Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Botswana joins league of global arm traffickers

Botswana has been listed among top countries in the world that are experiencing high volumes of firearms trafficking, according to the Global Study on firearms trafficking 2020 released by the United Nations. The report shows that at the time it was compiled, Botswana had registered at least 1000 trafficked firearms alongside countries in the continent such as Guinea, Lybia, Burundi, Algeria, Togo and Morocco. 

The report shows that Africa registered the highest average proportions of armsseized and linked to trafficking, with notable proportions reported by Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria and Kenya as they registered more than 10 000 trafficked firearms. The report says illicit manufacture as legal grounds for seizure was most marked – even if still very small in relative terms – in Africa, driven mainly by Algeria, which reported 265 arms seized in 2016-17 on these grounds (18 per cent of the total arms seized in these two years) and Kenya (424 arms out of 5,264 seized in 2016). 

This is in keeping with the known prevalence of artisanal manufacture of firearms in this region. Burkina Faso also seized significant numbers of manufactured arms, but data on legal justification were not provided. In Burundi, although total seizures were low (235 arms during 2016-17), around a fifth were seized in the context of a violent crime, while the analogous share was around 15 per cent in Algeria and Morocco. In Tunisia, out of 1,570 arms seized in 2016-17, 11 per cent were linked to terrorism. In Africa, the largest quantities of seized weapons seized were registered in Angola and Kenya. Aside from the prevalence of shotguns generally, notable proportions of machine guns were seized in Tunisia and of submachine guns in Burundi. In Central African Republic, aside from miscellaneous weapons such as grenades, artisanal weapons and cannons, the remaining seized weapons were predominantly rifles and submachine guns. 

However, many countries in Africa and Asia appear to have a lower capacity to intercept and report trafficked firearms, which may lead to underreporting of some types of firearms. Moreover, the total figures reported by countries include seizures which are not directly connected to trafficking. Based on customs seizures at borders, rifles emerge at par with pistols. This suggests that firearms such as rifles may play a bigger role in global trafficking patterns than what is reflected in the currently available data. Looking more closely, the report says, links emerge between trafficking patterns and broader regional contexts.

For example, countries with higher levels of violent deaths and homicide, particularly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, tend to seize a higher percentage of firearms connected to violent crime. Similarly, in countries with higher levels of drug trafficking, more arms are seized linked to that activity. The report says when a firearm is seized, the authority that carries out the seizure – usually a law enforcement agency – is required to provide a legal justification for their action. Looking at national averages, the most frequently used justification is illicit possession of a firearm, accounting for nearly two thirds of seizures, while illicit firearms trafficking is the stated reason in some 9 per cent of cases.


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