09.07.2004 General News

Support efforts to control proliferation of illegal firearms- Aliu

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Accra, July 9, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Friday announced several interventions to check the inflow of small weapons into the country and urged Ghanaians to support the National Commission on Small Arms to facilitate the process.

The interventions include the establishment of a database and an arms register for the security services, the marking of registered weapons in State institutions and private arms, the strengthening of security at armouries and the monitoring of locally manufactured weapons.

Vice President Mahama was speaking at a ceremony in Accra to commemorate the first International Weapons Destruction Day in Ghana at which 200 guns retrieved from illegal sources were destroyed.

The Day, established by the Unite Nations (UN) in 2001, aims at promoting the destruction of firearms and to encourage a national debate about the proliferation of arms and its consequences towards the search for a solution.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 small weapons are in illegal hands in Ghana some of which are used in armed robbery and violent crimes.

Vice President Mahama explained that the database and arms register would assist in the tracking of official stock of arms and the issue system.

The marking of arms would strengthen the new culture of accountability and transparency required of a responsible government. On locally manufactured weapons, he said, the government was studying the issue to consider the possibility of registering the producers and their activities in line with the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

"The possibility of getting these manufacturers to be engaged in the manufacture of agricultural tools is also being critically examined," he added.

The ban on the importation and exportation of small arms imposed in 2001 remains in force, he said.

Vice President Mahama announced that the 2003 conflict assessment report on Ghana, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), identified leakages from government armouries during and after coup d'etats as a major source of small arms and light weapons into illegal arms.

The report mentioned the June 4, 1979 and the December 31, 1981 military interventions as the worse culprits, he said.

Other sources were the importation of weapons by licensed dealers which had little or no oversight of their stockpile management systems, lack of monitoring of weapons entering the county, increased smuggling of weapons from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Vice President stressed: "The illicit trafficking, proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons is now widely recognised as the major source of insecurity and human suffering across the world.

"Not only are they associated with over 500,000 deaths and millions of injuries every year, but they also escalate tribal and regional conflicts, obstruct the achievement of peace and good governance and undermine efforts to promote development."

It is in line with this, he said, that the government established the National Commission on Small Arms in accordance with the UN Programme of Action to disarm and collect illicit weapons in communities in return for development projects.

Mr Christophe Bahuet, Deputy UNDP Resident Representative, announced that the body was assisting the Government to build the capacity of the Commission, increase the efficiency of the National Firearms Bureau and to increase awareness on small arms. The UNDP is also aiding legislative reforms and cross-border controls, including monitoring patrols and collaborative programmes with neighbouring countries.

There are about 100 million small arms in circulation in Africa with eight million of them in West Africa. The global trade in illegal arms is estimated over one billion dollars.

Out of the 200 guns destroyed at the ceremony, 150 were cap guns and 50 short guns, 45 of which were retrieved from Nkonya and Alavanyo in the Volta Region during and after recent conflicts there.

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