By Dr. Peter Mburu, IPPNW-Kenya
NAIROBI – On the 17th of June 2016, I had the privilege of representing IPPNW-Kenya at an #ArmsFreeAfrica NGO strategy meeting in Nairobi hosted by the Control Arms coalition. The working meeting was preceded by an evening premiere screening of the movie “Gun Runners” featuring former Kenyan cattle-rustler- turned-peace activist and elite professional runner Julius Arile.
The events were very well attended by an array of organisations from the region involved in peace work. Together we formed a very dynamic group with input from many aspects including youth. IPPNW-Kenya joined these other organizations at the meeting:
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (with a representative from DRC); Africa Peace Forum; Africa Council of Religious Leaders-Religion for Peace; Centre for the Training and Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC), Burundi; Kenya National Debate Council; Winds of Change; African Artists for Peace Initiative, and; Kenya Pastoralist Journalists’ Network.
The day was very fruitful with robust discussion. We began by reviewing the history of the Arms Trade Treaty , with many questions only partially answered. One of the conclusions from the early session was that there are legislative holes to be filled before nations are to accede to or ratify the treaty.
Largely, the requisite legislation has been forsaken due to lack of persistent advocacy for ratification, or has been overtaken by other more pressing matters in parliaments and senates. It was also noted that the Republic of Kenya’s accession is vital if the treaty is to gain better footing in the sub-region and continent-wide.
The discourse then moved to more locally tangible matters, i.e. the direct effects of arms trade in the horn of Africa and the status of the Treaty in the countries represented. Many of these effects are not being highlighted and the group discussed ways to advocate and highlight the issues at hand. Some of these issues are far-reaching with direct impact on the everyday livelihoods of many people in the region.
Security has climbed in the national hierarchy of priorities in this region especially with the many terror acts being propagated by small arms and light weapons (SALWs). Many agreed that this is a way to bring the issue of acceding to the treaty more directly to light because it involves an issue at the heart of national and regional discourse.
Moreover, the direct economic and humanitarian impact of SALWs cannot be ignored what with all the recent poaching of endangered species. This impacts tourism for countries like Tanzania and Kenya that are so badly affected in recent years due to the deterioration of security.
The forced migration and displacement of people, increased burden on healthcare systems, and disruption of economic activities due to violent/armed conflict amongst some communities were also highlighted with a myriad of examples. All these are directly relatable issues that can be the baseline for an advocacy campaign to universalize the treaty in the region.
The biggest takeaway for us was listening to some very passionate youth campaigners who had great ideas on raising the profile of armed violence and the tools in the treaty to prevent it, and what this all means to everyday people. For example, I had not previously drawn the line to poaching and the rather obvious impact on tourism. We now also appreciate the need to engage and collaborate in order to maximize the alternative voices in our advocacy work such as artists and religious leaders.
All in all, the day was incredibly informative and inspiring. I look forward to working with some of the organisations to raise the profile of SALWs and the ATT especially with youth groups. We got inspired as IPPNW-Kenya to work towards the accession of ATT here and to seek collaborative opportunities for advocacy and awareness work, especially in highlighting the humanitarian impact of armed conflict, and in working toward a stronger control arms coalition. [INPS – 06 July 2016]