Updated: Tuesday, 16th September 2014 @ 2:14pm

'It's easier to trade weapons than bananas': Sierra Leone campaigner demands regulation in Manchester protest

'It's easier to trade weapons than bananas': Sierra Leone campaigner demands regulation in Manchester protest

By Ian Silvera

An arms-trade regulation campaigner and journalist was at Manchester Museum today to push the government for more regulation in the illegal trading of weapons.

James Fallah-Williams is the chair of human-rights charity RAPAR, which works with displaced people, and has joined forces with Amnesty International and Oxfam to lobby the UK government to urge for more regulation in the international arms industry.

The Sierra Leone born journalist fled from the war torn country in 1995 and partly blames the absence of regulation in the international arms trade for the terrible atrocities that occurred in his home nation.

The campaigner places responsibility on lax laws around arms dealing which allowed private military companies such as the controversial Sandline International to sell weapons to the forces of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former leader of Sierra Leone, in contravention of a UN arms embargo.

The 40-year-old said: “It’s really important for the British government to support our campaign. The Coalition government’s support will portray a good image to the international community.”

He added: “Both my brother and cousins were killed by rebels in Sierra Leone, it was terrible.

“I can’t watch war movies, disturbing news reports or even the film Blood Diamond, they bring back horrible memories, memories I try to forget.”

Mr Fallah-Williams works with refugees and displaced persons on a daily basis from the likes of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

He said that a lot of the refugees cannot even go to sleep at night because of the inhuman events they have witnessed.

One refugee, Mr Fallah-Williams explained, even unconsciously runs into the streets of Manchester semi-naked at night because of the mental trauma that he has endured.

Activism assistant with Oxfam North of England Eamon Rooke, 23, said: “It’s easier to trade weapons than dinosaur bones and bananas, we want to change that.”

The United Nations will meet in July to try to agree the world's first treaty to control the arms trade.

The treaty is not intended to stop the arms trade, but to regulate it, so as to prevent arms transfers that fuel human rights abuses and grave human suffering.

It will outlaw arms transfers to war lords, violent dictators, conflict zones and criminal gangs.

Following effective lobbying by Amnesty and Oxfam, many UK politicians have made strong statements in support of a robust treaty that protects human rights.

These include opposition leader, David Milliband, Foreign Secretary, William Hague and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Now Amnesty and Oxfam want to secure strong support from the Prime Minister before the UN Conference.

Amnesty International and Oxfam have urged constituents to write to their MP and/or directly to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Amnesty International can provide advice for your letters and a briefing to send to your MP.

Manchester Amnesty members will be visiting several local MPs to lobby on this issue.

You can view their tweets on the hash-tag #controlarms.

 

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