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PROLIFERATION OF SMALL ARMS AND ETHNIC CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: IMPLICATION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

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PROLIFERATION OF SMALL ARMS AND ETHNIC CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: IMPLICATION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

 

ABSTRACT

 

Readily available and easy to use, small arms and light weapons have been the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflict in every part of the globe. In the hand of irregular troops operating with scant respect of international and humanitarian law, these weapons have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 percent of the causalities. While not by themselves causing the conflict in which they are used, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons affect the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences. Perhaps most grievously, we see a vicious circle in which insecurity leads to a higher demand for weapons which itself bread still greater insecurity; and so on. The researcher is of the opinion that there is a critical link between the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the upsurge in ethnic conflicts in Nigeria. Nigeria’s Fourth Republic has witnessed the upsurge of ethnic and communal conflicts in which small arms are the weapons of choice. The possible escalation of these conflicts fueled by the availability of small arms poses an immense threat to national security. The study will identify measures for controlling the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, by adopting a multi-sectoral and comprehensive approach, encompassing a whole gamut of measure, both operative and normative which must be dealt with, both with the context of conflict prevention and conflict resolution.

 

CHAPTER ONE 1.0

INTRODUCTION

 

The end of the Cold War generated worldwide optimism for international peace and security. A shift from superpower proxy conflicts in the Third World to socio-economic development appeared a viable project. However, actual events in recent years have disastrously shattered those expectations. In place of enhanced security, virulent internal conflicts accompanied by unprecedented civilian casualties and gross violations of human rights have emerged at an alarming rate. The local roots and causes of the conflicts are numerous and diverse. However, in nearly all of the conflicts, the diffusion of small arms, particularly from the industrialized nations to the developing world has played a decisive role in the escalation, intensification and resolution of these conflicts.In the last decade, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been embroiled in protracted civil wars; Guinea-Bissau experienced a brief internecine conflict in the late 1990s. Casamance separatists have continued to battle the Senegalese as they have done for two decades, Cote d’Ivoire suffers insurrection, Tuareg problem has simmered in Mali and Niger, and Liberia and Guinea continue to accuse each other of launching cross-border raids against their territories, in a conflict also involving Sierra Leone rebels. The ongoing Daffur crises in Sudan is also another clear case of diffusing small arms and light weapons.Thus, in contrast to the conventional view inherited from the Cold War era, emerging violence attest to the role of weapons as stimulus to conflict and a harbinger of massive human rights violation and humanitarian crises. In many cases, the availability of weapons has engendered violent conflicts. Thanks to advancing globalisation and the new private order, the trafficking in light arms has made them a weapon of choice. Illicit arms transfer is not a particular country’s problem nor does the spread of deadly weapons stop at national borders. Guns and small arms are no longer the preserves of militaries and police force but have fallen into the hands of ordinary criminals, terrorists, ethnic militias and death squads around the world.Globalisation is becoming an ever-influential “architect” of the new international security agenda. Its impact on the evolution of the relations among states is contradictory. On the one hand, globalisation contributes to accelerated development of productive forces, scientific and technological progress and ever more intensive communication among states and people. On the other hand, it has facilitated the easy transportation of illegal arms from one country to the other and has transformed a domestic law and order problem to a national and international security threat. Globalisation results in the long term irreversible contraction in the domain of state authority. Coupled with liberalization, states have in effect lost control of markets as reflected in the development of parallel informal economics, the rise of grey and black markets and the inability of the states to prevent the flow of illicit arms because of the porous nature of most borders and the adoption of policies such as “free movements” of people in a particular region. Evidence indicates that illegal arms transfers are easier in periods of political transition that are normally preceded by periods of violence. The state, then focuses it resources in areas of reconstruction and development only, leaving gaps for the illicit transfer of small arms by crime syndicates. Nigeria’s fourth Republic has witnessed the upsurge of communal conflicts. Years of pent-up anger suppressed by prolonged periods of military misrule found outlets as Nigeria joined the third democratic wave. It is not arms that cause these conflicts, but the ease with which these arms are available, leads to easy escalation of festering conflicts.

 

 

1.1    STATEMENT OF GENERAL PROBLEM

In Africa, the proliferation of small arms is increasing in proportion. The balances of small arms traded are the remnants of conflicts in Mozambique and Angola, as well as licensed weapons being stolen or lost. These small arms have played a major role in exacerbating crimes and armed violence. Africa is also a major transshipment point for the international trade, as well as a major producer of local arms. This phenomenon threatens the consolidation of democracy and security in the region, which is necessary for sustainable development.

