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  • Subject area(s): International Relations
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According to Linda Darkwa in her work ‘ The Challenge Of Sub-Regional Security In West Africa’(2011), there are three main sources of SALW in West Africa – existing stocks that are recycled; new imports, which may include brand-new weapons and ammunition as well as used weapons recycled from outside the sub-region; and local craft production in countries of the sub-region. Making reference to Claude Ake, Darkwa traced the proliferation of SALWs in West Africa to the mid-to-late 1960s, when authoritarian, repressive and exclusionary policies employed by post-independence leaders in the name of nation-building in highly diverse societies led to discontent, protests among segments of their populations and, in extreme cases, civil war, as in Nigeria (1967–70). With most avenues for peaceful protest closed, the political opposition or excluded regions/groups in some countries took to armed violence in their struggles for power or freedom (Ake 1996).
Thus, according to Darkwa between 1963 and 1990, there were some 38 actual and attempted coups in the sub-region, even as several states remained under authoritarian one party regime. Although the coups were undertaken by the military, often segments of the civilian population sympathetic to the ideals of the coup leaders were armed and entrusted with the duty of enforcing the precepts of the military regimes. In some cases, trade unionists, students and unemployed youth at the periphery of society were given arms and constituted as civil defence forces with the mandate to police their societies and bring to book violators of the new and often radical code of the coup leaders. Such coups therefore exacerbated the diffusion of arms into the civilian domain. Darkwa, however, noted that the proliferation of arms during this period was not on such a wide scale on account of several challenges, including transportation and obtaining funds for payment. These two challenges have fallen away, as globalization has provided options for transportation and globalised finance allows for easy transactions throughout the world – even in illicit goods. The governance challenges discussed above reached a climax late in the 1980s, resulting in armed conflicts in several countries in the sub-region. Liberia and Sierra Leone became the examples of “failed states” in West Africa on account of the brutal civil wars that ravaged them (and threatened neighbouring states), but there were also small-scale insurgencies in Guinea, Senegal and Mali. These conflicts were fuelled and sustained by a guaranteed supply of SALW made more readily available from countries of the former soviet bloc (Stevenson 2005).
Another source of proliferation according to Darkwa is the SALWs designated for peacekeeping and peace support operations. Such weapons may fall into the wrong hands when rebel groups kidnap peacekeepers. Eric Berman (2001) gave a catalogue of incidents during which arms were seized from peacekeepers. For instance, according to Berman, the RUF captured a considerable amount of weapons and ammunition from peacekeepers during the battle for Freetown and also “routed ECOMOG [ECOWAS’s monitoring group] at Kono where the West African force had stationed most of its materiel, capturing all its weapons, including three tanks” (Berman 2001: 9). The RUF also captured weapons by ambushing peacekeepers. In 2000, RUF captured 500 United Nations peacekeepers. Although they were freed and some heavy military weapons were returned (Leighton 2000), most probably because the rebels feared that their size made them easily visible, there were no reports of other weapons and equipment being returned. It can be safely concluded that the peacekeepers’ small arms (probably on account of their small size) were among the weapons and equipment not returned (Leighton 2000). Disarmament programmes at the end of the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia were unable to mop up all the SALW, especially since some of them had found their way into other theatres of conflict in the sub-region. Available evidence indicates arms sales by ex-combatants to other groups in the sub-region engaged in armed struggles. At the end of their tour of duty, some returning security and peacekeeping officers are able to smuggle in weapons either bought for paltry sums or taken as spoils from killed or captured combatants (Duquet 2009).
Darkwa mentioned another source of arms into the sub-region as those through the private military companies (PMCs) providing security in troubled countries. The Sandline affair illustrates the dilemma of utilising PMCs in the face of the failure of the international community to act decisively. In 1997, after the overthrow of Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, arrangements were made with Sandline International for the provision of military equipment and services. Despite a Security Council arms embargo, the Sierra Leonean government provided an end-user certificate for the procurement and transportation of arms into Sierra Leone (Legg and Ibbs 1998). The Sandline affair illustrates the possibilities of circumventing arms embargoes by using the services of PMCs, whose legality is shrouded in controversies.
Government arms stockpiles can also be another source of illicit proliferation. Duquet (2009), using Nigeria’s Niger Delta as a case study, argues that this was the case at the outset of the insurgency when rebel groups had not yet fully tapped into the oil “war economy”. It is, however, noteworthy that proliferation from government stockpiles can also take place in the absence of armed conflict, for instance during prison breaks and/or break-ins by criminal groups in need of weapons. State security forces are also identified as a source of illicit small arms proliferation. Although Nigeria is referred to in Duquet’s work, the phenomenon is by no means limited to Nigeria. For example, on 17 May 2008, Ghanaian police reported the arrest of one of its officers for attempting to sell an AK-47 and 30 rounds of ammunition to a member of a warring faction in a conflict that had necessitated deployment of a contingent of police to provide security. The arrested officer was a member of this police contingent (ibid).
