, Switzerland (SAS) to acquire an accelerated support mechanism on a national scale to map and subject to control the illicit flow of SALW and the dangerous (commercially viable) trade in it. As a researcher and scientists, SAS invited me and proceeded to engage us in this study to enhance its methodology, understand cultural influences and achieve quality data capture.
The study insightfully looked at the effective implementation of international instruments as (ATT, PoA) and other concepts of SALW research into how the growth in this illicit trade has been sustained, fueled modern day slavery as currently witnessed in Libya alongside the consequent increase in production of craft (locally made) weapons, which continue to be smuggled continent-wide.
The study touchpointed the acquisition channels, financing, artisanship, machinery used and impact of platforms as the internet on the skillsets of the manufacturers. I had been working on a documentary film to capture this sub-segment of weaponisation research into artisan capacity and phenomenon of armament with Nigeria as the case study for it. I still seek a grant.
The fortunate seizure about a year ago of a cache of 661 pump-action rifles in the Lagos metropolis on January 22, 2017 caused a national uproar, leading to questioning the origins of these weapons, its importers, licensing regimes and arms transfer control systems.
Histotically China is a leading proliferator of small arms globally. Its arming of the Biafra side in 1967 alongside Czechoslovakia in the Nigeria civil war is well documented. Reports published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) illuminates on this with big data clearly defining evidence to corroborate their report. Data shows no less than 46 states imported Chinese SALW during a 2006-2010 period, weapons they cannot readily procure via other channels.
This trend by China dates back to the 1980s. Such acquisition are a means amongst recipient states to diversify their arms supply sources and a larger number of these nations refuse to declare their SALW channels. SIPRI’s claim and studies show the evolution of China’s arms transfer control system is faulty and non transparent, with licenses for such trade granted to 11 of its State Owned Enterprises (SOE)/ Chaebols.
The transfer of some of these most common Chinese SALW such as QBZ-95 (Rifles), QBZ-95B (Carbine), QBZ-95 LSW (Light Support Weapons) etc. to foreign states where they have either been stolen by non-state actors from government sources or actually transfered to these non-state actors by government in sabotage to enrich cabals and or colluded to destabilise the state is fingered by experts as the method by which Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and other deadly militia have acquired their cache of SALW and heavy military hardware used to lay siege in Nigeria’s north east and beyond borders. The Kidnap of over 200 Chibok girls and the recent abductions of another set of helpless Nigerians at Dapchi tell a vivid story of how SALW and craft weapons in the hands of violent brigands continue to used it to torture the girl-child and mostly women, the largest victims of armed unrest globally.
Nigeria is rated as the nation with the third most emergence of armed radical and violent groups after Afghanistan and Syria. The proliferation of Chinese SALW calls for a reexamination of China-Africa engagement holistically espcially on the basis of China’s agreement on security cooperation with the Africa Union (AU) in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Addis Abba Action Plan (2004-2006) strategically strengthened further in the more recent FOCAC Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018). It is evident that an unstable SALW saturated and failure stricken Nigeria, West Africa and African continent is never in China’s investment favour.
With an infrastructure and investment portfolio expenditure valued at over $220 billion in about the last decade and still growing, China has every political, bilateral and multilateral impetus to work closely with African states to build their security framework and strategically mop up SALW.
Additionally China should work with the indigenous security personnel to deradicalise non-state actors, re-introducing them into society, work to sustainably shape ethical policy directions on weapons manufacturing capacity and legislation. It should act on a case by case basis under international protocol and best practise to transfer of knowledge in weapons development, anti-terrorism tactics and enhance military cooperation with Africa nations alongside monitoring methods for SALW and craft weapons control. Continuous training in conflict resolution as also helping the development of a sustainable model for equity based peaceful co-existence amongst African’s diverse ethnic nationalities.
Above all it is in China’s interest to ensure Nigeria amongst other states within the AU enjoys socio-economic stability, inclusion, achieve decent workforce status, technology transfer, remove red tape and trade protectionism, overcome climate change and infrastructural advancement, within its much touted south-south cooperation plan and the more ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative”.
This practises will ensure a win-win for both economic regions with a population of over 2.5 billion people as of today and whose engagement dates back to 1405 during the Ming Dynasty before the first industrial Revolution.
Ebisike Ebube George is the Executive Secretary, Information Marketing And Management Institute (IMMI) Abuja, Nigeria, and could be reached via [email protected]