kalashnikov
/ COURTESY

There is perhaps no firearm on earth more popular than the Avtomat Kalashnikov, or AK 47 rifle.

The Russian arms manufacturer once had America in its sights but sanctions imposed against the company by the then American President, Barack Obama, had the company move to Africa and Asia.

The company’s target market is mostly the governments in Africa seeking to improve their military equipment and the civilians as well.

The Kalashnikov Concern after the US sanctions has more than doubled last year’s revenue to the equivalent of $300 million and are forecast to increase a further twofold this year, courtesy of deals made by Asian and African countries.

Kalashnikov is no longer producing its renowned AK-47 it is said that its latest assault rifles retain the same selling points: simplicity and reliability even in the most unforgiving environments, and at a cheaper price than competitors.

Small arms have been implicated in ethnic violence and war crimes in Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among others. They have also been instrumental in the suppression of democratic progress in Zimbabwe, and at the same time expanding its influence and political economic ties with the authoritarian regime of President Robert Mugabe.

China has also taken lead in selling arms to most African countries. It is not therefore surprising that arms from China have been implicated in the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict in which China is known to have supplied arms to both sides in the conflict.

A child playing with a non functioning automatic rifle. / COURTESY

It has also been said that Chinese weapons were used in Sudan’s suppression of rebels in Darfur following a revolt in 2003 which led to a genocide against the region’s people.

Apparently, the light weapons used in the massacres in eastern DRC were of Chinese origin. There, children as young as 11 years old were given weapons by warlord Thomas Lubanga, and forced to participate in interethnic killings in the early 2000s. Furthermore, Chinese trained Congolese troops have been implicated on several occasions in ethnic killings of innocent civilians in the eastern DRC.

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DRC child soldiers. / COURTESY

Experts say the propensity of the West to spread small arms and light weapons among African states will end up undermining whatever positive perception it has generated in the continent as well as taint its goals to support sustainable development and contribute to the national development goals of individual African states.

In particular, it will cast doubt on its willingness to support Millenium Development Goals, and other specific development goals in the continent such as the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa and similar such programs.

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