Arms Watching

Integrating Small Arms and Light Weapons into the Early Warning of Violent Conflict

Written in three sections by three different authors, this report begins with two very different instances of weapons use in conflict and shows the ways in which, with the benefit of hindsight, an analysis and response system (i.e. early warning) could have been implemented to prevent the subsequent outbreak of violent conflict. The first case is the conflict in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal, focusing on violence which erupted in the Natal midlands in March 1990, and became known as the Seven Days’ War. The second case examines the situation in Angola from late 1994, with the signing of the Lusaka Accord (which was to have ended decades of civil war), to January 1999, by which time full-scale war had resumed. It also examines early warning and light weapons in five critical cases in South Asia: societal diffusion (Pakistan), proxy wars (Kashmir, Punjab), and weapon flows from the black market (Sri Lanka, Indian north-east). After briefly describing the underlying historical factors behind these conflicts, and discusses in each case how the border and security forces, media, think tanks, and governmental bureaucracies dealt with early warning signs related to weapons. In another chapter, it examines the massacre in the village of Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico, in December 1997. The report concludes with a brief discussion of why these weapons-specific indicators have not been better utilized and some specific recommendations as to how these important indicators can become a vital part of the early warning process, in theory and in practice.Weapons-specific early warning discussed in this report could serve as the basis for practicalwork in those areas where early warning is critical. There are major obstacles to inducing NGOs and other personnel in the field to begin making better use of weapons-specificinformation. The authors of this report are involved with the global effort underway to deal with this issue.

  • Author(s):
    International Alert
    Edward J. Laurence
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  • Date:
    May 2000
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