Local or craft manufacture by blacksmiths in the sub-region may also give rise to proliferation. Studies show that local blacksmiths have in response to the downturn in agriculture and crop prices, shifted to the manufacture of craft guns as a survival strategy and means of earning higher incomes. Countries such as Mali and Nigeria allow the manufacture of some types of small arms in local defence industries for use by their military and defence sectors, but such manufacture is illegal in several other countries in the sub-region. A number of challenges arise in relation to local manufacture. There is a lack of consistently reliable data on the types and quantities of weapons produced and there are violations of production licences as manufacturers engage in the production of non-authorized weapons. In addition, producers often operate with old licences, which makes it difficult to estimate how many producers exist and the number of weapons manufactured. Apart from this, underground industries exist in countries where local production is illegal and criminalized. Aning (2005), writing on Ghana where there is a ban on gun production, suggests that there are about 2,500 blacksmiths with the capacity to produce guns in two of Ghana’s 10 regions, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo, and estimates annual production of some 200,000 firearms. The denial by states of the existence of the problem makes it difficult to devise appropriate responses.
Micheal Brzoska and Frederic S. Pearson in their Arms and Warfare Escalation De-escalation and Negotiation (1994) conducted an in-depth inquiry into the dynamics of arms availability and warfare. The paper reviewed a number of wars across various regions of the world and sought to uncover the relationship between arms availability and the likelihood of war. In their analysis, the authors examined the motives for arms supply by producing nations in which they identified strategic interest, which they reasoned to be used by producing nations to bolster friendly states in order to obtain privileges and the commercial motives which according to them are governed by purely business interest. They opined that, where arms supplied is guided by strategic interest; restraint is often applied when such supply appears to be capable of offsetting regional balance. The paper cited the example of the gulf region where arms supply was regulated to prevent either Iran or Iraq from emerging as a dominant power in the region. The paper however noted the failure of such policies in the long run also citing the impact these stockpile of arms had in Iraq’s subsequent storming of Kuwait and stand off against the global coalition in 1991. Where supply is governed by business interest it reasoned that restraint could only be applied when such supply conflicts with business interest, like incur the wrath of a larger buyer. The paper added that most post cold war arms supply are business driven.
In addressing the relationship between arms and violence, the authors referenced the concept of deterrence which advocates for arms buildup as a panacea to war. It probes the validity in the underlying dictum “If you want peace, prepare for war” by reviewing trends in arms buildup. The authors presented evidence indicating that to the contrary arms buildup had predominantly lead to war. It however noted that this trend has been mostly observed in conventional conflict situation. It reinforced this finding by employing Singer’s hypothesis that ‘The greater a nation’s military capacity at any time the greater the likelihood of it being involved in war within five years.” (Singer, 1991:3) The authors also offered historical evidence to prove that most wars have been preceded by some degree of arms buildup and rising arms level can aggravate existing tensions leading to armed violence. The writers attributed Saddam Hussein’s intransigence in the face of overwhelming world military might in the 1990s to the confidence he reposed on his massive arms stockpile.
Writing for the Journal of Conflict Studies, Stephen Riley in his article titled “War and Famine in Africa” (1994) traced the developmental history of Africa from the period of decolonization to the post war era. He chronicled the misfortunes that plagued the continent, from the band of dictators that held sway during the cold war to the wave of intrastate conflicts that greeted the end of the Cold War in this region. Riley attributed the current plight of the region to the negative impact of these past experiences. He also attempted to establish a direct linkage between war and famine whose consequences he claims is the stunted growth and development of the region. This study finds relevance in this analogy as it relates to security. The reasoning reinforces the argument of the adverse effects of economic deprivation to security. Drawing from Riley’s logic, the prevalence of conflicts in the region has compromised not only physical military security but also economic security. According to him, the consequences of these conflicts have been grave: the creation of internal and international refugee populations; the destruction of property; and the destruction, temporary or long term, of the productive capacity of the regions.
Examining specific cases, Riley sites the over 175,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees who were faced with acute starvations in Northern Liberia as a result of that nation’s civil war. It is instructive to note that these refugee camps in the coming years formed the spring boards for rebel attacks to Guinea and Sierra Leone lending further credence to Ripley assertion that war consumes resources, National armies, secessionist militaries and rebels bands ought to be perceived as absorbers of scarce resources, which should be more properly spent on health, education or welfare services.
