12.11.2009 Africa

West African journalists commend "Group of Nine Countries"

12.11.2009 LISTEN

Accra, Nov. 11, GNA - The West Africa Network of Journalists for Security and Development (WANJSD) on Wednesday commended the "Group of Nine ECOWAS Countries," for ratifying the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), their ammunition and other related materials.

Mr Francis Ameyibor, WANJSD Deputy General Secretary, stated in an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra that considering the proliferation of SALW constituted a major destabilizing factor in West Africa, the ratification of the Convention was a major step towards combating illicit arms circulation.

He said the Group of Nine - Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Guinea and Liberia - had demonstrated they were deeply concerned about the uncontrolled flow of SALW generally into Africa and West Africa in particular.

The Convention seeks to prevent, combat and control the excessive and destabilising accumulation of SALW within ECOWAS and consolidate the gains of the Declaration of the Moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and its Code of Conduct.

It also seeks to promote trust between the member states through concerted and transparent action on the control of SALW; to build institutional and operational capacities of the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat and member states in efforts to curb the proliferation of SALW and to promote the exchange of information and cooperation among member states.

Mr Ameyibor urged other countries including Ghana, who are yet to append their signatures to the ratification, to make obvious their commitment to building peace and preventing conflicts in West Africa.

He said the illicit manufacture and excessive accumulation of SALW, trafficking, detention and use of such arms had negative effects on the security of each country in region.

The Convention also imposes an obligation on member states to ban the transfer of SALW and their manufacturing materials into their national territory or from/through their national territory.

Mr Ameyibor urged the ECOWAS Commission to immediately establish the mechanism for operationalization of the Convention which include establishment of a sub-regional database and register of SALW under the ECOWAS Executive Secretary as a way of promoting confidence and appoint a Group of Independent Experts to monitor compliance.

In a related development President John Atta Mills has indicated that government would soon put before Parliament for ratification.

The President said ahead of the ratification, government had instituted measures such as working towards marking and tracing of official weapons to ensure good stockpile management and installing of arms registry across the country by the Ghana Police Service to help facilitate proper gun control.

He said government had also reconstituted the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms to facilitate gun control in the country as well as working with her neighbours to achieve good border control of arms to avoid their sipping through into the country.

President Mills noted that conventional arms and ammunition trade and transfers caused gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law adding this undermined efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He said government believed in demonstrating responsibility and accountability on issues of arms importation and exportation assuring the citizenry of their safety and protection against all forms of human rights violations.

President Mills said he was hopeful that through collective efforts, substantial gains would be made towards the curtailment of small arms and light weapons proliferation to provide overall security leading to positive improvements in the socio-economic development for all.