Cameroon’s socio-economic and to a certain extent, political security is being threatened by the influx, circulation and growing use of Small Arms and Light Weapons. The danger of increasing illegal and illicit trade in these war instruments was very much the concern of the country’s ten governors meeting in their bi-annual conference in Yaounde last month. In his address during the opening session of the conference, the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence in charge of the Gendarmerie, Jean Baptiste Bokam recalled the prescriptions of the 2016 law regulating the illicit and illegal circulation of light arms and ammunitions. In effect, the country has for the past decades witnessed significant proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons largely triggered by the armed conflict in neighbouring countries and to an extent by the illegal mushrooming of local arms manufacturing industries.
The impact has been quite telling with the multiplicity of armed robbery recorded here and there. Almost all the regions are affected. Small groups of bandits have cropped up in almost all neighbourhoods in the country’s major towns and highways. The increase in the circulation of light weapons readily has far reaching negative effects on the socio-economic and political life of the country. Growth in insecurity remains a deterrent factor to economic development initiatives. It equally contributes to increase military spending and diverts state resources from critical areas of interest. The wake of insecurity in several sub regions in Africa continues to threaten democracy and stability thereby impacting negatively on trade and economic growth. As if that were not enough, lack of government control and instability has done much to facilitate the illicit trade and spread of weapons on the continent. The inability of the majority of the governments to exercise control over their borders makes it difficult to stop the trafficking of illicit arms.
Like many other African countries, Cameroon finds itself sharing borders with several countries which further complicate issues making control even more difficult. But this ailment remains a perpetual challenge and a solution must be found. What then is the lasting solution is the question. Does it remain at the level of enacting laws and not fully implementing them? Certainly not. The solution from every indication goes beyond national frontiers. We need national, regional and international responses because the problem cuts across several frontiers. And one of such major responses is tightening the screws of border controls.