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Darfur, African Security Challenge Top IPU Agenda
September 29, 2004

This Day (Lagos)

September 29, 2004
Posted to the web September 29, 2004

Kola Ologbondiyan

Wabara: Terrorism Thrives On Poverty

As the 111th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) opened in Geneva yesterday, the humanitarian and security crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan is top on the agenda.

The assembly, in which no fewer than 140 countries are expected to participate, would also deliberate on the role of parliaments in addressing the security challenges facing the African continent.

The security challenge and the crisis in Darfur constitute an emergency item on the agenda and was proposed by the South African delegation.

Senate President Adolphus Wabara, as well as the House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Hon. Austin Opara, are leading the Nigerian delegation which has the House Leader, Hon. Abdul Ningi, Senators Uche Chukwumerije, Iyabode Anisulowo and Sule Yari Gandi, among others.

The IPU would also deliberate on the role of parliaments in strengthening multilateral regimes for non-proliferation of weapons and for disarmament in the light of new security challenges as well as the role of parliaments in preserving biodiversity.

The body would also stress respect for international humanitarian laws by canvassing extensive political mobilisation based on both knowledge and know-how.

"Parliamentarians not only oversee the executive's action in applying the law, but also have the capability and authority to transmit the rules of international humanitarian law to the population and to ensure that the competent institutions, including the army and security forces, receive adequate instruction in them.

"Humanitarian law adresses such critical issues as the treatment in conflicts of civilians, prisoners and vulnerable groups and the need to avoid the use of indiscriminate and disproportional force in warfare.

The public and the executive branch must understand this body of law as a universal set of values that is in the interest of all, and they must be reminded that nit has to be supported by everyone, everywhere.

"Legislative enactments and resolutions are critical in securing such support, and in outlawing and forestalling violations of this unique body of law," the IPU remarked in a statement issued yesterday.

Wabara, however, said that the fight against terrorism would not be accomplished unless poverty is conquered.

The Senate President, who addressed the plenary session of the IPU, also tasked his colleagues to enact legally-binding instrument that would hold manufacturers, suppliers, traffickers, facilitators and users of small arms and light weapons accountable for their roles in the illicit trade that has become weapon of mass destruction in sub-Saharan Africa. According to him, "the greatest and worst weapons of mass destruction are poverty and diseases. These have claimed the lives of millions of people and will continue to do so, unless something is done.

"Even the new international threat to terrorism thrives because vulnerable groups from which terrorists recruit new members and their operatives are created by poverty. This evil cannot be defeated without defeating poverty."

Noting that "small arms and light weapons have caused devastation and loss of lives in developing countries, especially in my region," the Senate President stated that "the illicit trade and use of these weapons constitute a major impediment to peace, stability, security and socio-economic development.

"These weapons in terms of effect can legitimately be called weapons of mass destruction in sub-Saharan Africa. They have been used to prosecute armed conflicts, resulting in the death of millions of people, particularly women and children.

"While sub-Saharan Africans continue to suffer the effect of these weapons, manufacturers, suppliers, transporters and traffickers reap the gains." He canvassed the need "to draw common national and international standards to prevent the legal trade in these weapons from being diverted into illegal channels."

Wabara, however, listed the panacea for the problem as including parliamentary actions that would "direct our governments to play more positive role in the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate legally-binding conventions on disarmament issues.

"Parliaments should ask their governments the justification of spending tax payers' money to maintain the conference on disarmament and the delegations for years without making progress on the issues for which it was established, inspite of the evident eminent threats and challenges facing the international community.

"We should call for the implementation of, and effective compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)." "The parliaments of key countries whose signatures and ratifications are necessary for the CTBT to enter into force should urge their governments to take necessary action to become state parties," he added.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament was yesterday admitted as an affiliate member of IPU. ECOWAS Parliament's Secretary-General, Halima Ahmed, who disclosed this to newsmen at the conference venue, explained that "before now, ECOWAS Parliament was merely an observer but applied two years ago to become an affiliate member based on the activities it has been performing in the region."

Ahmed, however, said that "the membership does not confer a voting right to the sub-regional parliament n"but we can participate in deliberations and it now means that members can speak with one voice through the ECOWAS Parliament."


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