This is the slogan for the disarmament poster campaign in Bujumbura, roughly translating as ‘lets get rid of our arms to avoid dramas’, although, as you can see, it is more catchy in French. Here’s a poster; the bit at the bottom translates as ‘he would have liked to have been part of the team
Posted By Laura Gordon
Posted Jun 24th, 2009
June 30, 2009
There are a number of forced disarmament campaigns going on here in Sudan, and something that I have realized is that people hold on to their weapons for a reason. I do not know whether disarmament in Burundi is voluntary or not, but what I have learned is that people hold onto their weapons for a reason: insecurity, distrust, etc.
Without addressing the root causes of these feelings and healing the antagonisms between certain sectors of society, people are likely to rearm. Guns are easily bought, sold, traded and stolen in this part of the world. So, I suppose I question how effective such a campaign slogan really is, if it does not address some of the root causes behind the existence of weapons in the first place. Disarmament is important, but is only a piece of the puzzle.
June 30, 2009
Forced disarmament definitely a problem – they did this a lot in Karamoja when I was working for the UHRC, and it was usually accompanied by *massive* human rights abuse – the strategy went something like: raid a village, take all the men prisoner, beat them up till they admitted they had a gun, then their wife comes hands the gun in and they can go. This is particularly problematic if the person didn’t really have a gun, in which case their wife has to sell stuff to buy one to hand in. There were also problems with giving people packages to hand a gun in (ooh look, that house has a new roof, they probably don’t have a gun any more, lets attack them)
Having said that, I haven’t heard of any reports of forced disarmament since I’ve been here – I’ll be going to a weapons decommissioning ceremony in a week or two so hopefully I’ll be able to talk to some people about why they’re handing in their weapons and whether they feel safe. I take your point about people hanging on to weapons for a reason, but so far all I’ve seen is campaigns to show what harm they can do (there are a couple of other posters about violence against women and violence in the home that make similar points) – which seems like a pretty good idea – then people can make and informed decision. It’s certainly an interesting area though, and one that I’ll be looking into.