As the most profitable market for arms smugglers, it comes as no surprise that Africa suffers the largest number of causalities from conflict, the United Nations chief of drugs and crime told the Security Council on Friday.
Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa told the 15-nation Council that most weapons are shipped through commercial channels from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to Africa, fueling almost every conflict on the continent.
During an open-door session of the Security Council, members debated illicit trade in arms in Central Africa, one of the regions hardest hit by the phenomenon of small arms and light weapons.
Costa singled out Ukraine as being a "major" arms supplier for Africa. "There are 54 firearms for every Ukrainian soldier ... and a surplus of large planes," said Costa. "Add low regulation and high economic insecurity, and you get an environment where merchants of death can make millions."
A Ukrainian ship, for example, hijacked by Somali pirates in Sept. 2008 ironically uncovered an illegal shipment of ammunition that was intended for South Sudan, not Kenya, as the export certificate said. Once a shipment of weapons or ammunition makes it to its final destination, it is often battered for drugs or natural resources, said Costa.
"Arms trafficking and organized crime fuels conflicts and vice- versa," he said.
Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who was in Moscow, Russia this week for the Quartet meeting, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro welcomed the recent steps taken by Central African countries towards a subregional system to monitor small arms.
The move is the first step towards drafting the sub-region's first legally binding instrument on the control of small arms and light weapons, ammunition and explosives, she said. On April 26-30, negotiators will work on the instrument's first draft at the 13th ministerial meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"The decisions and actions by the Standing Advisory Committee are of great significance in tackling the tools of violence, designing ways to improve sub-regional security, and creating the necessary conditions for sustainable development," said Migiro.