What would happen if States with long histories of violence and conflict – States torn apart by civil war and caught in the crosshairs of the deadly arms trade – embraced and fully implemented the Arms Trade Treaty? Could its accession catalyse the accession of other States seeking to limit conflict and violence?

Those pondering these and other questions will soon have a case study to analyse. On 7th October, the Central African Republic simultaneously signed and ratified the ATT by depositing their accession documents at the UN.

As a conflict-torn State that has managed to pass arms control reforms, Central African Republic’s accession to the ATT is particularly important. The Control Arms Coalition welcomes the increasing involvement of conflict-affected States in regulating the dangerous and destructive arms trade.

On Wednesday, 28th October, Control Arms met and spoke with Mario De Gonzales Bengabo-Gomo, Attache at the Permanent Mission of the Central African Republic to the UN, about the accession of the CAR to the ATT. We discussed the challenges facing the CAR as it endeavours to implement the treaty, but also of the opportunities its implementation may provide for other conflict States in Africa and the Middle East.

CA staff Allison Pytlak (left) and Nounou Booto Meeti (right) with Mario de Gonzales Bengabo-Gomo.

Our action, by acceding the treaty, is to send a strong signal to all the countries who have not yet ratified the treaty or who have been in a situation of conflict like ours,” Bengabo-Gomo said. “We know the importance of the treaty because we know what the unregulated, illicit trade and transfers of arms can cause in a countryThat’s why we, as a country in conflict, have taken the action to give a strong signal to everybody to follow our example, ” he continued.

While CAR’s accession is indeed both a strong signal to other States and a key moment in the push towards universalisation of the ATT, challenges facing its full implementation remain.

Bengabo-Gomo explains further: “The challenge is that those neighbouring countries are not yet States Parties [to the ATT]. Our effort will be to get them as States Parties, working hand-in-hand in our region for an effective implementation of the treaty. CAR is a beautiful country – but badly located. We have borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, we have a border with Sudan and South Sudan, and we have a border with Chad and Cameroon. If we can control the transfer of weapons, especially in our borders, that will have an impact and benefit our neighbours.”

With the accession of the Central African Republic, there are now 77 States Parties to the ATT, and a further 55 governments that have signed it but not yet ratified. There are fifteen States Parties from Africa (Central African Republic, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Chad and Togo).

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