Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An online Amnesty International petition which you should all sign: Million Faces .

It aims to help pressure the UN to control the arms trade, a multibillion dollar a year business in which money flows one way and death the other. There is a lot of noise these days about Weapons of Mass Destruction, but in Africa the weapons which really destroy lives are small arms: AK47s, grenade launchers, machine guns and pistols. With arms like these, even small armed groups can kill, rob, rape and burn villages over a wide area.

This was Mozambique's experience - in the "civil war" from about 1976-92, when the racist governments of Rhodesia and then South Africa promoted a vicious destabilization guerrilla war inside Moz's borders, the estimated death toll was 1 million, almost all civilians. As well as that, perhaps 4 million people displaced internally and externally - out of a population of 12 million by the end of the war. Remember that "internally displaced" in a country which is 3000km long and has 20 different ethnic groups, 4 major river basins and 3 climatic zones, means that for many people, they ended up in what was effectively another world to the one they grew up in. Many people have never gone back to their home areas.

And most of this was done by a very small number of men - the combined armed forces of both sides numbered less than 50,000 at the end of the war. How could they cause such devastation? Not with planes, tanks or nuclear bombs, but with small arms which allowed them to dominate whole areas. An AK47 is enough if the other guy only has a spear - and he is a farmer while you are a full-time bandit. The Akiro Kurosawa film 'Seven Samurai' (the original, not the somewhat cheesy American version) captures the desperation of the peasants in this situation. Although in Mozambique there were rarely such happy endings as in that film.

So, please sign the petition.

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