Reversing the Tide: Report on the small arms action forum

Tasneem Jamal Conventional Weapons

Working Paper 99-2

The text of this paper is based on presentations and notes from the “Small Arms Action Forum” held at the United Church of Canada, Etobicoke, on June 15, 1999. The forum was organized by Project Ploughshares on behalf of the Small Arms Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee.

We wish to acknowledge financial support from the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee for the forum and this report.

Table of Contents

Case Study 1: Post-Conflict Small Arms Recovery: Transforming Arms into Ploughshares in Mozambique.
Case Study 2: The Moratorium on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Light Weapons in West Africa.
Notes on Forum Participants Questions and Comments.
Forum Participants
About this Paper
Notes on Contributors



There is no doubt that in the two years since the signing of the Landmines Treaty, small arms have emerged as an issue of international prominence. The global dispersal of military-style small arms and light weapons is now broadly recognized as both cause and consequence of the extraordinary levels of political and social disintegration and violence that have come to characterize the post-Cold War era. Diplomatic and political attention to the problem of small arms, while certainly not absent earlier, have appropriately moved up the scale of priorities of particular national governments and of the international community collectively through the UN.

In July 1999 the UN Secretary-General released the second post-Cold War UN experts study, and four months earlier, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world formally launched the International NGO Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). In other words, the policy response to the small arms problem is on track. That, of course, is not to say that the policy framework for effectively addressing the small arms problem is in place – far from it. But such a framework is at least the subject of growing research and advocacy attention, and many governments, including the Canadian government, are fully engaged in the issue and are moving it prominently onto and along the international security agenda.

Rather less progress has been made in mounting concrete programs to actually retrieve those scattered small arms and thus to restore some measure of security to communities riven by the violence and chaos that attend the ready availability of small arms. But here, too, some remarkable efforts are underway. In June 1999 Project Ploughshares convened a small group of NGO representatives, researchers, and government officials to hear about two such efforts and to explore ways in which NGOs might become more actively engaged, either in existing projects or in developing new ones, to collect weapons and to foster local social, economic, and political conditions conducive to stability and the long-term renunciation of the acquisition of small arms for personal or communal security purposes.

The forum heard reports on two projects – one on gun collection in Mozambique and the other on a broader West Africa moratorium on small arms. The two reports stimulated a wide-ranging discussion of practical measures that are available or that could be explored as a means of transforming concerns about small arms into action that actually affects the safety and security of people in their homes and communities.

This working paper reproduces the two case studies and summarizes the discussion that followed. We in Project Ploughshares welcome your response to the issues raised and, especially, your suggestions for further action.

Ernie Regehr
Director, Project Ploughshares



Transforming Arms into Ploughshares in Mozambique

Carol Brunt


The Republic of Mozambique is located in Sub-Saharan Africa and is recognized as one of the poorest countries in the world. With a per capita income of $30 US dollars per month, the mostly rural population ekes out a subsistence living. Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, gained its independence in 1975 and the following year found itself fighting a civil war. Aided by the governments of South Africa and the former Rhodesia, the guerilla fighters, RENAMO, challenged the ruling party, FRELIMO, in a grisly war that left many thousands dead or internally displaced. Lasting 16 years, this war has left a deadly reminder with nearly a million anti-personal mines scattered throughout the countryside, rendering the former rich agricultural countryside mere scrubland. In addition, there is a proliferation of small arms throughout the country, both near the rural villages and in the larger city centres.

Mozambique has undergone a rapid transition in the past six years following the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992. It held its first multi-party democratic elections in 1994 and has enjoyed economic prosperity in southern Mozambique, and national political stability that is envied by other African countries, especially when one considers the previous 30 years of turmoil.

It is within this context that the Tools for Arms Project (Transformaçao de Armas em Enxadas)– hereafter referred to as TAE – was officially launched in October 1995 by the Christian Council of Mozambique (Conselho Cristao de Moçambique) – hereafter referred to as CCM – with the participation of various national and international NGOs. This includes the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), a Mozambican government agency supporting community activities, incentives from both Japanese and German NGOs, and funding from Canada and Sweden.

The project’s mission is to strengthen democracy and civil society by:

• Encouraging the population to participate in active peacebuilding activities;

• Promoting reconciliation; and

• Facilitating the initiation of productive activities for the population.

The general objectives of the project are:

• To help build a culture of peace;

• To support and maintain a peaceful post-war transition in Mozambique; and

• To offer an alternative lifestyle to arms holders.

The specific objectives of the project are:

• To collect and destroy all available weapons;

• To transform arms into “ploughshares,” e.g., offering useful tools for delivering weapons;

• To reduce violence and educate civil society about its results; and

• To transform destroyed arms into sculptures and other forms of art.

The target group and beneficiaries of this project are:

• Illegal arms holders;

• Former combatants; and

• Others who have information about existing arms caches.

Through the exchange of information about the location of small arms for productive tools, materials, and training, the TAE project is able to achieve its objectives.

