On October 26, 2006, the General Assembly Disarmament and International Committee of the United Nations, known as the First Committee, overwhelmingly voted to accept the principle of designing an Arms Trade Treaty. This vote represents good news for millions of innocent African innocent civilians, victims of easily accessible weapons such as the AK-47 Assault Rifle (caliber 7.62).

Media reports indicate that more than 75 wars of our times use AK-47 Assault Rifle, with 70 to 100 millions of AK-45 Assault Rifle available in the world. The AK-47 Assault Rifle fires quickly, intensively, and its bullets can go beyond 1 kilometer. It represents one of the most utilized types of weapons in African wars. It has been used for gory wars in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Ethiopia-Eritrea to name few countries. None of the countries mentioned demonstrate the genius to fabricate AK-47. However their soldiers, rebels and militiamen are good at using those arms to massacre millions of innocent lives. Those countries lack means to feed their populations, but they design big military budgets and spend enormous sum of dollars for AK-47. In most cases AK-47 is exchanged against huge amount of money or good deals of diamond. Its top providers include Russia, USA, UK, France and Germanythat account for about 80% of global arms exports. Other providers include China, Brazil, India, Israel, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Pakistan. Though the African countries mentioned above are responsible for killing their own people, the major exporters of weapons should also acknowledge their contribution to the destruction of humankind in those poor countries by selling the killers’ arms.

Aware of the danger the small arms represent for international peace and global security, 139 world governments out of 164 voting, including France, Germany, and Britain voted in favor of the UN initiative or resolution towards an Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution engages the UN in setting up a group of government experts to design a legally binding document that draws the norms for the trade of conventional weapons. Unfortunately, the US voted against the treaty. Russia and China observed abstention.

By voting against the Treaty, the US failed to demonstrate leadership in acting against the proliferation of weapons. Such attitude seems to discredit the Bush Administration’s noble fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. If the nuclear weapons represent serious threats for human community, conventional weapons including small arms such as AK-47 all represent severe threats humankind. In Hiroshima, the first atomic bomb killed over 70,000 people. In the last 5 years during the recent war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, AK-47 killed more than 4 millions people. Coherence and honesty would require that any government that stands against the proliferation of nuclear weapon must also stand against the anarchic circulation of small weapons. Where coherence and honesty are absent, human compassion should supplement and intervene for the sake of humankind.

The international community should welcome the great move to work to support all efforts towards a fair Arms Trade Treaty that is conducive to controlling the global circulation of all types of weapons. On this matter, the current fragile context of international relations request that real-politick and business face the challenge to integrate core moral values and compassion for international peace and global security.

Jacques KOKO, Senior Political Analyst -Americans for Informed Democracy