African nations lose $284 billion in conflicts

Lagos, (Xinhua) Armed conflicts in southeast Nigeria’s Niger Delta and other violence have cost Africa billions since 1990, according to a report of Oxfam International.

Titled “Africa’s Missing Billions”, the report said violent conflicts had robbed Africa’s development of $284 billion between 1990 and 2005, an amount equal to all international aid received by the continent during the period.

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The report, quoted by the Punch Sunday, said that the mass illegal import of Kalashnikov rifles was responsible for 95 percent of the armed violence in Nigeria and other African countries.

Oxfam’s release of the report coincided with preparations for global discussions by the Group of UN Governmental Experts on the Arms Trade Treaty.

President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has pointed out that weapons proliferation is devastating several African countries’ economies and increasing human misery.

In the foreword of the Oxfam’s report, the Liberian president urged African countries to strongly support the United Nations’ proposals for an Arms Trade Treaty, aimed at enforcing tough international controls on the arms trade.

“The sums are appalling – the price that Africa is paying could cover the cost of solving the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa, or provide education, water and prevention treatment for TB and malaria. Literally thousands of hospitals, schools, and roads could have been built, positively affecting millions of people,” she was quoted as saying.

“Not only do the people of Africa suffer the physical horrors of violence, armed conflict undermines their efforts to escape poverty,” Johnson-Sirleaf said.

Countries listed as being most affected were Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda.

The report underlined the negative significance of armed conflicts as a major threat to African countries’ development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

“Africa’s Missing Billions” ensured more infant deaths, more undernourished people, more adult illiteracy, along with a drop in the Human Development Index and per capita GDP.

Also, armed robbery, homicide with firearms, a rise in gangster violence, including a proliferation of armed “cults” in institutions of higher learning were identified as by-products of the problem.

Among the direct, indirect and intangible costs which the study identified as being traceable to widespread illegal possession of small arms were increased government expenditure on the military, displaced persons and affected infrastructure, with reduced tourism and other economic activity along with reduced quality of life for people in affected areas, according to the report.

Diversion of weapons from government’s stockpiles and illegal imports on a large scale accounts for the illegal availability of weapons, it said.

In Nigeria, armed criminals and secret cultists in Lagos, and armed gangs in the delta, have stocks of sophisticated small arms, including Kalashnikovs, the report stated.

It also noted that a vast number of both state-procured and illegal arms and ammunition were still being imported into Africa from other parts of the world.