New Efforts to Stem Weapons Flow to Africa

The 16-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed on October 31 to observe a moratorium on the export, import and manufacture of light weapons for a renewable, three-year period beginning on November 1. However, the moratorium, first proposed in December 1996, does not define a light weapon, and a framework for implementation must still be worked out under the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (the secretariat of the moratorium). Fifteen ECOWAS countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) signed the moratorium in Abuja, Nigeria at an ECOWAS heads of state meeting. Cape Verde subsequently signed the moratorium.

On the supplier side, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a September 24 speech to the UN Security Council Ministerial on Africa, called for a voluntary international moratorium on arms transfers to all warring regions in Africa. Albright also proposed full and timely disclosure of arms shipments, most of which are small arms (designed for personal use) and light weapons (those operated by a crew), to those African regions.