 

1.2      BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY It was hoped that, at the end of the cold war, there will be a guaranteed world wide optimism for international peace and security. A shift from super power proxy conflicts in the third world to socio-economic development appeared a viable project. It is disheartening to rediscover that, actual events in recent years have disastrously shattered those expectations. In place of enhanced security, virulent internal conflicts accompanied by unprecedented civilian casualties and gross violation of human rights have emerged at an alarming rate. The local roots and causes of conflicts are numerous and diverse.

However, in nearly all these conflicts, the diffusion of small arms has played a decisive role in the escalation, intensification and resolution of these conflicts.In contrast to the conventional view inherited from the cold war era, emerging violence attest to the role of weapons as stimulus to conflicts and a harbinger of massive human rights violation and humanitarian crisis. in many cases, the availability of weapons has engendered violent conflicts, which otherwise may not have occurred. Thanks to advancing globalisation and the new private order, the trafficking of small arms is cheap and robust. The accessibility of small arms has been made an issue of choice. Illicit arms transfer is not a particular country’s problem, nor does the spread of deadly weapons stop at national borders. Guns and small arms are no longer the preserves of militias and police force but have fallen into the hands of ordinary criminals, terrorists, ethnic militias and death squads around the world. What is noteworthy is that while leaders and nations, given the experience of two world wars had concentrated on placing restrictions on the sale and transfer of big and conventional weapons, small arms proliferation was tragically ignored. Even major research centres like Stockholm International and Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) of Stockholm have not undertaken any major study on the spread of small arms. Most researchers over the past decades have focused on the transfer of conventional weapons like tanks, heavy artillery, aircraft, warships and missiles.  1.3    OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY In general terms, the research seeks to understand the nature and dynamics of small arms proliferation and ethnic conflicts in Nigeria. It also sought to explain in a comprehensive manner, the link between small arms and light weapons proliferation, and ethnic identity, and how the interaction with wider social, economic and political context has consequences for conflicts and violence. In specific terms, the objectives are as follows:

To examine the nuances surrounding the concept of small arms and light weapons proliferation and seek a better understanding of their meanings;

To examine the interconnection and multiple linkages between small arms and ethnic or community conflicts and violence.

To identify and explain the role of small arms in the escalation of ethnic or community violence.

To examine, the role of the state, sub-region and international organizations and how their mediations in ethnic violence and regulation is the spread of small arms in Africa.

To examine the nature of threats, caused by the proliferation of small arms, why are they perceived as security threats.

To contribute to the development of a policy framework, for the management of small arms, in a plural and diverse ethnic nation with the particular reference to ethnic conflict, as it threatens national and sub-regional security.

To analyse the ways in which small arms proliferation are threats to national security.

1.4                 RATIONAL OF THE STUDY Small arms and light weapons are capable of aggravating ethnic conflict in Nigeria. This study shall therefore provide a conceptual framework that will address the problems of small arms and identify the gaps in the field of study. This will also enhance assessment of the extent to which small arms can be identified as security threat, by outlining the scholarly work that has been on reconceptualising security, analysing the socio-economic consequences of these phenomena as well as the repercussions of organised crime. Another rational of the study is that it will serve as a starting point for further research by other scholars who might be interested in this area of study. Furthermore, it will not only add to the body of existing literature, but it will also explore fresh options to contain the spread of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region and Nigeria in particular.Similarly, this study will also serve as a good source of information by Nigerian policy makers, constitutional lawyers, students of criminology and sociology including politicians and professionals in crises and conflict management. In addition, it could also be used to identify loopholes and adopt strategies to prevent the proliferation of small arms in the sub-region and Nigeria.

