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05.03.2009 General News

Blacksmiths assure to operate within the laws…but not happy with police harassment

By Micael Boateng, Sunyani - Ghanaian Chronicle

The Blacksmiths Association of the Brong-Ahafo Region has given the assurance to operate within the law, and set up a task force to monitor the activities of its members, and handover deviants in the association for prosecution.

This, according to them, would help do away with the constant harassment from the police, due to the perception that all blacksmiths were into the illegal manufacture of small arms in the country.

The Association made this declaration during a press conference held in Sunyani recently, where they raised the concern that their trade had been taken over from them by manufacturing industries, and laws that restrict their operation.

According to the Association, because the skill to manufacture knives, swords and guns still remained with the craftsman, the perception persists that blacksmiths were capable, and indeed, part of the problem when it comes to the manufacture of guns.

Members of the Association, led by their Consultant, Mr. Michael Mensah, reiterated that they were not oblivious to the activities of members and non-members of the association in this regard, but to make it look like all blacksmiths were culpable of this crime could impact negatively on the industry.

The Association made a call for the protection of the art and craftsmanship that could be properly harnessed and used to ensure industrial growth, and improve the livelihoods of a large number of blacksmiths in the country.

According to the group, the issue about suspicion had arisen mainly because, even though blacksmiths are not allowed by law to manufacture guns and other small arms, they could take a license to repair guns, which is ironical.

The association recognised the enormity of the problem of arms and the potential dangers they posed to the country. “We admit that it is not only the AK47s, the G3 among others that are the arms used in the conflict zones, locally manufactured arms also play a significant part in these conflicts,” the Association stated. The Blacksmiths Association of the Brong-Ahafo Region, made up of 190 local blacksmiths operating in the 13 districts of the region, with an active membership of 140, deemed it necessary to undertake an advocacy action, with support from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, to work with the law enforcement agencies in the region to remove completely, from their operational schedules, anything that had to do with arms.

The Association also called for the withdrawal of licenses for repairs, so that no blacksmiths could hide under the pretext of repairs to manufacture guns.

They also called on the government and the UNDP to take a critical study of the industry, in order to revive it, and provide the needed incentives and support to move it forward.