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What motivates me to campaign for the ATT

October 24, 2012

by Bob Mtonga

Here are four scenarios that I have lived through that have motivated me to campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to control the deadly trade in weapons.

Picture a boy, aged 13 years and full of naiveté; he did not know his father’s firearm was unsecured and loaded. He called three of his friends and asked them to line-up so that they could do enact a mock “007” James Bond scene. He asked them to duck when he pulled the trigger. One of the three chickened out and he was labeled as a coward. The boy with the gun pulled the trigger and before he knew it one of his peers was dead.

Picture a woman surgeon, on her way home to rest. As she pulled up at her gate, two masked men accosted her. They wanted the car. Entranced by shock and benumbed by fear, she failed to obey the order. The next time she blinked, she was on a hospital bed with a bandaged head. A speeding bullet had claimed part of her scalp.

Picture a man, presidential material in Zambian political circles, from a family of political junkies. Unbeknownst to him and his family; his rivals had other plans. A hired assassin made it his unpleasant duty to take this man out. The doctors that attended to him did all they could to sew his shattered liver and spleen. Boy how those organs bled! After 12 hours of earnest endeavor to save his life, the doctors threw in the towel.

Picture a chubby businessman of some stature whose business included guns and bullets. When I asked him if he knew that firearms by design, and certainly by effect, take away lives and limbs and that they cause human suffering, he told me without blinking and at point-blank that he was not a humanist!

These narratives partly informed my decision to join the campaign to regulate the transfer of conventional arms. The businessman and the three victims were all looking at the gun and its ammunition. The one from the butt end, the three from the barrel end.

If the gun was not fired, if the gun was not loaded, if the businessman was a humanist, maybe the lives of the three and countless others could have been saved.

Yes, an ATT without ammunition in its criteria will not make an impact on the ground.  An ATT that does not have a humanitarian dress code will not save lives and limbs.

An ATT that has loopholes will not save as many lives.  An ATT that does not oblige exporters to conduct a risk assessment before transferring guns and ammunition will not be worth the paper it will be written on. The hour has come to plug the loopholes. It is not too late.

Dr. Bob Mtonga is Co-President of IPPNW, and he is representing IPPNW at the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament this month to work with colleagues from the Control Arms coalition to urge for passage of a strong and humanitarian-based Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT process was stalled at the end of month-long negotiations this past July. NGOs are pressing for actions that strengthen the draft text and put in place a process to complete the negotiations.

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