This week, the First Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons will take place in Khartoum, Sudan:
The two-day event, organized by Sudan’s Ministry of Interior and Sudan’s Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission in collaboration with the Embassy of Germany, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, will involve participation by representatives from Libya, the Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Specific objectives of the conference include creating a forum for regional dialogue on the illegal trade, circulation and use of small arms; developing a harmonized regional approach to control small arms; developing a strategy for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; and creating a unique and holistic mechanism to monitor small arms control programmes across the borders of participating countries.
The absence of South Sudan from the list of organizers and invitees raises immediate questions: Has South Sudan indeed not been invited? If not, will the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, and the rebellions within both countries, receive serious examination at the conference?
The conference organizers are stressing border security as a key theme. Given the list of invitees, it looks major topics of discussion might also include the Lord’s Resistance Army (whose violence has affected the DRC and CAR, as well as other countries not on the list of invitees) and weapons flows out of Libya since the fall of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi last year.
Steady supplies of small arms and light weapons to all parties are fuelling these conflicts, threatening to extend and prolong them significantly. Since independence, official bans on materiel acquisitions by the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) have been lifted and the government is exploring expanded defence contracts with a number of
interested states. At the same time, an increasing number of non-state actors
in South Sudan, including tribal groups and rebel militia groups, are acquiring weapons illicitly at what appear to be increasingly rapid rates. As the demand for weapons in South Sudan grows, external actors are meeting supply needs.
This paragraph points to the importance, then, of looking at the issue not just from a regional perspective, but an international one as well, taking account of suppliers.
What do you expect to come of the conference?