By Nomazulu Thata| The AK 47 stands for Avtomat (Automatic) Kalashnikov: and 47 is the year in which it was invented. Mikael Kalashnikov is the sole inventor of AK47, he was at an early age obsessed with creating a sub-machine gun.
At his hospital bed, he invented a prototype sub-machine gun, then refined it to a carbine that later saw the birth of the deadliest weapon in the history of mankind the AK47. Ironically it was invented after the end of the Second World War, the WW2 ways of combat approach actually gave insight to the young man Mikael Kalashnikov to be curious enough to invent a weapon that will see Russia win wars better than the weaponry used in the WW2. The AK 47 is the most popular assault rifle world over because of its prolific and effective combat use. It is simple a light weapon, durable easy to use and very cheap in the market ever since it was invented to this day.
This light weapon is responsible for the death of a quarter of a million deaths world-wide, every year. The weapon industry revolutionarized the way war would be fought after the WW2. The high-tech-Atomic bomb ended the WW2, because of its mass destruction, no country had any appetite for nuclear weapons, only to be replaced by a lower tech-AK 47, deadlier than any other weapon used in any war situation. The AK 47 is known for its destruction in eastern bloc countries. The SU used it to suppress any uprising in the eastern bloc countries. The Czechoslovakian and Hungarian uprisings of 1950s were suppressed using the effective AK 47. About 50,000 Hungarians were casualties of AK 47: gunned down against 7000 SU soldiers who also perished in the conflict.
All other wars in eastern countries; SU used the AK 47 to spread communism in Eastern Europe. When conflict ended, AK 47 will be collected by sales-brokers to any other conflict in the world. The cold war was fought using AK 47. The SU gave its allies the military artillery: mainly the AK 47 because they were cheap and durable and in abundance since the wars in Europe had ended. The Vietnam War was won because the Vietnamese used AK 47 against the USA weapon M-14 or M-16, the USA equivalence of an AK47. The liberation movements in Africa were equipped with AK 47 weapons, was easy to facilitate them as they were cheap and durable, easy to transport to locations intended to use.
The end of the cold war meant overall transformations and upgrades designed to make weapons better to combat modern type of wars after the WW2. The weapons innovations during the cold war rendered the AK 47 a third-world weapon of mass destruction. The SU and its allies found themselves with so many AK 47 rifles; they had to find means to sell them elsewhere to get some profit than to send them for destruction. The AK 47 found its permanent home in African continent because in this continent’s conflicts are never ending. Who has ever seen an African holding an AK 47 on his hands, the excitement he shows in possession of a weapon that determines life and death? These weapons are not invented in Africa but elsewhere. The African continent is a consumer of such weapons of mass destruction. They are cheap and in abundance, the illicit trading of small arms and light weapons is a multi-billion dollar profit because the demand in Africa is permanent.
African is so to speak, a dumping place of such “out of date” weapons because of numerous conflicts in Africa. There has been an estimated of 630 state-based and non non-state armed conflicts in the entire continent: this trade will always exist and will continue to make billions of profits to sustain unquenchable demand for SALW.
Globally, the African continent has the greatest number of conflicts. Whereas some conflicts are latent, most of them are active and open hostilities are expressed through armed conflicts. The countries with active conflicts are: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Cote d’voire. DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Republic of Congo Senegal, Sierra Leone Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania Zanzibar, and Uganda and very soon it will be Zimbabwe. Illicit trading of small arms is what nurtures conflicts in Sub-Sahara. The influx of small arms and light weapons is financed by cash, diamonds, oil reserves, minerals and of course other means. However it is not the availability of light weapons that cause of the wars in Africa.
Because SALW are cheap to get in the market, their easy availability triggers, and nurtures and prolongs these African conflicts. The disproportionate number of casualties in Africa due to conflicts triggered by the availability of SALW is about 7 to 8 million since 2001 and 14 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world are of African origin. Of the 21 million internally displaced people in the world, 10 million are Africans.
But this trade still and makes billion worth of dollars each year and there is nobody in the continent that can control it effectively. These small arms and light weapons land generally in the hands of failed politicians (Jonas Savimbi of Angola) to a certain extent but in most cases conflicts arise between political parties, between groups, groups and governments and communities trying to finding solutions are most combative, small arms and light weapons come in handy to determine the conflict forcefully, summed up as “Frustration and Aggression Theory.”
One can even talk of gun-culture in some parts of Africa like South Africa. Global arms-industries know where lucrative profits are on demand: the African continent. Africa has unending conflicts in many regions and this arms trade feeds them with the easily available arms necessary to perpetuate conflicts, a preponderance of repeat civil wars. Some civil conflict develop to full scale wars whereby the rebel groups will have acquired arms, sometimes seized or stolen from government forces, to a certain extent looted from state armouries or purchased from corrupt soldiers.
