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Nigeria: experts discuss way forward for West African arms proliferation treaty

09-11-2009 News Release 09/225

Abuja (ICRC) – From 27 to 29 October, legal experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and 35 government officials representing all 15 States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Abuja to discuss the implementation of international humanitarian law at the national level.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict were among the treaties discussed. The main topic, however, was progress made on ratifying the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials and on incorporating it into member States'domestic legislation.

The ECOWAS Convention is set to enter into force with the deposition by the Republic of Benin of the ninth instrument of ratification. " This home-grown treaty is very important for West Africa, " said Jacques Villetaz, the head of the ICRC regional delegation in Abuja, during the meeting. " It shows that the region is seeking to prevent conflict by limiting the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons and curtailing their misuse. "

Over the past decade, arms proliferation has been a scourge for West Africa. Millions of small arms and light weapons are estimated to be in circulation within the region. An ICRC study on arms availability and armed conflict conducted in 1999 showed that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons obstructs compliance with international humanitarian law and makes matters worse for civilians when they are caught up in fighting.

The Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons was signed by the heads of all ECOWAS member States in June 2006 and has so far been ratified by Benin, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

  For further information, please contact:
  Robin Waudo, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 9 4619613 or +234 703 803 8497
  Blessing Ejiofor, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 803 333 5280