Evaluating SALW control measures initiated by various regional bodies, Page Et. Al. in a report for the International Alert,(2005) reviewed the ECOWAS Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light weapons in West Africa. The report retraced the violent political history of West Africa citing these antecedents as a motivation for a concerted controlled effort by political leaders in the region. Elaborating on the moratorium, the report lauded its conception as the first of such initiative by a regional organization in curbing SALW proliferation. By the authors account, the concept was fronted by the then president of Mali Alpha Oumar Konare out of his country’s experience in its successful effort in cutting off SALW supply to the Tuareg and Arab militia in his country based on a similar model. Gaining the endorsement of regional leaders the ECOWAS Moratorium was adopted as a sub regional instrument for combating the proliferation of SALW by the ECOWAS heads of government in October 1998. The Moratorium was made to be renewable after every three year period and is composed of the following three main instruments:
a. The Moratorium Declaration;
b. The Plan of Action for the implementation of the Program for Coordination and Assistance on Security and Development (PCASED); a UN Development Program (UNDP) sponsored package that provides technical and operational support to the practical development of the Moratorium, and was adopted by ECOWAS foreign ministers in March 1999; and
c. The Code of Conduct, adopted on 10 December 1999. Its main components include:
• The establishment of National Commissions in each member state (Article 4);
• The setting up of structures within ECOWAS to support the Moratorium and to monitor the compliance of member states (Article 5).
• The preparation of reports by member states ‘on the ordering or procurement of weapons, components and ammunitions covered by the Moratorium’ (Article 6).
• The development of a regional arms register and database (Article 6);
• The harmonization of legislation (Article 7).
• The training of security personnel (Article 7).
• The declaration of weapons and ammunition used for peacekeeping operations (Article 8).38
Writing in 2005, the authors’ assessment of the Moratorium was cautiously optimistic, they applauded its initiative and its modest achievement and reposed confidence in its future as an effective instrument for SALW control in West Africa. Looking afterwards, although the initiative has spurred the African Union into broadening the framework to cover the entire continent under the Bamako declaration, the optimism expressed by Page Et. Al. is yet to fully manifest in the implementation in the terms of the Moratorium. Although 14 out of the 15 member nations have established National Commission on SALW, in line with the terms of the Moratorium. Most of these commissions are handicapped by acutely inadequate budgetary allocation and human resources that prevent them from functioning effectively. Most regional governments have failed to demonstrate sufficient commitment towards adequately empowering these commissions to meet their responsibility.
The effect of this shortfall is that much of the interstate and bilateral coordination supposed to be conducted at the national commission level are left unexecuted. Consequently the requirement to harmonize legislation and the training of security agencies among member nations remained a proposition 17 years after the moratorium.
Soon after the ratification of the Moratorium by member states, evidence began to emerge of violation of the terms by member states. A UN report on illicit arms supply to Liberia in 2001, incriminated Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Guinea for complicity in the supply of arms to various militant factions in the countries armed violence.39 The report revealed that these members states, themselves signatories to the Moratorium have violated the terms of the Moratorium conniving with arms manufacturers in Europe and Asia to channel SALW to Liberia in breach of UN arms embargo on Liberia.
Despite such damning evidence against these states, the moratorium not being legally binding cannot be evoked to initiative any punitive action against erring parties. This stands as a great impediment to meeting the objectives of the moratorium.
Theoretical Framework
This research works within the human security theory and the regional security complex theory.
Traditionally, security is viewed from a realist paradigm where the emphasis is on the state as the primary actor. The realist philosophical underpinning of security sees the state as an actor whose main goal is power maximization and the pursuance of the national interest. Realism stresses that states possess offensive military capabilities which can enable them to hurt and destroy each other ─ that military threats are core to ‘traditional’ national security. Hans Morgenthau submits that “national security must be defined as the integrity of the national territory and its institutions” (Morgenthau 1978 p.562). The traditional approach to national security is in conflict with the interests of other states, and as such, requires that states retain military capabilities adequate enough to counter perceived military threats. The traditional concept of national security is molded on a state’s capability to protect its national borders, to develop the capacity that will enable it to deal with threats. The survival of the state against external and internal armed aggression is the main issue that the realist approach to national security preoccupies itself with.