In 1997, an informal working relationship between CCM and CUSO Mozambique blossomed into a full-fledged partnership through the initiative and hard work of the CUSO Mozambique staff and volunteers. CUSO Mozambique assumed a monitoring role on behalf of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which is the primary funder of the project at this time. The CCM also receives assistance from a German expatriate from the Anglican Church.

The focus of this report is on the past 18 months of the TAE project. Through a discussion of its activities, its successes, the challenges, and plans for the future, it will be possible to understand the practicalities that are involved in implementing such a project.

Project Implementation – Activities And Successes

In order to achieve the specific objectives of this project, four activities have been identified and developed by the TAE project. These are:

1. Weapons Collections and Exchange for Useful Tools;

2. Destruction of Weapons;

3. Public Campaign and Civic Education;

4. Transformation of Arms into Works of Art.

Weapons Collections and Exchange for Useful Tools
The target areas, where mobile collections take place, are those districts where there is still a significant arms presence. During preparatory visits, the project team analyses the situation and negotiates collection sites with the political and administrative support of churches, local authorities, political parties, and other associations. Without support from these groups, the team could be at risk and the TAE project aims to minimize these risks. The project selects both urban and rural areas for collections.

Most efforts are concentrated in Southern Mozambique. The project has defined a second three-year operating framework with first-year funding guaranteed by CIDA as of November 1998. Negotiations are ongoing for future funding. The project will continue focusing on the most problematic districts of the southern provinces of the country, in and around Maputo, and aims to expand into the Central Provinces. There are presently new offices operating in central Mozambique in Xai-Xai and Inhambane as well as a regional office in Quelimane which is funded by other sources.

During the preparatory phase, the project staff visit target areas to build relationships needed for a smooth collection. This process includes collecting the necessary information and preparing the logistics and security together with local partners. The project team then meet with the local interested parties to plan the schedule and other elements.

Three types of collections may take place: fixed collections, when firearms and equipment are brought directly to the office or when the project team collects the arms at designated areas; mobile collections, when arms are collected at previously selected areas, usually neutral ground, where they are destroyed and later transported away in appropriate vehicles by the project team; and arms caches collections, when the project team together with arms technicians and ballistic experts go to hidden arms caches, mostly located in remote areas, with the necessary equipment to remove and transport these arms.

The project offers a wide range of incentives, taking into consideration the different needs and interests of urban and rural settlements. The arms holders may express their wishes and expectations, but the value of the incentive is related to the number, type, and functionality of the weapons that are being exchanged. Tools or materials given in exchange vary but the most common have been bicycles, hoes, construction tools, sewing machines, cement bags, school equipment for children, various construction raw materials, and wheelchairs.

Since the launching of the project in the fall of 1995, the TAE team has been able to collect more than 72,000 different types of weapons and accessories including over 4,400 firearms, ammunition, and explosives. In exchange, more than 1,000 tools and material incentives were given to people who offered weapons and crucial information. In all, about 860 beneficiaries were directly involved and approximately 8,000 indirectly. During parts of 1996 and 1997, lack of funding made exchange goods unavailable. Yet both the determination of the Mozambican people and the reputation of the TAE Project kept the project afloat. Many people provided information on arms locations and offered weapons for destruction without receiving anything in exchange.

While project collection numbers may appear small, it is important to place these in the Mozambican context. Within the transition to peace after thirty years of war, development of the project has been a lengthy and delicate process. Although it is possible to quantify collection numbers fairly quickly, it is a more complex task to assess the effects of this project on the Mozambican population and future generations.

A few stories personalize some of the numbers surrounding the exchanges.

• A woman received a sewing machine through the exchange process and with it, she started a business sewing for her neighbours. Located in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, she has subsequently hired others because she has too much work.

• A mother walked into the office one day and offered a pistol she had tucked away between her chest and the capulana that held her 18-month-old baby. She said she was refusing to accept anything in return because she wanted no traces of the weapon for the future. She did not want her older son to know that she had taken his gun and in her opinion, to accept a bicycle, a sewing machine, or just a shovel would create a link between her and the weapon. She left with a smile, knowing her son would no longer have access to the gun.

• A rural family has been able to put a new roof on their home in exchange for a bazooka.

• The many bicycles that have been exchanged are now being used to alleviate the stress of collecting daily family essentials such as water and firewood or bringing produce to market for sale.

Destruction of Weapons

Most arms are destroyed immediately after their collection using TAE equipment, although for safety reasons some arms are destroyed elsewhere. Commonly exchanged weapons include AKMs, MGs, Mausers, grenade launchers, pistols, bazookas, semi-automatic rifles, G3s, and PPXs. During a public destruction, technicians cut the weapons into pieces. More dangerous or active materials such as grenades, bazooka rockets, anti-personnel mines, anti-vehicle mines, and mortar mines are prepared for deactivation by TAE project ballistic experts at an appropriate location. The Association of Demobilized Soldiers (AMODEG) and PROPAZ assist the project by providing personnel and expert knowledge to avoid accidents during the collection and destruction process. There are four weapons specialists who accompany the collections: two ballistics specialists from the defence ministry and two former combatant specialists. A policeman provides security.

