The ECOWAS Commission on Tuesday disclosed that about 100 million illegal small arms and light weapons are in circulation in Africa.
Out of this, about 10 million weapons are in West Africa, the commission’s President, Jean Claude Brou said in Abuja while fielding questions from journalists at a High Level Meeting of regional organizations on the Sahel.
Brou was represented by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Francis Behanzin.
He said the proliferation of firearms in the region was among the major causes of terrorism and other armed conflicts in West Africa and the Sahel.
The situation, he said, was further aggravated by the vulnerability of countries to climate change, where erratic rains and persistent drought lead to recurring food crises.
“The lack of development opportunities for the young and increasingly growing population is fuelling illicit networks and organized crime,” he added.
He, however, said ECOWAS is resolutely committed to solving all these problems through numerous regional initiatives.
“The ECOWAS Sahel Strategy is structured around three strategic axes to have (i) connection infrastructure, (ii) resilience and food security, (iii) education as well as two cross-cutting issues: peace and security. It is accompanied by an action plan comprising 31 priority projects whose overall cost is estimated at $ 4.75 billion,” he said.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, said the security situation in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin remains fragile as increasing violence has bedevilled countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
“Violence and terrorist activities, as well as conflicts between nomadic herders and farmers take an alarming toll on the population and future generations.
“The violence related to pastoralism is particularly of concern as it increases in frequency, intensity, complexity and geographic scope,” Chambers said.
He assured of the continuous commitment of ECOWAS and the United Nations to working in concert with the Sahel region to bring lasting peace, stability and inclusive, sustainable development to the Sahel.
The high Representative of the African Union for Mali and Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, who spoke through a representative, called for a more sustainable strategy for inclusive economic development in West Africa and the Sahel to provide the needs of a growing population.