Department of Political Science, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Contemporary Africa, particularly since the end of the Cold War, has been confronted with the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), which threatens human security and social life. In the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the availability and unregulated use of SALW have influenced the dynamics of militancy, criminality, communal conflicts and violent electoral politics with implications for peace, security and stability. Based on a historical approach to data collection and analysis and the Marxist political economy theory, this article draws on the Niger Delta experience to revisit the debate on the spread of small arms in post-Cold War Africa. It examines small arms proliferation in the Niger Delta in the broader context of the political economy of small arms trade, highlighting how three interconnected factors of the transatlantic slave trade, oil-palm trade and the crude oil trade of the post-Cold War had historically shaped the dynamics of arms proliferation in the region. The main argument is that while demand and supply dynamics are not mutually exclusive in explaining arms spread, the Niger Delta experience raises questions of continuity and change in the international political economy of small arms trade, arms control and arms proliferation rather than the imperatives of domestic demands. These findings suggest that policies of SALW control must pay attention to supply dynamics while also addressing the motivations for demand
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