A large-scale destruction of explosives in a military zone in Boane in November disposed of 27 bazooka rockets, 20 mortar mines, 35 grenades, eight anti-personnel mines, two mortars, 10 directional mines, and more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition. Two public events for foreign delegations also were held in March 1999, each destroying a small quantity of arms. Details of another destruction, held in Matola-Gare military compound on June 4, 1999, are not yet available.

Public Campaign and Civic Education

Public campaign and civic education activities are organized to make the project known and to increase the number of participants and supporters. Extensive media coverage in Mozambique and internationally has included newspaper articles, Internet articles and websites, academic magazines, and television documentation.

Within Mozambique, seminars, workshops, and public speeches have been held to discuss peace and reconciliation issues with community groups such as churches, schools, local authorities, various associations, and of course the communities themselves. Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and Opposition RENAMO leader Alfonso Dhlakama have given their official support to the TAE project as an important initiative for peace, reconciliation, and non-violence in Mozambique. Some activities are undertaken or coordinated with the support of the Ministries of Home Affairs and National Defence and the Minister of Planning and Finance has offered exemption on custom duties for the TAE project.

Outside of government, the Railway of Mozambique (Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique – CFM) has donated $2,000 (US) for the purchase of sewing machines as incentives. The project has been nominated by the Mozambican News Agency (AIM) for one of the most prestigious international humanitarian distinctions: the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. The TAE team is very proud of its nomination. A decision is expected in August or September 1999.

Countless international organizations and donors also have contributed financial, material, and human resources to the project. Support has come from South African, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Swedish, Dutch, Canadian, and American organizations, with the 1999 operational budget based on a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Since November 1998, the TAE project has increasingly been recognized, solicited, and visited by the international community. Examples include:

• The TAE advisor met with the President of CIDA to discuss possible long-term relations. A delegation from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) visited the project during the Landmines Ban Treaty conference in Maputo in May 1999. Artwork was displayed throughout Maputo during the conference, including one very visible location at the Independence Square organized by Handicap International.

• Visits of delegations from Holland, Tanzania, Japan, and United Nations organizations.

• Visits of journalists and photographers from Belgium, Canada, and South Africa with subsequent newspaper and magazine articles in Canada, the UK, and Mozambique.

• The TAE Project Coordinator participated in a tour of the US to make contacts and discuss fundraising possibilities.

The TAE project has fostered an atmosphere of partnership and collective participation. For example, two groups in the Manhiça region and the Chibuto region competed for a small land tractor donated by a Japanese partner. The second group successfully raised 500 weapons and the tractor was delivered to them.

As part of the Civic Education component of the project, the TAE team makes efforts to introduce the project at all levels of the school system. The team provides small destruction demonstrations at elementary schools with toy plastic guns the children are allowed to destroy with little hammers. They are rewarded with other toys such as trucks, dolls, and tools. This is done in the presence of parents to stress the value of the project and the value of peace as a better way of life. The message also alerts the children to the danger of small arms. If the children find something, they are to inform parents or teachers so that the TAE team can dispose of the arms correctly.

The education program for young children has had success beyond the schools: some children have brought their toy plastic guns to the TAE project office and to a similar project at the Anglican Church of Maputo in exchange for another toy unrelated to violence. Moreover, the TAE project is establishing a relationship with the Campaign for the Protection of Child Soldiers. The idea is to pair ex-child soldiers with artists from the TAE project and assist the artists in creating works of art from the destroyed weapons that young adults once held as children, thereby providing a positive interpretation of their participation in the war.

Transforming of Arms into Works of Art

The transformation of the weapons into works of art, ornaments, or practical objects is a way of promoting the culture of peace. Monuments and sculptures are made from fragments of weapons to be exhibited to the public or permanently installed in public squares, parks, or spaces. The project has already organized many art exhibitions, for example, at the FACIM International Fair in Maputo, and others in Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Zimbabwe. The project is in continual contact with a local association of artists (Nucleo de Arte) which has shown great interest in supporting the project’s objectives and activities.

During a workshop, the artists transform the arms into objects of art. The artists increase their technical know-how through such creations as various types of birds and animals, traditional African statues, a jazz player, a table and chair. Negotiations between the CCM, the TAE project and the Nucleo de Arte are aimed at shipping the artwork for international exhibitions and developing an inventory system to better control the whereabouts and sales of the artwork.

Gonçalo A. Mabunda, one of the artists, has said that his hatred and fear (linked to the war, post-war violence, life in Mozambique, and health risks) are transmitted through the hardness and ugliness of the destroyed, cut-up weapons in their raw form. He believes guns to be beautiful but their beauty is robbed by their purpose to kill. He does see a gun as a piece of art. His first piece was a motorcycle, and he wants to use as many different pieces of destroyed weapons as he can find without using the same type twice. He is trying to begin his sculpting with weapons by commemorating those who have suffered. He wants to include the spirits of the people killed by the weapons in the artwork so that they will be part of a product for peace – ugliness brought back to its initial beauty. Born in Maputo in 1975, Gonçalo began making sculptures in 1997 and his works have been exhibited in South Africa, Belgium, and Zimbabwe.