 

1.5                 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY The scenario parroted in the foregoing suggests a massive resurgence of ethnic conflict as a result of the proliferation of small arms, with due consequence for not only state viability but also national security. Not unexpectedly, ethnic violence in Nigeria as in many parts of the world has attracted the attention of scholars of different ideological persuasions and academic pedigree, but without the issue and linkage of small arms proliferation. These include Marxist scholars, who for long ignored ethnicity and treated as epi-phenomena of class and economic relations. Thus, in recognition of what has been considered “a paradigm lost”, scholars of Marxian genre have undertaken the expansion of the conceptual and theoretical warehouse of political economy. Similar response has been witnessed from scholars, whose pioneering efforts resulted in interpreting the salience of this identity in terms of the prevalence of traditionalism and the absence of modernization. All this, points to the academic significance of the study of small arms proliferation and ethnic/community violence in Nigeria’s complex regional formation. Finally, the study has policy significance. Without doubt, there exists a major lacuna in the domain of public policy for the management of small arms proliferation and ethnic pluralism apart from the expectation the democratic governance has a saluting effect. However, for public policy to be effective, heuristic and enduring, it can only be anchored on a clear understanding of the causes of proliferation and the dimension of ethnic conflicts in Nigeria. The challenge is to specify which policies and remedial actions both in the short and long terms that can be put forward to address the threat to national security, caused by the spread of small arms and ethnic conflicts.

 

1.6    HYPOTHESES To focus the study more sharply, the following hypotheses have been formulated for testing:

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons engenders violent ethnic conflicts.

Small arms and light weapons have escalated the intensity of inter-ethnic conflicts.

There is a relationship between the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and ethnic conflicts.

The proliferation of small arms leads to increase in ethnic conflicts.

The widespread availability of small arms leads to the prolongation of ethnic conflicts.

 

1.7      EXPECTED FINDINGS The research is intended to highlight, how small arms and light weapons have exacerbated ethnic conflict in Nigeria. It will also provide a framework of controlling regimes, such as national policy, regional initiatives and internal processes.

In the main, policy options will be provided by the study, to government sub-regional bodies and international organisations, since the problems of small arms and light weapons, are not limited to any particular state.  The adoption of the multiple options that will be provided by this study will reduce and contain ethnic conflicts in which small arms and light weapons are the weapons of choice.

 

1.8                 LIMITATIONS: The most important limitation on this study was time and finance. The inability of the researcher to travel to various countries in the sub-region and interview major actors in the small arms and light weapons debate might have limited the inputs of some major actors. There was also the possibility that some of the publications consulted had inhered bias. However, an attempt was made to reduce the effect of this bias on the outcome of this study by consulting a wide spectrum of materials on the research project; and also authentication of most of the materials used was equally made. Inspite of all these limitations, a thorough study was undertaken, to enable future researchers to improve on.

 

1.9         DEFINATION OF TERMS

Arms Control – Reduction in the quest of superiority in small arms/light weapons amongst ethnics group

Area Boys – Freelance that operates mostly around the commercial areas of Lagos Island. They served as foot soldiers for the wider causes of ethnic assertiveness.

Buyer’s Markets – A place used by arms buyers to know the changes that have taken place in the international small arms market.

Cold War – An ideological war that was fought with propaganda and diplomacy between the capitalist western European countries led by America and Britain and the Communist countries led by Soviet-Union.

Combatant – Locally trained militias, fighting for their ethnic cause.

vi             Crisis and Conflict Management – Strategies for controlling crisis and conflicts before the escalate into violence in which small arms and light weapons are used.

Channels – Arms selling/buyer routes that operate with government support even though in violation of official government policy. Most often, they are linked to such agencies like government intelligence agencies or private companies.

Disarmament – The act of reducing the size of small arms/light weapons among ethnic combatants.

Excessive weapons – Small arms/light weapons considered being beyond acceptable number. Although, it is also a relative term only in context of specific regions, sub-regions or state.

Ethnic Conflict – Disagreement or clash between two cultures or ethnic groups.

Gray – Market Channels – Legal markets that carries out legal sales of small arms/light weapons through military assistance programs in which combat small arms and light weapons are disseminated through.

Gray – Market Transfer – Markets that entails the delivery of weapons from government stockpile to political entities and ethnic militias associated with military clan or party.

Illegal Bunkering – Theft of crude oil.

Light Weapons – All conventional munitions that can be carried by an individual combatant or by light vehicles.

Munitions – Military Weapons, ammunitions, and equipment.

National Security Treat – Increase in crime wave, crisis and violent conflicts, which endanger people’s lives and the safety of properties of a nation.

National Insecurity – State of political instability in which the safety of lives is no longer guaranteed.

Odudua People Congress (OPC). An underground movement, trained in preparation for armed resistance, against the General Sani Abacha’s regime.

Small arms – A category of light weapons which include automatic weapons, up to, and including 20mm submachine guns, riffles, carbines, handguns and hand placed landmines.

Stockpiles – Accumulation of large quantities of small arms/light weapons by ethnic combatants

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