Arm in Arm
I’m in the US for a few months, doing some training courses, tying up some loose ends, contemplating whether I could really tolerate living here for a few years and doing a Master’s degree. Because, as much as the inflation, and the repression, and the sexism, and the government, and the despair gets me down, Harare is Home. And there is something entirely outside of logic or explanation that’s tied my heart to that place.
It’s Monday morning in New York City. I’m sitting in a one-large-room bachelor flat 38 flights off the ground. On the streets far below, the cars and people go past in miniature, tiny toy cars, tiny model people made miniature by the trick of distance. Perspective. It’s grey and raining, and the last sun I saw was the Zimbabwean sun on Friday morning. Which feels somehow entirely appropriate. Like what other sun is worth seeing right now, anyway.
I rooted around and found the BBC Newshour playing on a local station here, and heard an interview with musician Angelique Kidjo. Having heard her lambaste Jacob Zuma as “ignorant” earlier this year, I was curious to hear her again. In connection with the UN World Conference on Small Arms which opens today, she is speaking and performing in several different venues in New York in the next few weeks, and part of her tour is to raising awareness about arms trafficking.
The AK-47 is the world’s least regulated weapon. It has already been the weapon of choice in many conflicts across Africa, and given the huge number of AK’s already in circulation, will continue to be a major factor in conflicts for years to come. The Million Faces Petition is one attempt to raise awareness and encourage leaders internationally to agree on and enforce much stricter measures to control the AK trade. As Kidjo pointed out, if the world can mobilise against Nuclear Non-Proliferation, maybe in time all weapons can be seen for the devastating potential they have.
The interviewer tried to put her in a corner—people want weapons, he argued, therefore there is a market for weapons. When there is a demand, someone will step in with supply, he tried to say—basic economics. He argued it’s like trying to control the drug trade. Kidjo held her ground strongly. Admittedly, pressure to reduce the flow of AK’s won’t immediately convert the world’s swords into ploughshares. But, she said, taking a few steps that make it harder for all groups to access these weapons might at least be a start.
The interviewer was understandably cynical. What’s the point, he asked. Why bother. When people are still violent and conflicts are still pervasive, does something like a speech or a concert or a petition at the Conference on Small Arms really make a difference?
Kidjo replied: “It certainly makes much more of a difference than staying home and doing nothing.”
As Archbishop Oscar Romero said: “There is a sense of liberation in realising that we cannot do everything. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”
Activism, Angelique Kidjo, Arms Trafficking, Arms Control,