On July 30 2007, in a ceremonial move in the city of Bouake, President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Soro Guillaume of Ivory Coast set fire to stockpiled weapons to symbolize the end of a destructive conflict that split the country in two parts since 2002. The "flame of peace", as they called it, was set as a sign of reconciliation and an indicator of hope for quick democratic elections and positive socio-political changes in Ivory Coast. Several Heads of African nation-states attended the event to show their support to the peace process in Ivory Coast.

Even though there are still thousands of weapons left unburned in Ivory Coast, this act by the country’s leaders is commendable. It demonstrates their willingness to counteract a major threat to political stability, national security and peace in Ivory Coast and in Africa in general. Africa burns because of the uncontrolled circulation of weapons on the continent.

The uncontrolled circulation of weapons in Africa not only aliments ethnopolitical conflicts, but it also allows the prolongation of violent wars within and between African nations. Many African war-torn countries are victims of the desastrous circulation of weapons including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

UN and media reports have indicated that Somalia remains the land of uncontrolled circulation of weapons. According to a recent UN report Somalia now host more arms "than at any time since the civil war started in 1991". Unfortunately, neighboring countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea, contribute to such a disastrous phenomenon. Ethipia maintain the reputation of providing military support to the Somali government, while Eritrea does the same to the Islamic Courts Union militias. The UN report stressed that Eritrea recently sent a minimum of six SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to the Islamic Courts Union militias known as the Shaab. This development represents bad news for any hope for smooth reconciliation and peace in Somalia.

To allow the existence of any hope for sustainable peace and reconciliation in African war-torn countries, the international community should consent to promoting strategic policies and push for implementing resolute moves that systematically counteract the uncontrolled circulation of weapons in Africa. The flame of peace in Ivory Coast is inspiring. However, the overall politics of counteracting the circulation of weapons in Africa should be thought as a series of activities to be highligthed in the mandates of UN and AU peacekeeping operations.

Jacques KOKO, Senior Political Analyst -Americans for Informed Democracy   

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