Some countries in Africa do produce small arms and light weapons; South Africa and Ghana are the two of the few countries known to produce small arms. But their trade is strictly monitored by the respective governments; their products usually do not land in rebel groups that will use the arms in conflict situations. According to Schroder and Lamb, the arms trade in Arica is opaque, amorphous and dynamic, the methods of smuggling the small arms is limitless and the demand for small arms and light weapons is limitless too. Small arms range from assault rifles, machine-guns, rocket propelled grenades are all lightweight armed easy to conceal on their way to the recipients stimulate the formation of insurgencies.
Outside Africa, the countries that produce arms that reach the shores of Africa are China, Israel and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) The specialised globber-trotting arms dealers either fly or ship their consignments illicitly into Africa. The route supply of arms in Africa also could be by road, rivers and along the coasts. The transfers are dizzyingly complex says Schroder and Lamb: they consist of backdoor companies that do the transactions, false paperwork and loose collection of brokers. (Simon Mann in Zimbabwe)
Inter-community tensions in some cases are due to various natures of conflicts; such as minerals wealth, water, disputes on cattle grazing lands, the weak states such as Somalia and DRC, ethnic tensions are violently intensified due to the availability of
SALW. According to the United Kingdom Parliamentary Office on Science and Technology, the combination of the lucrative “bush-meat” trade which supplies the meat of wild animals and ineffective governance in many central African areas is linked to groups of poachers whose actions have decimated endangered wildlife. (Taken from Schroder and Lamb: “the illicit arms trade in Africa”)
Illicit trading of arms has a devastating effect in any community development. There are constant deaths resulting from despites due to the availability of SALW. Deaths and trauma of victims resulting from the use of small arms, mares’ meaningful development, and families are displaced; no food production is possible because communities are disrupted from their normal day to day existence. According to Schroder and Lamb, military conflicts has resulted in approximately 4 million people in the DRC an estimated of 7% of the population. In Sudan one million people have lost their lives and six million are internally displaced due to civil war induced by the availability of small to medium arms from the war-lords and arms-dealers.
Arms conflicts disrupt normal democratic governance, contribute to collapse of fragile states, causes human rights violations, and generate refugees; communities are internally displaced and are unable lead normal lives. Conflicts divert scarce resources away from social services, can also disrupt trade and no tourism is possible in conflict countries. When the communities cannot produce food for their livelihoods because of displacements, they depend on food-handouts from donor agencies. The irony of it is that those donor agencies cannot reach those fragile communities intended to assist because the armed rebels disrupt passages for food agencies to give necessary assistance. As a result so many people die of hunger and malnutrition. Many roads and railway infrastructure are destroyed by militant groups who disrupt any form of communication in rural communities.
Any war kill, maims and the consequences extend beyond deaths and destruction. The consequences of conflicts are pervasive and have grave psychological scars on the populations. Children are left traumatized and become accustomed to the culture of violence. Violence on children becoming child-soldiers: child soldiers are recruited by armed militia to fight for them. “Coalition to Stop the Use of Children as Child Soldiers” claims that from 300,000 world-wide, there are 120,000 child-soldiers
in Africa alone. Conflicts that have child-soldiers are Angola, -Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda. These that are thought to have the largest child-soldiers. It is imaginable and possible that Siwela et al will also use child-soldiers to fight for Mthwakazi independence and the restoration of Nguni kingdoms in Mathebeleland.
The armed conflicts in Africa are very complex and almost impossible to bring them to an end. There is profit made in these conflicts, to some it is already a way of life to subsist. Soldiers and guerrillas do profit immensely from SALW sales especially to those who have access to diamonds, gemstones, rare minerals, arms markets are again unlimited making the barter system of selling and buying possible. In the region of Mathebeleland, the bone of contention is the vast diamond bed stretching from Botswana to Mathebeleland.
To conclude this essay: Our rhetoric on war as the means to solve conflicts and to incite violence is always the result of the conscious decisions of groups done out of frustration: (e. g. Nelson Chamisa and Paul Siwela). The consequent of frustration is aggression. To continue to incite violence and stimulate an armed confrontation in an unstable continent like Africa is wholly irresponsible.
Much as we may understand the frustration of certain groups that suffer from regional marginalization, a war conflict is not a solution. It is the women and children who suffer more than the cowardice of our men who stimulate it. In any military conflict, our men run for their dear lives leaving women and children at the mercy of the genocide perpetrators.
The least we need is a conflict right in the middle of southern cone of Africa. Ambassador Kofi Annan said, if you incite violence, you do not know how that violence can go: it can go into a direction wholly unintended by those who instigated, stimulated and incited it. Would I rather be told, I am scared than to put women and other people’s children lives at risk. Paul Siwela and others in the group are away from the crime scenes, safe together with their children. Any kind of armed conflict in Mathebeleland/Zimbabwe will be fought by children of lesser gods. Paul Siwela et al will be in his safety and comforts of Sweden. Hoe responsible! Pun intended!