Project Challenges


Safety issues arise from the transfer and storage of unexploded ordinance before it is destroyed. TAE ballistic specialists are aware of the dangers and explosives are destroyed according to the procedures set by Mozambican authorities. Specialists and staff are now assessing the gap between domestic and international standards for handling unexploded ordinance in order to ensure the best possible security procedures for the project. Corrective measures already implemented include a workshop to document proper procedures when dealing with weapons and explosives. Workshop materials have been received from Handicap International and technical training will be provided, possibly by a UN Accelerated Demining Program (UNADP) team.

The project is fundraising for safety equipment of various types and uses in order to assist with the collection of weapons and their disposal. At present, the only instruments are shovels, picks and a mine detector.

Donated materials

There have been delays in shipments of incentives from donor countries. Negotiations seem to be on hold for two containers of incentives delayed in Customs since 1997. There are strong concerns that the condition of the incentives has deteriorated inside the containers since their arrival in Mozambique. Two other containers, also containing a large array of incentives, are set to arrive in Maputo in April, with German and Japanese NGOs covering the purchasing and shipping costs. It is unclear if these containers will meet the same fate as those in 1997. The project is down to 40-50 bicycles and is eagerly awaiting the containers.


Lack of project funding has meant that goods for the exchange process could not be purchased during 1996 and 1997. Purchase of exchange items is also made more complicated by the fact that in the central region of Mozambique the project is run autonomously with its own funding. The northern region has not been organized yet.

In a recent break-in, the TAE office communication system was stolen, including computers containing most project documentation and a telephone/fax machine. Until funding is found to replace these items, the Canadian advisor is temporarily working with another CUSO Mozambique program, using its computer system. In addition, a key component of the collection process, the IFA vehicle (a German-made utility truck that is secure enough to transport and destroy weapons) broke down on a pick-up and although it eventually made it to Maputo, it has not been reliably repaired. Parts and repairs are very expensive and fundraising is underway to get a replacement..


The TAE project requires a number of staff people including a communications officer and workshop coordinator, a secretary/receptionist, and a financial/accounts manager. Recently, the project also suffered the loss of one of its employees, Sr. Lisuri, who passed away suddenly from natural causes. The project has a variety of staffing issues faced by all organizations.

Educational work

As a result of the difficulties outlined above, the number of workshops has declined. Efforts continue, however, to have one-on-one negotiations with beneficiaries or their intermediaries to inform the population about the project and its objectives.

Planned activities

Although it has faced a number of challenges, the TAE project has been able to adapt and to continue its core activities of weapons collection and destruction. Planned activities for the future include:

• Further collections. The project has completed pre-inspection procedures for potential arms collections in five localities. Negotiations in one locality are showing promise of a large cache that could produce over 100 weapons excluding ammunition.

• A tentative project with a graduate student researcher to document and interview those involved with weapon collection and with local organizations and communities. The project is aimed at collecting data on assaults, injuries, and deaths caused by small arms.

• A TAE Artwork Tour of Canada, one of the primary elements of current project work. The Canadian tour would include 5-7 cities between October and December. Although there is no solid funding yet, discussions continue.

All of these initiatives contribute to increased public awareness about the TAE project.


Since November 1998, the TAE project has endured some of its most trying times since its creation in 1995. A combination of unfortunate circumstances has delayed initiatives not directly related to the core activity of arms collection and destruction. Although civic education activities have been held and the quality of created artwork is constantly improving, more formal workshops have not materialized. Nevertheless, the TAE’s core activities continue and the important objectives of collecting and destroying arms and creating a powerful symbol of peace by transforming arms into art have generated surprisingly strong response and support from the Mozambican people and from the international community.

Further information about the project is available from:

In Mozambique:                                                         In Canada:
Christian Brun,                                                              Michael Adams,
TAE Project Advisor,                                                   Cooperant Programming Asst.,
CUSO Mozambique,                                                    CUSO Mozambique.
C.P. 4252, Maputo, Mozambique.                                Tel. (613) 244-3325
Tel. (258) (1) 415-987 Fax. (258) (1) 415-997            Email:


Col (Ret’d) Douglas Fraser


On 31 October 1998, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),1 meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, declared a moratorium on the import, export, and manufacture of light weapons for a period of three years, effective 1 November 1998.

This political declaration was both the result of, and the incentive for, a range of actions with the potential to help stabilize the security situation in the sub-region, and to serve as an example for other parts of war-ravaged Africa.

