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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms
Lora Lumpe (ed.)

London and New York: Zed Books, 2000
256pp. Index. Hb.: ?49.95; ISBN 1-85649-872-7. Pb.: ?15.95; ISBN 1-85649-873-5.

Owing to their intractability, pervasiveness and the threats they pose to sustainable peace within states and the entire global system, small arms are without doubt one of the biggest defining elements in the international world order. The contributors to Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms have attempted to provide an understanding of illegal arms trafficking. In this respect, the book does succeed in introducing the reader to the players of the global black arms market, how it is conducted and the repercussions of the same. In Part 4, S Meek and T Leggett present in their way forward, suggestions on what can be done to curb the pandemic trade.

Following the introduction to gun-running, B J Thomas and E C Gillard explain in detail the legal framework that surrounds the transfer of weapons. It is important to note their observation that besides the ECOWAS moratorium, there have not been any other cases of outright bans of transfer of small arms and light weapons. What does this mean? Should we not now accept that the continued proliferation of small arms is in some ways a direct result of the complacency of governments and other regional bodies? In Part 2, the forces of supply and demand are dealt with - although not in that order. It would provide better reading were W Cukier and S Stropshire's article on Domestic Gun Markets: The Licit - Illicit Link to come before the article by L Mathiak and L Lumpe on Government Gun-Running to Guerrillas and P Abel's Manufacturing Trends: Globalising the Source. That not withstanding, this part of the book is the most informative. Abel's detailed write-up on the different countries' production of both licensed and unlicensed small arms is crucial particularly for policy makers. Indeed, his entire section on Licensed Production Agreements is a must-read for those who seek to understand the magnitude of the problem at hand. Besides the illicit trafficking of small arms, we are now faced with the additional question of how to deal with the Licensed Production Agreements that are directly responsible for the steady increase in the number of manufacturing countries and companies worldwide. Can these "Production Agreements" be delegitimized in one way or the other? Part 3 of the book deals with the technical aspects of the trade. The striking of deals, the movement of small arms, the role of brokers and shippers and the financing of the illegal trade are all discussed. Suffice to say that anyone who thinks that "? illegal deals involve men with black eye patches exchanging valises stuffed with $100 in a smoky bar?" pg. 159 is way off the mark! Payment mechanisms are much more complicated and involve the negotiation of complex offset packages.

Essentially, this book looks chiefly at the methods by which gun traffickers circumvent the law. The fourth part of the volume contains viable suggestions on how the law enforcement bodies can make it difficult for black arms traders to get away with gun trafficking. The writers, T Leggett and S Meek also present ways through which the international community can work together and assist in subduing the trade.

I wish to reiterate the fact that the book serves as a good introduction to the intricacies of the global black arms market. It should encourage other theorists, researchers and practitioners to continue with the discussion on this very important and multifarious issue of global concern.

Sam Kona
The Richardson Institute for Peace and Conflict Research

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