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AUF SUPPORTS ARMS REGISTER FOR THE AFRICAN UNION

The AUF is working on publicising and augmenting the efforts to create an Arms Register for the African Union. The initiatives for disarmament automatically became part of the NEPAD in January 2002, and the implementation of security clauses of NEPAD fall to the African Union's Secretariat directly (as opposed to the ADB or UNECA). The AUF is pushing for Disarmament, Registry and Integration of Armies as a leading priority among those listed by NEPAD.

REPORT ON ECOWAS DISARMAMENT SEMINAR

On 23 September 1999, Ghana's Vice President John Atta Mills opened a two-day United Nations workshop in Accra on the Modalities for the Establishment of an Arms Register and a Database in Africa with a call for the Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Light Weapons in West Africa to be expanded to all of Africa and transformed into a convention.

"It is, indeed, gratifying to learn that since the adoption of the ECOWAS Moratorium, which is not a legally-binding Declaration, there have been several calls for the adoption of an African Regional Convention on the Control of Light Weapons whose provisions will be legally binding on signatories and State parties. I would like to urge that no effort should be spared to make this a reality”, Mr. Mills told delegates from close to 20 countries attending the Accra Workshop.

"Let us all join in the crusade to silence the guns of war, to make our streets, schools and homes free of violence, banditry and armed robbery”, added Mr. Mills. He urged African leaders, arms manufacturers and suppliers, and the international community to build partnerships to address the problems of conflict, the phenomenon of child soldiers, the tragic misuse of firearms and the consequences of instability in Africa.

“Small arms are playing no small part in the proliferation of wars and violent conflicts that are currently devastating the material and human resources of our countries and regions”, said Ghana's Minister of Defence, E.K.T. Donkoh. A former soldier, Mr. Donkoh captured the new urge for transparency in military issues in Africa by commenting on the paradox of soldiers taking part in efforts to check the use of the instruments of their profession.

Speaking earlier, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, Ivor Richard Fung, and the Director of the Department of Information of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Adrienne Diop, each traced and lauded the historic work under way in West Africa in the domain of light weapons control and limitation. They stressed the importance of an Arms Register and a Database in advancing practical measures of disarmament in the region, describing it as an instrument capable of building trust, strengthening cooperation among States, reinforcing transparency and promoting research on arms issues in Africa.

Working sessions of the Accra Workshop focused for the rest of the day on policy and technical issues involved in the building of an Arms Register and a Database. Guided by resource persons and experts from research institutes, delegates discussed the possible political and security implications of establishing an Arms Register, turning for inspiration to the experience of Latin America and the Caribbean in establishing a firearms register.

The Accra Workshop, which enters the second and final day on Friday with work in commissions, followed by the adoption of work group reports in plenary, is organized by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, based in Lomé, Togo, in collaboration with ECOWAS, with funding from the Government of the Netherlands.