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Research Report

Small Arms Availability, Trade and Impacts in the Republic of Congo

Spyros Demetriou
Robert Muggah
Ian Biddle
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2002
Published by: Small Arms Survey
Pages: 73

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. i-i)
  2. (pp. ii-ii)
  3. (pp. iii-iv)
  4. (pp. v-viii)
  5. (pp. 1-3)

    Trailing three separate internal armed conflicts in the Republic of Congo (RoC) is a legacy of violence and trauma. Although the incidence of armed violence has decreased somewhat since the cessation of hostilities at the end of 1999, small arms remain a ubiquitous feature of the Congolese landscape and a looming problem for human security, sustainable development, and reconstruction. In order to order to assist the UNDP/IOM Reintegration of Ex-combatants and Weapons Collection Programme in its efforts to tackle these problems, a research team from the Small Arms Survey (SAS) was contracted to carry out an assessment of small arms...

  6. (pp. 4-5)

    Militias have constituted an integral part of political and social life in RoC since independence from France in 1960. This phenomenon has its roots in divergent interests between political leaders and the army, and the progressive militarization of politics as formal channels for dialogue were obstructed or bypassed. Political crises and widespread violence in 1959 and between 1964 and 1969 led Congolese leaders to create armed civilian militias as measures to safeguard personal power bases and achieve political objectives. During the crises of 1964–68, the para-statal armed formation known as the ‘Defense Civile’—originally created by Pascal Lissouba to...

  7. (pp. 6-16)

    Every conflict, whether between states or groups within a state, generates its own unique dynamic and logic of weapons acquisition. In Congo, most fighting took place between militia groups consisting largely of irregular and untrained civilians and supported by dominant political figures. In contrast to other internal conflicts, the regular army disintegrated and for the most part was unable to influence the course of the conflicts. Due to a lack of military discipline within the militias, not to mention their innate fractiousness, the conflicts themselves were characterized by a high degree of chaotic behaviour. In this context, militia leaders were...

  8. (pp. 17-30)

    The 41,000 weapons estimated to be in the possession of militias are at present scattered throughout the country. As a result of progress in the peace process to date, the vast majority of these weapons are not openly carried by their owners but instead stored in caches whose size varies from small individual to large collective holdings. Geographically, weapons are concentrated near the areas where they were first acquired or last used. Demographically, weapons are unevenly distributed among excombatants, with some possessing large individual holdings and others none. Findings indicate that significant concentrations of weapons are located in Brazzaville, throughout...

  9. (pp. 31-35)

    Studies in Africa have shown that porous borders and regional patterns of instability and conflict create favourable conditions for markets in surplus military weapons that are recycled from one conflict zone to another (Small Arms Survey, 2001). The saturation of society with such weapons, the lack of centralized control over their distribution, and the corresponding low price, mean that large volumes of these weapons can circulate between countries in short periods of time. The situation of Congo-Brazzaville—a country glutted with weaponry and surrounded by countries experiencing conflict or severe political and social instability—would at first glance imply the...

  10. (pp. 36-40)

    Is gun violence getting worse in Brazzaville? If it is, what are the impacts of small arms on individuals in Congo-Brazzaville? Why measure the impacts of small arms on communities? What value would a chronological series of impacts criteria add to the UNDP/IOM reintegration and weapons collection project? These questions require critical analysis. First, indicators provide useful benchmarks to measure the impact of an intervention on a given situation. By establishing baseline indicators that measure the impacts of small arms on a society, it becomes possible to identify critical points for intervention that facilitate any justification of programme entry or...

  11. (pp. 41-46)

    The widespread availability of small arms in the RoC today illustrates a contemporary phenomenon throughout conflict regions in Africa, and indeed the world. Globalization, the downsizing and privatization of the military sector, and the collapse of communism have combined to create a booming international market for weapons underpinned by plentiful supplies from Cold War-era stockpiles. Advances in information technology, the expansion of the cargo industry, and the global reach of financial networks have catalysed the creation of multinational weapons-trading networks that reach deep into the most volatile and remote conflict zones. Although such activities are for the most part illegal...

  12. (pp. 47-50)
  13. (pp. 63-63)
  14. (pp. 64-64)