In the early 1990s West Africa was rapidly becoming a basket-case. The restraints imposed by the great powers during the Cold War were broken or breaking down. Civil wars of varying intensity were raging in six of the 16 ECOWAS states,2 and inter-state disputes were on the rise between others.3 Military dictatorships were the rule rather than the exception. Refugees and internally displaced persons were both a result of and a cause for conflict in many of the countries. Banditry, hijacking, and drug-smuggling were making the highways, cities, and villages unsafe, and as a result there was growth in self-defence organizations which themselves contributed to the spiraling violence. International organizations, donor countries, private companies, and non-governmental organizations were all frustrated by their inability to make progress and improve conditions in the area. The easy availability of light weapons was both a cause and effect of this situation.

At the same time, some states had elected democratic regimes and were trying to bring their domestic situations under control. Some states were experiencing economic growth for the first time in many years, due, in part, to the success of privatization programs. This economic growth was, however, being made more difficult, in part because of cutbacks in overseas development assistance.

The conditions for the declaration were developed by a combination of local initiatives and international encouragement and support resulting from the realization that the proliferation of light weapons was a major contributor to instability in the sub-region and the consequent slowdown of economic investment and development.

In this climate President Konare of Mali approached the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the fall of 1993 to request UN assistance in dealing with the proliferation of light weapons in his country. This proliferation was mostly, but not completely, the result of the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country. After concluding a settlement of the Tuareg problem, Konare wanted the weapons collected and destroyed. This request led to the Secretary-General’s dispatching a fact-finding mission to Mali in 1994. The mission quickly concluded that the overall security situation needed to be improved before there was any chance of implementing a collection program; that the situation was severely affecting socioeconomic development; and that the situation was not unique to Mali and had to be addressed in a sub-regional context (UN 1994). In early 1995 the same fact-finding team visited six other countries in the sub-region.4

Key recommendations of the mission include:

• development of a “proportional and integrated approach to security and development”5 at the national and international levels, including the United Nations system;

• development of control measures at the national and international levels to deal with the proliferation problem;

• establishment of national commissions on the proliferation of light weapons; and

• establishment of United Nations oversight, in cooperation with donor and recipient states.

The idea of a moratorium was first floated at a sub-regional conference in Bamako in November 1996, one of a series of conferences flowing from the report of the fact-finding mission. Delegates undertook to convey the suggestion to their respective governments for further consideration. In February 1997, the Wassenaar Arrangement6 was made aware of the proposal and the desire of the West African states to begin a dialogue on the matter. Further discussions followed and in March 1998 the ECOWAS secretariat was instructed to prepare a draft text for the proposal with a view to its adoption at the upcoming summit.

As has been noted, on 1 November 1998, the moratorium came into effect, albeit without any mechanism to manage the process. In the declaration, the heads of state directed that responsible ministers develop an operational framework for the associated measures. This resulted in two major documents being drafted by expert representatives of the states, with the assistance of an Advisory Group,7 in Bamako in March 1999.

Major moratorium documents

The first document was a draft ‘code of conduct’ with respect to the implementation of the moratorium. The code provides the criteria by which the member states of ECOWAS must govern themselves in order to live up to the intent of the declaration. In addition to reaffirming their commitment, the code also emphasizes the need for cooperation among all the states to bring the project to fruition. The code provides for a system of assessment whereby the ECOWAS secretariat can verify the actions of individual states. To assist the verification process, the code also lays down procedures to enhance transparency. An important article in the code commits the states, in the context of peace accords, to carry out systematic collection and destruction of all light weapons not required for the purpose of national defence and therefore considered surplus. The preservation of weapons has proven to be a mistake too often in the past.

The code is by no means perfect. The language is sometimes vague and open to interpretation when it speaks of “components and ammunition” and “cross-border transactions with regard to weapons.” The draft will be considered by the heads of state and government at their upcoming summit, now planned for the autumn of 1999.

The second document, a Plan of Action for the implementation of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED), has been developed to build peace by supporting activities that will promote a secure and stable climate for socioeconomic development. The program, consisting of nine specific issue areas, was adopted by foreign ministers in Bamako following the meeting of experts. PCASED, with its own secretariat, will work with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa to operationalize the program over a five-year period.

The nine areas, not in order of priority, are:

• establishing a ‘culture of peace’;

• developing training programs for military, security, and police forces;

• enhancing weapons controls at border points;

• establishing a database and regional arms register;

• collecting and destroying surplus and unauthorized weapons;

• facilitating dialogue with producers and suppliers;

• reviewing and harmonizing national legislation and administrative procedures;

• mobilizing resources for PCASED objectives and activities; and

• enlarging membership of the moratorium.

Meeting at Bamako, on 24-25 March 1998, ministers of foreign affairs, in their final communiqué, encouraged immediate financial support in four of the nine specific areas:

• improving controls at harbours, airports, and border crossings through the installation and effective operation of such control mechanisms;

• reforming the security sector, including initiating and strengthening regional training programs for the uniformed services;

• collecting and destroying weapons in uncontrolled circulation or unauthorized possession through the use of incentive schemes; and

• developing cooperation with civil society organizations in order to build the culture of peace.

