America’s contribution to Africa’s wars

by David WardGuest Columnist

Today, outside of Indianola, Iowa and America, there are 26 armed conflicts taking place within 24 countries in our world. Eleven of these conflicts are in Africa alone with six African countries reporting over 100,000 war related deaths to date.

Of the 24 countries, 18 make use of child soldiers under the age of 18. As could be expected, the majority of the violence is taking place in the poorest developing countries of the world.

Not our problem? It becomes our problem when our country is supplying the weapons.

The motives behind the conflicts are many and diverse. They range from political aspirations to ethnic conflict. Many fight for wealth while others fight for simple survival.

However there does seem to be one universal uniting factor among these warring factions: they all use, in massive majority, foreign made weapons.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to one of Africa’s bloodiest wars, it is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of weapons used are Russian-made AK-47s which can be commonly bought for $30-50.

However, Russia is not the biggest weapons contributor. In ascending order the three biggest suppliers of weapons to developing countries are: Great Britain, Russia, and the United States is on top. All of these nations are on the UN Security Council.

In 2008 the US held about 70 percent of the world’s Arms Transfer Agreements with the developing world valued at 29.6 billion dollars. Russia was second agreeing to trade 3.3 billion dollars worth of armaments to developing nations in the same year. These statistics were calculated by the Congressional Research Service.

Developed nations are adamant that they do not supply weapons to warring factions or civil rights abusers, and in part, this is true. But then why do we see so many weapons from developed nations in the hands of these people?

The problem is that the weapons go to countries with lax arms trade laws and lower standards of clientele and are passed along through a series of trades to Darfur, or The Congo or Somalia.

For anyone who sees a problem with these facts, and is ready to discard apathy, there are options. Simple acts like writing a senator can have great results.

Many groups are fighting to enact regulations on the nearly unchecked arms trade as well.

Amnesty International is one such group and has many opportunities for students. For more information visit:

Arms dealers give the defense: if we don’t do it, someone else will. With enough opposition, will someone else?