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Arms Transfers to East and Southern Africa

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Publisher: SIPRI
December, 2009
United Nation member states are currently discussing the feasibility of an arms trade treaty (ATT) which would seek to create better controls on international arms transfers. This Background Paper is one of a series produced by SIPRI to inform these discussions.

Arms flows to East and Southern Africa, which originate from a wide diversity of countries, are relatively small. However even small volumes of arms can play a major role in armed violence and can be an economic burden. Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are commonly used in violent conflicts in the region. The legal or illegal supply of significant quantities of SALW to and within the region is therefore a cause for concern. An increasing number of supplier countries are trying to address such concerns with more restrictive arms export policies.

The existing secrecy surrounding arms procurement in East and Southern Africa hampers adequate policymaking, facilitates corruption, feeds distrust between states and can allow destabilizing accumulations of arms. It also obstructs an informed debate on an ATT and would be an obstacle to the verification of an eventual treaty.


I. Introduction

II. Arms transfers to and from East and Southern Africa

III. Transparency in arms transfers

IV. Conclusions


Pieter D. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.