The Collateral Advantage

The very discussion of arms control has led to the opening of dialogue between two very different parts of contemporary African society: the defence/security community and the civil society community. The dialogue on civil-military relations has served to reduce tensions, enhance cooperation, and strengthen democracy. In addition, involving politicians, senior bureaucrats, and security officials in discussions on these topics, at home and especially abroad, has helped to develop a sensitivity and sense of responsibility among the major players.

At the sub-regional level an ECOWAS mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping and security is under development. When fully developed and agreed upon, the mechanism will replace the current ad hoc mechanisms that were used with some difficulty during the deployment of West African forces in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau.

At the international level, the involvement of the donor community has created a form of benign oversight in the sub-region. All the actors know that international organizations ( the UN, the OAU, etc.) and non-governmental organizations (international and local) are all observing the evolution of affairs, many of them with personnel on the ground.

In sum, and in the words of a prominent Malian leader, progress in these areas can only be achieved by “support for the establishment of national commissions on light arms control, civil society engagement on the issue, the need to create a sense of responsibility among government officials, and encouraging support among the international community for the initiative” (Diagouraga 1999).

All of this, over time, is developing an ethos. For example, at the March 1999 meeting in Bamako, as a result of formal and informal discussions, the ministers, reacting to a suggestion by the president of Mali, passed a declaration on child soldiers (ECOWAS 1999) which strongly condemned the conscription of children, called for the disbandment of all groups using them, appealed for their demobilization, and urged all sectors of society to take appropriate measures to arrest this phenomenon. This declaration will be incorporated into the plan of action and the code of conduct.

The Current Context

This rather mixed review of developments concerning the moratorium and related activity is of course being written when the future in West Africa is uncertain. The war in Sierra Leone goes on in parallel with the related peace negotiations; a military coup has just overthrown the government in Niger; military rule has resulted from the strife in Guinea-Bissau; the low-level civil war in Senegal’s Casamance region has flared up again; and, despite the recent good news in Nigeria, internal rebellions are on the rise.

On the other hand, there has been a democratic election in Nigeria and the former pariah state is rejoining the international community. Liberia has just agreed to the destruction of the light weapons collected during its civil war. In addition, the ECOWAS intervention in Guinea-Bissau has helped to alleviate tensions between that country and Senegal.

In Geneva, on 5 May 1999, there was an international consultation on the moratorium. The consultation had two main aims: first, to raise awareness among the donor community about the PCASED and its resource needs; second, to engage the support of ‘supply-side’ governments. The results of the resource appeal will not be known for some time; however, the chairman of the Wassenaar Arrangement has pledged full support on their part.

The summit of heads of state and government has been postponed once but is scheduled for the fall. The leaders will have before them the code of conduct that has been submitted to them by their foreign ministers. Will there be second thoughts at the summit? The code of conduct is fairly straightforward and declaratory, but what about the plan of action? Do they understand that the plan of action commits them to previously resisted actions such as examining the possibility of a light weapons register? Will states provide the necessary information to the ECOWAS secretariat? Speaking at the recent ‘Hague Appeal for Peace’ conference, a retired regional general warned of “the very real possibility of the moratorium becoming just words on paper” and that ” . . . active civil society involvement is necessary to ensure that that does not happen” (Qainoo 1999).

Since the signing of the declaration on 31 October 1998, the signatory from Guinea-Bissau has been overthrown and sent into exile in Portugal; the signatory from Niger has been killed in a coup; the signatory from Nigeria has been replaced in a democratic process. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

1 The following states are members of ECOWAS: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.

2 Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

3 Between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Cameroon, Senegal and Mauritania.

4 Burkina Faso, Chad (technically not in the sub-region), Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.

5 Not ‘security first’ as the shorthand has developed. The mission used the term ‘security first’ after the initial visit to Mali, but softened and broadened the terminology as above following the visits in 1995.

6 An informal grouping of states, mainly in the developed world, which provides oversight and voluntary control of arms sales with the aim of limiting proliferation.

7 The objective of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) Advisory Group is to contribute to the effective implementation of the activities of PCASED in the context of the regime of the moratorium.


Diagouraga, Mahamoudou 1999, Commisariat du Nord, speaking at the Hague Appeal for Peace, 12 May.

ECOWAS 1999, Ministers of Foreign Affairs declaration, Bamako, 24 March.

Qainoo, Lt Gen Arnold 1999, Ghana Army, Hague Appeal for Peace, May.

UN 1994, unpublished report to the Secretary-General.



Session 1: Presentations

Chairperson: Bonnie Greene, United Church of Canada
Speakers: Carol Brunt, CUSO
Douglas Fraser, CCIPS

Resource: Farewell to Arms video, produced by Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT)

Participant questions and comments (A) and responses from speakers (B):

A: Many conflicts are influenced by their regional setting. To what extent is the Tools for Arms (TAE) project based on local, regional or international support?

