By Tata Mbunwe
The Cameroon government has destroyed dozens of illicit arms and weapons most of which were surrendered by former armed militiamen in the country’s Far North, North West and South West regions.
Being plagued by a secessionist conflict in its two anglophone regions and a jihadist war in the Far North, the Cameroon government says illicit weapons are the main cause of instability in the country.
“The proliferation and trafficking in small arms and light weapons constitutes a permanent threat to sustainable peace in several regions of the world. According to several experts, there are more than 40 million illicit weapons circulating in the African continent alone,” said Prime Minister Dion Ngute, adding that this hampers the development of society.
However, renowned human rights advocate, Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, says the root cause of conflict in Cameroon and other African states is not the presence of arms, but bad governance.
“It’s not just about silencing the guns; it’s also about looking at things from a very holistic perspective. Yes, to silence the guns is a good thing, because some of these small arms that we have around have caused untold atrocity to the civilian population.
“But how do we address the root causes affecting the people of the continent Africa – bad governance, corruption, mismanagement, failure to dialogue, election rigging – these are the bane of problems in the continent. While we silence the guns, we must address these issues also,” said renowned human rights advocate,” he told the press.
Cameroon’s Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, was in Buea on Wednesday, where he chaired an event aimed at the “symbolic destruction of illicit weapons circulating in Cameroon”.
Before setting the arms and weapons ablaze, the PM said the weapons were seized from civilians and some surrendered to defence officials by ex-combatants.
Dion Ngute also said authorities have temporarily closed arms shops in some regions of the country and stringent measures have been taken to check smuggling of weapons into the country.
The outbreak of crisis in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions has multiplied the transfer of illicit arms into the country and has increased the number of arms under civilian control.
The AU says the possession of illegal weapons by civilians has a major influence on the conflicts plaguing the African continent and everyone must join the fight against the phenomenon.
A 2019 Small Arms Survey and the AU revealed that rebel groups and civilians in Africa possess more than 40 million small arms and light weapons, while state entities hold less than 11 million arms.
In 2013, the AU launched an initiative to silence the guns in Africa by 2020. AU countries then undertook to declare September 2020 the Africa Amnesty Month, during which they charged all armed groups and warring parties in the continent to ceasefire.
Despite aiming to end conflicts in Africa by 2020, the AU’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative is far from attaining its goal as conflicts have continued destabilising Africa, with fresh confrontations arising in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Chad, DR Congo, Central African Republic and others, since the initiative was launched.