The widespread adoption of the global arms trade treaty (ATT) is widely considered a great success for international civil society and the human rights community. The intention of the treaty will make it more difficult for states to channel weapons into the hands of insurgent groups and other non-state actors through a multilateral commitment to uphold certain export/important standards and to avoid the diversion of conventional arms from legitimate actors to illegitimate ones (contrary to the fears of the US National Rifle Association and such groups, it does not constitute a global gun licensing regime or something of that sort).

The merits of this approach are considerable and the activisits who worked tirelessly for over a decade to usher in this treaty deserve credit. That said, from the vantage point of the capacity and practice of African state, one wonders if the intended measures are more aspirational than realistic and reflect an overestimatet appreciation of the institutional and social capacities of African states.

Continue reading