B: It is important to note that Mozambique has a stable government and its neighbours are interested in keeping it stable. The TAE project began with church support and then gained formal political (including government) support. Still, many weapons remain in Mozambique and it is not long since the country was a notorious weapons source. Customs officials are trying to control borders.

A: In Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan, arms collection programs are complicated by the fact that no one knows how many arms are collected. Arms caches are also a problem.

B: In Mozambique there are many weapons caches that were created in 1992 as village “protection” against a breakdown in the peace settlement. Only when the village feels secure does it make the decision to give the cache up. When weapons are collected they are catalogued.

A: Has TAE experienced any theft of weapons?

B: Not to my knowledge.

A: Within post-conflict civil society, the treatment of and attitudes towards demobilized soldiers are important. Are there any former soldier self-help groups or equivalents involved in the TAE project that assist with demobilization and reducing the risk of former soldiers returning to use of weapons?

B: There are two former-soldier NGOs that lobby governments and that provide assistance to the TAE project as ballistic specialists.

A: The two programs discussed are quite different. The West Africa moratorium is politically led and addresses regional security. The TAE project is community-led and addresses local security. Are there regions in West Africa where the conditions are sufficiently stable to allow weapons collection?

B: In West Africa a lot of weapons are spread amongst the population. In many cases, it is not known where the weapons caches are. Also, the region contains a wide range of political stability, from complete chaos to reasonably stable governments. There are a number of individual collection projects but I am not aware of any project with the longevity of the TAE program. With sufficient resources, new programs could be put into effect.

A: What is the nature of multi-ethnic and faith support and involvement in the TAE project?

B: Although there are great disparities in Mozambique, especially between the developing South and the poor regions of the North, the church members of the Council of Christian Churches of Mozambique (CCM) have influence throughout the country. The Muslim population are not involved with the project at this time.

A: Is there a connection between the Code of Conduct included in the West African moratorium and other code efforts such as the Arias (Nobel Peace Laureates) Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers? Is the ground-level work of the West African experience being transferred to international efforts?

B: The moratorium Advisory Board has been asked to review other efforts like the Arias Code for application to the ECOWAS moratorium.

A: What is being done to stop supplier pressure? What ‘redirection’ of supply is occurring and what linkage is there to organized crime? In Angola, for example, despite UN peacekeeping efforts, the combatants (especially UNITA) were resupplied with weapons from external suppliers.

B: In West Africa, there will be pressure from Wassenaar Arrangement participants to ensure legal suppliers honour the moratorium so licit trade shouldn’t be much of a problem. Some arms- supplying states needing cash may be tempted but these could be met with measures outside arms control venues such as World Bank loan conditions.

A: We mustn’t forget that some parties to a conflict wish it to continue because they economically benefit. (There was a recent conference on the “economic motivators of civil war.”) What monitoring, such as monitoring of the Code of Conduct, will occur to empower the process in West Africa?

B: The success of the code and the moratorium may be personality-driven, that is, dependent on the energy and commitment of some officials. At the moment, there is drive in the secretariat of ECOWAS.

Session 2: Response

Chairperson: Ernie Regehr, Project Ploughshares

Questions and comments (numbered) followed by participant responses (lettered):

1. Questions that arise: How can the NGO community and government build on these two projects? Where can we participate and what concrete action can we propose? What additional projects may be possible? Are there policy areas we need to consider?

(A) Canadian NGOs are involved in the TAE project and there are opportunities for additional involvement. The tour of art work from the TAE project will be looking for NGO support and participation later this year.

(B) The ECOWAS moratorium program exists mostly at a governmental level; for the most part local NGOs are not involved. NGOs could support the program by undertaking projects that foster a “culture of peace.”

(C) In Mali there is a community-level process similar to the TAE project to address the demand issues of small arms. The Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee (CPCC) could assist by identifying NGOs operating or with partners in Mali.

(D) Perhaps funding could be found to bring together NGOs in West Africa to take the moratorium initiative forward. The All Africa Council of Churches may be able to assist.

2. How does one know when the timing is right for a Tools for Arms-type project? What are the conditions that one has to look for to launch such a project?

(A) There don’t appear to be objective conditions for projects like this. In Mozambique, after many years of war, people really want peace to succeed. The project also includes people from all facets of society.

3. There is a fundamental need to bring security to all communities regardless of the availability of arms. Can the response to arms supply and demand be advanced on both fronts simultaneously?

(A) Weapons flows are so globalized that one could argue that the best way to reduce weapons in one place is to start a conflict elsewhere. In South Africa, for example, military weapons were being sucked out of Mozambique, not for use inside South Africa, where pistols are the dominant tool of criminal violence, but for re-export to other regions such as East Africa. Hungary is interested in selling surplus small arms to purchase new equipment that meets NATO standards. However, it is having difficulty because the market is glutted. This suggests that if violence arises, weapons will flow and find a way to feed it. The challenge then is to tackle the violence first, not the weapons flows.

(B) Given the nature of the global small arms trade, if regional arms control and disarmament initiatives are successful, then the ‘backlash’ problem [of suppliers increasing pressure and incentives to transfer arms] becomes more real.

