The obscenity of African wars.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Cost of war - Editorial

Wars have cost Africa at least a staggering $300bn between 1990 and 2005. This does not take into account the millions of lives lost or ruined, the impact on neighbouring countries, the debilitating trauma of war, the unprecedented levels of internal displacement, the destruction of infrastructure or the millions of hectares of good farmland now rendered useless because of unexploded mines.

Add all this to the equation and one shudders to think of the real cost of wars in Africa. It is a cost almost identical to the total amount of development aid into Africa. The figure quoted above was released by Oxfam International following the first study of this nature undertaken by the charity group.

Oxfam says that the 23 conflicts engulfing the continent during this period have shrunk economies by an average of 15% per year at an annual cost of almost $18bn.

The estimates were based on a calculation of the costs of higher military expenditures, loss of development aid, rising inflation and medical expenses of those injured or disabled.

The real cost, when all factors are taken into account, is at least double, if not triple. What is astounding, given this scenario, is not that most of Africa is underdeveloped, but that much of it has managed to develop at all.

The release of these shocking figures comes just as the UN General Assembly is trying to pass the Arms Trade Treaty designed to restrict the flow of illegal weapons to vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa.

This is the second time the General Assembly has tried to pass the treaty. In 2006, 153 countries voted in its favour, 24 states abstained and only one country voted against--the US.

"The treaty provides an opportunity to agree tough controls on the arms trade that would significantly help reduce armed violence in Africa and across the world, an opportunity that is truly priceless," says Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Johnson-Sirleaf knows at first hand what havoc a proliferation of arms in the hands of irresponsible and greedy people can unleash on innocent citizens. Her country is still painfully trying to recover from the wounds of war.

All of Africa's wars, and one can say this with confidence following the release of classified documents, have been caused, instigated, supported or provoked by outsiders.

The motives of these proxy wars, once all the white noise surrounding them has been removed, have often been dastardly. The Cold War unleashed a series of murderous...

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