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War resisters group holds first African CONFAB in Cape Town, S. Africa

nonviolence(GIN) — War Resisters’ International, founded in 1921 by conscientious objectors to the First World War, will hold their first conference in South Africa, July 4-8.

Conference organizers plan to draw attention to the great cost to Africa of the global arms trade, which prompted a report by Oxfam International titled, “Africa’s Missing Billions.”

“Since 1990, around $300 billion has been lost by Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda,” the report asserted.

“The sum is equivalent to international aid from major donors in the same period. If this money was not lost due to armed conflict, it could solve the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria,» the report concluded.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, writing in the foreword to Missing Billions, noted, “This report highlights the global nature of the problem of one of the key drivers of armed conflict — the proliferation of weapons. As nearly all of the weapons used in African conflicts are not made in Africa, the need for global action to control the trade in weapons and prevent weapons, especially small arms, reaching Africa’s conflict zones is brought into stark relief.»

A snapshot presented in the report by a Kenyan doctor shows the true cost of one bullet after rebels shot and shattered the jaw of a young Congolese boy, the son of a diamond prospector. It took a year for the 17-year-old boy to save enough money to have a steel plate inserted into his jaw during a nine-hour operation that cost US$6,000.

“The cost of the operation is the equivalent of a year of primary school education for 100 children, or full immunization of 250 children, or 1.5 years of education for a medical student,” the Missing Billions report pointed out.

War Resisters’ International has more than 80 affiliates in 40 countries. WRI provided support for the End Conscription Campaign in South Africa in the early 1980s and the organization says the decision to hold its 2014 conference in Cape Town was made “in recognition of the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to constitutional democracy”.

 

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