However, contemporary conflicts take different forms and shapes than conflicts decades ago. The majority of current conflicts are now fought within internal boundaries of states rather than interstate conflicts between states. As well, another interesting trend is how the motivations underlying acquisition of weapons are broadening from a direct challenge of the state’s authority to criminal purposes. This is leading to a surge in the militarization of daily lives, which is also an important factor for weapon proliferation. Proliferation of weapons this way, represents new threats rather than the traditional realist-centric national security, which views threats as directed to destabilizing the central power of the state.
According to Christopher Louise; Militarization and arms proliferation amid conditions of weakening social cohesion have led to a domestic arms race. As in state-to-state arms races, the driving logic is the perceived threat posed by an armed neighbor. However in a domestic arms race personal security becomes the dominant requirement, if the state cannot guarantee social order (Louise, 1995 p.5).
The traditional concept of national security is being challenged as there is a remarkable shift to new types of emerging threats. Thus, traditional realist security theory fails to “… recognize the state as a possible internal aggressor, as well as its inherent analytic inability to explain the 95% of all warfare that is now within, rather than between, states” (Owen, 2004 p.373). Many of the 21st century threats in the developing world can no longer be explained by the traditional paradigm of national security. The majority of contemporary threats now fall under the human security umbrella because they extend beyond the paradigm of national security.
Human security theory calls for a shift from the traditional, state-centered, realist, understanding of security that revolves around the state’s safety from armed aggression, to the protection of the individual (Hough, 2008). Security threats can no longer be viewed from the national security perspective, but rather, the focus should be on the root causes of human insecurities. According to the Commission on Human Security, human security “broadens the focus from the security of borders to the lives of people and communities inside and across those borders” that the “idea is for people to be secure, not just for territories within borders to be secure against external aggression” (Commission on Human Security, 2003 p.4).
It is becoming clear that states and their societies are now vulnerable to threats that operate beyond their control. Human security recognizes that both states and their societies are vulnerable to threats that cannot be addressed by the traditional security alone since the threats are within, rather than outside the state. Thus, the human security recognizes the multi-dimensional character of security threats and paradigm takes a holistic approach to address the insecurities (OCHA 2009).
The regional security complex theory on the other hand talks about how security is clustered in geographically shaped regions. Security concerns do not travel well over distances and threats are therefore most likely to occur in the region. The security of each actor in a region interacts with the security of the other actors and there is often intense security interdependence within a region (Buzan and Weaver, 2003).
Research Methodology
The presentation of analytical data will be conducted by employing two countries in the sub-region as case studies. The case studies will comprise of Liberia; a country which had a very high volume of SALW, evidenced by complete outbreak of armed violence and levels of SALW proliferation during its conflict. Ghana on the other hand will be used as a second case study for its remarkably low level of SALW proliferation. This perception is buttressed by its legacy of reasonable stability in the sub-region. This case study framework will be used in establishing parallels for evaluating security indicators in the context of a SALW endemic country and a non-endemic country, providing a platform for drawing conclusions on security susceptibility to arms flow in the sub-region.
The impact of SALW to security will be assessed not only from the stand point of nation’s security but also from the context of its direct and indirect consequences on the people of the affected nations The security impact assessment of SALW in this research will in realization of this fact, comprehensively analyze the effect of arms flow to these often neglected people-centered indicators of security.
In answering the thesis question therefore, the research will rely substantially on instruments provided by international bodies like the United Nations Development Program’s Human development Reports, the World Health Organization’s World Health Reports and the Human security Center’s Human Security Report. These reports will be used in concert with other available data on development and economic performance of the case studies nations. Reports obtained from these sources will form the bulk of this research’s tool of assessment.
This research will employ both comparative and deductive reasoning in analyzing the thesis. On the basis of data acquired from the above sources, the research will first examine the performance level of Liberia in various elements of security, like national security itself, economic security (addressed in terms of national GDP, NI,) and Human security (measurable by considering access to education, health care, forced human dislocation levels and income level of citizens) Liberia’s performance level in these elements of security will be examined prior to the country’s armed conflict and reappraised through the course of the conflict up to its return to normalcy. The result of this analysis will be used to represent a trend in the countries performance level prior, and after the period of armed conflict in the areas of study. A progressive trend in the security indicators analyzed will be deemed to infer a positive correlation between SALW and security while a regressive trend would connote a negative correlation.
The same pattern will later be adopted for Ghana through approximately the same period of time. Continuous reappraisal of the same security indicators would also be conducted over the period of steady democratic growth and stability that followed military leadership in Ghana. Finally an analysis of the trend in performance would also be conducted to determine a correlation between arms availability and security. It is hoped that the analysis of the case studies would provide answers to the primary question of this thesis.

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