On the 17th of June 2016, IPPNW affiliate in Kenya had the privilege of attending an NGO strategy
day hosted by Control Arms in Nairobi. It was a very well attended event and we were pleased to be
in attendance. Among the attendees aside from the Control Arms secretariat from New York were
an array of organisations involved in peace work from the region. We together formed a very good
group with input from many different aspects and with good youthful representation. Some of the
ones represented were:
- Women International League for Peace and Freedom (with a representative from DRC)
- Africa Peace Forum
- Africa Council of Religious Leaders-Religion for Peace
- Centre for the training and Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC), Burundi
- Kenya National Debate Council
- Winds of Change
- African Artists for Peace Initiative
- Kenya Pastoralist Journalists’ Network
The day was very fruitful with robust discussion. We began by going through the history of the Arms Trade Treaty with many questions being only partially answered. One of the conclusions from the early session was that there are legislative holes to be filled before the nations remaining are to accede to the treaty. Largely, the requisite legislation has been forsaken due to lack of persistent advocacy to push or been overtaken by other more pressing matters in parliament and senate. It was also a point of note that the Republic of Kenya’s accession is vital if the treaty is to gain better footing in the sub-region and continent-wide.
The discourse then moved to more tangible matters i.e. the direct effects of arms trade in the horn of Africa and the status of the Treaty in the countries represented. Many of these effects are not being highlighted and the group discussed ways to advocate and highlight the issues at hand. Some of these issues are far-reaching with direct impact on the everyday livelihoods of many people in the region. Security has climbed in the national hierarchy of priorities in this region especially with a lot of terror acts being propagated by small arms and light weapons (SALWs). Many agreed that this is a way to bring the issue of acceding to the treaty to light more directly because it involves an issue at the heart of national and regional discourse. Moreover, the direct economic and humanitarian impact of SALWs cannot be ignored what with all the poaching of endangered species recently. This impacts tourism for countries like Tanzania and Kenya that is so badly affected in recent years due to the deterioration of security. The forced migration and displacement of people, increased burden on healthcare systems, and disruption of economic activities due to violent/armed conflict amongst some communities were also highlighted with a myriad of examples. All these are directly relatable issues that can be the baseline for an advocacy campaign for this treaty in order to universalize the treaty in the region.
The biggest takeaway for us was being there to listen to some very passionate youth campaigners who had great ideas on raising the profile of armed violence and the tools in the treaty to prevent this and what it means to everyday people. I had previously not drawn the line to poaching and the rather obvious impact on tourism. We now also appreciate the need to engage and collaborate in order to maximize on the alternative voices in our advocacy work such as artists and religious leaders. All in all, the day was incredibly informative and I look forward to working with some of the organisations to raise the profile of SALWs and the ATT especially with youth groups. We got inspired as IPPNW-Kenya, to work towards the accession of ATT here and to seek collaboration opportunities for advocacy and awareness work especially in highlighting the humanitarian impact of armed conflict towards a stronger control arms coalition.