(C) From church experience, the gun control debate within the native community in Canada centred on a choice between the ability to hunt and the need to lessen access to weapons of suicide. By choosing the latter, the people were choosing to build security in their community by making decisions based on local needs and concerns.

(D) We need to focus attention in areas where the individual and community sense of security resides. If in areas affected by widespread weapons, disarmanent is not occurring or won’t occur, we need to find other routes to security. The Peacebuilding office of DFAIT is looking at demand-side issues in this context, as well as issues of gender.

4. The Fafo Institute of Norway is organizing a September meeting in Montreal on microdisarmament. The meeting is funded by the governments of Canada and Norway and will bring together 20 to 30 ‘practitioners’ of microdisarmament to discuss experience in reducing post-conflict weapons surpluses and other issues of small arms proliferation. Four case studies will be featured. NGO observers are welcome to attend the meeting.

5. What are the current key small arms policy issues and events for the Canadian government?

(A) The key international event this year is the September meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. The meeting will receive the report and recommendations of the Group of Experts on Small Arms. Here an important role for NGOs is to pressure their respective governments to go beyond attention to criminal weapon use and trade. As the shine goes off the small arms issue, and as we confront vested interests, there will be a tendency to reduce international response to a talk shop. The NGO community can work at the September meeting and elsewhere to keep attention and focus on the need for an active response to small arms.

Canada is making the offer to host one or more of the PrepCom meetings for the 2001 UN conference on illicit trafficking. There will be at least two PrepComs, one in 2000 and one in early 2001. Canada would like to take a leadership role in shaping the agenda and scope of the conference. This includes promoting an “agenda for action” outcome that addresses all aspects of the small arms problem via arms control, criminal control, peacebuilding, etc. An effective internationial NGO network also would help persuade reluctant governments of the importance of NGO-government collaboration and participation in the 2001 conference.

Canada also raises small arms issues in multilateral fora as opportunities arise. These fora include OAS, OSCE, G8, and others.

6. Can we use the Small Arms Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee (CPCC) to respond to political moments that are coming up?

(A) Canadian NGOs need to keep our own government’s feet to the fire on small arms issues outside the UN system.

(B) The Working Group should select a “top 10” set of activities that it could work on and with which it could develop synergies with government.

(C) NGOs could develop a targeted campaign on small arms that would include a message to the Canadian government. In the context of the Jubilee [debt forgiveness] program, there is now discussion of highlighting small arms in April or May of 2000. We should consider producing a factsheet or postcard for use during that period. It could be linked to the September UN General Assembly meeting.

(D) There are other small arms issues that need to be addressed such as gun control and public health.

(E) The secretariat of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) of the West African moratorium will be consulted on how NGOs can assist the program.

(F) A turning point in the success of the landmines campaign occurred when the issue gained a human face. We need to make the small arms issue a human one. Attention to child soldiers [or child fighters] could provide such a “human” focus. (It must be noted however, that the landmines issue was single focus – small arms do not offer the same narrow agenda.)


Carol Brunt, CUSO, Ottawa 
Paula Butler, United Church of Canada, Etobicoke 
Peter Chapman, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Toronto 
Chris Derkson Hiebert, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Ottawa
Ken Epps, Project Ploughshares, Waterloo
Douglas Fraser, Canadian Council for International Peace and Security, Ottawa
Mark Gaillard, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa
Bonnie Greene, United Church of Canada, Etobicoke 
Shaukat Hassan, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa 
Joy Kennedy, Anglican Church of Canada, Toronto
Michael Kerr, Green Lotus International, Toronto
Jennifer Loten, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa
Claire Pike, Fafo Institute, Montreal
Ernie Regehr, Project Ploughshares, Waterloo
Matthew Scott, World Vision Canada, Mississauga
Erika Zarati, Peace Brigades International, Toronto   



The text of this paper is based on presentations and notes from the “Small Arms Action Forum” held at the United Church of Canada, Etobicoke, on June 15, 1999. The forum was organized by Project Ploughshares on behalf of the Small Arms Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee.

We wish to acknowledge financial support from the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee for the forum and this report.


Carol Brunt of Xefina Consulting in North York, Ontario was the Linkage Program Coordinator for CUSO Mozambique in Maputo from 1997-1999. Previously she worked for several years as a research officer with the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Colonel (Ret’d) Douglas Fraser is the Executive Director of the Canadian Council for International Peace and Security. From 1989 he was Military Advisor in the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations and on his retirement in 1993 he became a Political Affairs Officer in the UN Centre for Disarmament Affairs. In 1999 he travelled to Mali as a member of the Advisory Group on the Moratorium on Light Weapons in West Africa.

Ernie Regehr is the Director of Project Ploughshares.


Project Ploughshares Working Papers are published to contribute to public awareness and debate of issues of disarmament and development. The views expressed and proposals made in these papers should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the official policy of Project Ploughshares.

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