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18.10.2004 General News

Media sensitized on proliferation of arms

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Accra, Oct 18, GNA- Dr Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, a researcher with the African Security Dialogue and Research, a security think tank, on Monday said recent research indicated that Ghana's gun making ability has become more sophisticated and compete fairly with those obtained elsewhere.

This, he attributed to the potential economic gains to be made in gun making as compared to other economic activities and the thriving market for them in parts of West Africa, particularly Nigeria, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire.

Dr Aning was speaking at a day's sensitization workshop on Small Arms and Light Weapons for journalist in Accra.

The programme which was organised by the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNCSA) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was aimed at educating media personnel on small arms and light weapons and its implications on Ghana and the West African sub-region.

The workshop was also a prelude to the formal launching of the awareness campaign on small arms and light weapons on October 28, 2004 by the GNCSA.

Dr. Aning said the research undertaken between the end 2000 and 2001 revealed that about 35,000 to 40,000 guns were illegally produced in the country and that during the research, the uniqueness and demand for Ghanaian made guns was demonstrated, as several blacksmiths from the country were invited to La Cote d'Ivoire to manufacture guns. He said: 'the implications of this information are serious for national and sub-regional security and crime trends."

The research took place in only five of the ten regions in the country. It established that there are at least 2,500 blacksmiths with the capacity to engage in gun production in one region in Ghana alone. Dr. Aning however emphasized that the nexus between small arms proliferation and crime, though well established, should not be linked to local gun production alone because in the case of Ghana, the frequency at which locally made guns were used in crime is about 30 percent or less.

He said while this development was worrying, the high incidence of locally manufactured guns in firearms related crime is because of their comparative advantage-price, effectiveness and easy accessibility. Dr Aning noted that there seemed to be some legal obfuscation about the law in terms of permitting blacksmiths to manufacture guns. "While one interpretation said that manufacturing is totally banned, another interpretation thinks the Minister of interior can give dispensation for such manufacture to go on although the conditions and the modalities for the issuance of such permission are not spelt out", he said.

Dr Aning said the irony about public discourse on small arms in Ghana was that while the state and its "elite groups" seemed comfortable importing foreign weapons without having determined what the saturation point fir the state was, there was a pathological fear for locally made weapons.

The law allows two categories of arms importers in Ghana-the individual first class arms and ammunitions dealers whose annual importation of shotguns and ammunitions exceed 1000 but less than 2000 pieces and the second-class arms ands ammunitions importer whose annual importation is less than 1000 pieces.

The average imports of shotguns in Ghana, according to Dr Aning, have averaged 20,000 pieces annually by the five major importers. He said to mitigate the problem of small arms and light weapons proliferation, there was the need to introduce a period of amnesty during which the series of face-to-face discussions between stakeholders could take place without fear of being arrested.

Dr Aning said there was also the need for trust and confidence building measures geared towards the elimination of fear and enmity between the state and its agents and the blacksmiths because the present law enforcement approach that criminalizes the production of guns in the country, pushes the trade underground.

Mr Christopher Bahuet, Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP noted that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons have fuelled and escalated conflicts, in West Africa and elsewhere, and often destroyed the development course of countries.

Small arms, he said, were also spreading and becoming more numerous in countries not affected by war because they were big business with an estimated market size of about one billion dollars annually. "They are cheap, they are portable, and readily available. They are weapons of choice in civil wars or inter-state conflict, and also gang violence, organized crimes in many countries that are, or not war-stricken."

Mr Bahuet noted that because of their long life span, small arms frequently outlasted peace agreements and were continuously recycled from old conflicts, with some used during the war in Vietnam resurfacing in Central America and Africa more than 30 years later.

He said that while the suffering resulting from the use of small arms might be evident, the underlying damage to society caused by these guns are often less clear, making the issue a developmental one. Mr bahuet said the problem apart from undermining respect for law and the disruption of social, political and economic development, threatens the stability of states, regions and communities, and endangers the life and livelihoods of families.

He said to reach a solution, an unambiguous political commitment and a greater international cooperation was crucial.

Mr Bahuet said the adoption and implementation of binding norms and standards such as the ECOWAS Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of light weapons were also key steps, if accompanied by practical and firm measures at the national level could help mitigate the issue.

He said: "It is the responsibility of government and the international community to prevent the spread of illegal arms". 18 Oct. 04

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