Monday, June 26, 2006

The Story of Julius Arile Lomerinyang

Campaign: Control Arms (Amnesty International, International Action Network on Small Arms, Oxfam)

Julius Arile Lomerinyang was the millionth person to support the Million Faces petition for tougher arms controls.

Today was the first day of the United Nations' Small Arms Review Conference; the day I presented the Million Faces petition to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

I woke up early, at 5.30am, to prepare myself for the day and practice my speech. I felt quite happy. It's not every day that you get to meet Kofi Annan. At 7am I met Irene, Rebecca and Jeremy, the directors of Amnesty International, IANSA and Oxfam International. We planned the morning together, discussing our speeches and comparing notes on the very many different people we had met over the last few days.

My colleagues had organised a press conference and a media event in a park just opposite the United Nations, as a way of presenting the Million Faces to the outside world.

There was a long display with pictures of some of the million faces from across the world, and a huge sculpture of an AK47 gun.

There were lots of photographers and TV crews; I felt as if I was speaking to the whole world, and as if all of the million faces that have signed the petition were watching me.

As I was standing there I asked myself how crazy it was that this small gun, the AK47, was available in so many areas around the world.

It seems that although we are here to discuss small arms at the UN Small Arms Review Conference, we should't really call them small arms. They are really big arms - because the uncontrolled spread of arms is such a huge problem and has caused such harm.

After the press conference, we walked in a long row across the road to the UN, carrying big red boxes of some of the million faces in a newspaper, to deliver them to the government delegations attending the meeting.

I was searched as I entered the UN building with the million faces petition - it was a bit like an airport. I couldn't help thinking that if our governments protected us as well as the UN does its building, our world might be safer.

When Kofi Annan walked in to the room, it felt fantastic. It was so good to be able to hand over the Million Faces petition to someone as important as him. However when I handed it to him I really made my point. I said that the million faces were collected with one message: to control arms. I also said that we want, from this UN meeting, governments to agree on global rules for arms sales. I told him that we owed it to people like me from all over the world, this one thing.

My name is Julius Arile

I know that one million people from 160 countries around the world have given their photos and self-portraits to the Million Faces Petition to demand tougher controls on the international arms trade.

That is a significant number - because since the Control Arms campaign was launched in October 2003, about a million people have died from armed violence. Those victims of the unregulated arms trade cannot speak out. But the one million people who have given their pictures to the petition have done so.

I am the millionth face, the millionth person to join the petition. So I am here today, because my country, Kenya, has suffered a great deal as a result of the small arms problem.

In my area, West Pokot, in the Rift Valley, illegal firearms are easily available, and these arms are highly destructive. I know, because I had an AK-47. I have raided for livestock. I can tell you that when a young warrior gets hold of a firearm, he thinks of no other means of livelihood, apart from violence.

I have seen many of my friends die this way. There are better alternatives. That's what I am here at the United Nations to tell you. I traded in my AK 47 in 2004, in exchange for an athletic training kit. I am being trained to engage in professional athletics and this is so much better.

We have collected One million faces, with one message and that is control arms. We owe people like me from all over the world this one thing.

Thank you.


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