Angola

Angola: Widespread small-arms could lead to increase in crime

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JOHANNESBURG, 7 February (IRIN) - The widespread availability of small-arms among Angolan civilians could give rise to an increase in crime and banditry, analysts said on Friday.
"While it is unlikely that these small arms constitute a threat to the current peace process or political stability in the country, there is obviously concern for the safety of civilians. We could see the weapons used in robberies and banditry at the local level within communities," Sweden's ambassador to Angola, Roger Gartoft, told IRIN.

While there is no independent confirmation of exactly how many guns are in the hands of individuals, officials estimate that a third of Angolans are armed.

During the turbulent period of the 1992 election in particular, the government armed its supporters in key towns after accusing UNITA of not properly demobilising its troops.

Following last year's ceasefire agreement, a government programme encouraging civilians to hand in their weapons yielded less than 10 percent of the number believed to be in circulation.

Given the number of weapons in private hands, there has been concern over the possible trafficking of guns across Angola's borders.

"When the war in Mozambique ended there was a significant increase in cross-border trade in illegal weapons. This could possibly happen with the weapons in Angola unless the government embarks on an attractive campaign which makes it worthwhile for Angolans to hand in their guns," a senior researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, Noel Stott, told IRIN.

"In some countries, the government exchanged guns for food. Some individuals have made a business out of collecting arms for cash incentives but this needs thorough investigation," Stott added.

In a report late last year to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the country still faced major security threats and stressed the importance of disarming all civilians.

"Disarmament of the civilian population remains central to the overall enhancement and consolidation of peace and

security challenges ... The concerns over this issue reflect a continuing trend of insecurity in some of the provincial and urban areas, where banditry has increased significantly," Annan said.

[ENDS]

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