Make 'human security' a priority to reduce violence, Horn of Africa governments told

East Africa

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Governments in the Horn of Africa must shift from a focus on ‘national security’ to prioritizing ‘human security’in order to reduce armed violence, an international peace-building organization says.
The report by PAX, ‘'Armed and Insecure', says governments in the region could improve the wider security perception by ensuring basic socio-economic preconditions such as personal and food security, an accessible labour market, as well as education and health systems.
High military spending generally means that less budget is available to provide basic services
for citizens, such as education and health care.
“Even where military budgets look relatively small, arms purchases can put a significant burden on these states, in particular they may exacerbate debts,” says the report.
It mentions that South Sudan’s military spending is one of the highest in the world. This happens at the expense of delivery of basic services to citizens.
“South Sudan’s spending was already high by all standards, but after the war started in late 2013…its military spending was estimated to make up nearly 14% of the country’s gross doemstic production (GDP) by 2015 – among the highest globally,” say the authors of the report.
According to the most recent estimate available (2007-2012) for the eight nations under consideration, an average 35,336 people are killed annually in the region, whether in conflict situations or homicides.
It says an estimated 100,000 people died in the civil war that started in South Sudan in late 2013, while those wounded, traumatized or forced to flee their homes or countries dwarf the number of those killed.

Civilians bear the brunt of violence
“Civilians unacceptably bear the brunt, with thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of people displaced in recent years as a direct consequence of armed violence,” the report says.
The authors of the report, Daniel Mack and Frank Slijper, say that in early 2016, UN experts concluded that transfers of Mi-24 attack helicopters from a Ukrainian company to South Sudan “have facilitated the expansion of the war and have emboldened those in government who are seeking a military solution to the conflict at the expense of the peace process”.
The report that was released late last month looks at the transfer and use of arms between 2010 and 2015 in eight nations - Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
“It is imperative that efforts be made to better control the trade of arms, thereby preventing lethal instruments from ending up in the hands of those violating human rights or involved in war crimes,” it says.
The report says that both importers and exporters of arms have a responsibility to ensure that arms do not end up in the hands of non-state actors.
” Important exporting nations, especially Russia, Ukraine, China and the US…should make thorough risk assessments, whereas importing governments need to compare the perceived benefits of arms to their opportunity costs,” it says.
The report urges nations in the region to increase their levels of transparency, accountability and democracy as a way of reducing conflict.
“Though often ignored in discussions of armed violence and arms control, issues such as corruption, freedom of the press, and the existence of political opposition parties and competitive elections may be as important to the future of conflict and armed violence in the Horn of Africa as any other factor,” the authors say.

PAX is an organisation that supports partners in facilitating peace dialogue between rivalling communities and the government to promote peace, security and collaboration.


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