26/07/2010 18:26:53
A letter to Obama: Please help Mr President
Mr President, Africa Needs Democracy and Development not Guns and Weapons
Tomwilt
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The US is undoubtedly the biggest arms exporter to Africa contributing to about 50% of all arms to the continent. It is under statement to say that arms exports to Africa, political instabilities, wars, economic underachievement and poverty are intractably linked and that African countries will be unable to achieve any economic development unless they achieve political stability. The continent is littered with hundreds of millions of small arms and light weapons even though South Africa and Egypt are the only countries on the continent with infrastructures that could support huge arms production. Tens of millions of Africans have died from the export of arms to the continent and several millions have been injured as a result of the wars fuelled by the arms exports. About 90% of all civilian casualties in the wars come from the use of small arms and light weapons. Besides, billions of dollars meant for economic and social development have been squandered over the years from diamond, gold, timber, coltan, cassiterite and oil profits to procure arms and fund the instabilities in the continent.

For decades we have witnessed the tragic and the devastating effects of wars on the continent fuelled by arms imports from US, UK, France, Russia, North Korea, China, former Soviet and Eastern European nations. Most of the arms exports to Africa are used for internal repression and external aggression. Some of these arms have found their way into rebel hands, organised criminals and bandits. The arms have been used by totalitarian regimes to hold back critical thinking in their countries. It is estimated that the continent has lost up to 500 billion dollars to arms imports alone while children have no access to education, water and health facilities.

In the face of mounting poverty, malnourishments, diseases, lack of genuine democracy and civil wars what Africa need at this critical moment are not guns and weapons but the seed of genuine democracy and economic development.

The failed state of Somalia where armed groups have been battling one another for 19 years should inform the president of the dangers of small arms and light weapons sales to the continent and the importance of banning arms exports to the continent.

The continued instabilities in the Great Lake Region and the constant arm struggles in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and northern Uganda should also inform the President about the dangers arms shipments from America and Europe are posing to the continent.

The genocide in Darfur cannot stop unless there are concrete efforts to obtain international arms ban against the Sudanese government and the rebel groups who are abducting, raping, terrorising, torturing and massacring the innocent people. In Nigeria where there is no civil war going on the state has used arms to kill about 20,000 of her mostly unarmed civilians.

In Ethiopia millions of people face starvation every year while hundreds of millions of dollars are used to import arms. This explains why you should work with your allies to ban arms exports to the continent as you take office.

The widely forgotten wars in the Casamance Province of Senegal, Western Sahara, Ivory Coast, Niger and Burundi will negate any economic aid to those countries and territories unless arms shipments to both the governments and the rebels are ceased.

The wars in Chad will not stop unless the flow of arms to the government and the rebels are cut.

President Obama, please know that the ever present wars and the instabilities in the continent will make any economic aid less effective and less beneficial to the people.

I want to urge the President Obama to use his good office to help ban the sale of small arms that have been used to terrorise the people for quite so long. President Obama should encourage the other western countries notably the UK and France to also ban the sale of small arms to the continent. The UK and France together account for 10% of the total arms market in Africa. Their companies are heavily involved in the sale of arms that continue to destabilise the continent.

The US should let her influence be bear on China who is increasingly ignoring all calls to halt arms sales to the continent. China in particular is the greatest obstacle to peace and stability as it is not democratic and does not respect international laws when it comes to her interests. China has continued to export arms to Sudan despite mounting evidence that the arms are being used to commit genocide in Darfur. In 2008 when the people of Zimbabwe were starving and was clear that Mugabe had lost the elections all that China could do to support the people and democracy was to ship arms to Mugabe’s repressive regime. Such actions by China, North Korea, Russia and other undemocratic nations must stop. They should be made to sign up to international laws banning and criminalising the sale of small arms to the continent.

President Obama should know that the waves of civil wars that hit and devastated Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Niger and Guinea were made possible through the sale of small arms and light weapons to governments and rebels alike by western defence contractors and arms companies including US companies. These wars apart from its human cost have contributed to the destruction of roads, harbours, airports, railway lines, telecommunications, hospitals, schools and the livelihoods of the people. The wars have decimated regions, countries, communities and families. It has brought poverty, hunger and misery to the people on the continent.

Mr. President, the beneficiaries of the wars are not the people but the corrupt politicians, rebel commanders, army generals, western companies, a shadow economy, governments and their allies who enrich themselves while the people face famine, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, diseases, have no access to health, education and have become refugees within and outside their countries. Besides, billions of dollars meant for economic and social development have been squandered over the years from diamond, gold, timber, coltan, cassiterite and oil profits to procure arms and fund the instabilities on the continent.

As you asked Americans to choose hope over fear in your speech so do I ask you to ask African leaders to choose democracy and economic development over dictatorship, arms, conflicts and political repression. It is time for US, Europe, Russia and China to act together and call their defence contractors and arm companies to order and give Africa peace.

Mr. President, please know that so far as people in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sudan, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Tunisia, Cameroon and Uganda cannot democratically change their leaders there will be the constant threat of wars and instabilities in these countries and the desire by the people to overthrow these undemocratic leaders.

Mr. President please reach out to these tyrants and encourage them to peacefully give up their hold on power. Tell them to unban opposition parties, unban civil and political activists, free political prisoners and organise free and fair elections. President Obama, please do more to encourage them to embark on democratic reforms long needed on the continent.

Let the leaders understand that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Let them understand that politics is about winning and loosing and that it should be possible for opposition parties to win elections and hell does not need to break loose. The presence of such dictators is not only harmful to the image and the development of the continent but a major factor why impoverishment and underdevelopment is prevalent on the continent.

How on earth should a person continue to rule for 30 years when he is not a monarch? Even monarchs sometimes abdicate in favour of change. Isn’t it? Are these kleptocrats monarchs? Why has Gaddafi of Libya been in power for 39 years now? And Omar Bongo of Gabon has ruled for 31 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 27 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 22 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years. Tunisian president has just announced that he is going to rule for life. Are these tyrants monarchs? I do not understand. Mr. President I do not understand.

Tens of millions of Africans have died from the export of small arms and light weapons to the continent. Please Mr. President, at this critical moment in world history what Africa need is democracy and economic development not arms. Help mobilise international support to ban small arms and light weapons exports to Africa. Encourage African leaders to adopt democracy and to embark on social and economic development that will benefit the people in the continent.

We know USA can help. So please help.

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