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28.10.2004 General News

Judiciary will tackle issues of illegal weapons - CJ

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Accra, Oct. 28, GNA - Chief Justice George Kingsley Acquah on Thursday said the Judiciary would treat matters concerning the illegal possession, import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons very seriously to drastically reduce avoidable conflict and deaths.

He said the life of the Ghanaian as well as the African was too precious to toy with, and because of the pain caused to the people due to unauthorized use of arms and ammunition, very tough sanctions needed to be applied to trigger happy people.

To this end, the Arms and Ammunition Act, 1962 (Act 118), the Arms and Ammunitions Decree, 1972 (NRCD 9) and the amended Arms and Ammunition Act, 1996 (Act 519) were to be reviewed and consolidated into one enactment.

Chief Justice Acquah announced this at the launch of the Campaign against the misuse and spread of small arms and light weapons by the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNCSA) in Accra.

The aim of the campaign, funded by the UNDP and the Government of the United Kingdom, is to strengthen efforts to implement all aspects of the United Nations Programme of Action and related regional agreements like the ECOWAS Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).

The campaign is also meant to educate and sensitise the public about the negative impact and dangers of the proliferation of SALW on human development as well as influence public opinion on the need to create an environment of peace and stability as a pre-condition for development.

It also aims at promoting practical and full implementation of commitments relating to marking, recording keeping and tracing of SALW, including negotiations for an international mechanism to promote international cooperation on tracing illicit weapons.

Chief Justice Acquah noted that SALW had become the main instrument of violence in most countries, because illicit trafficking, proliferation and its misuse was now widely recognized to be a major source of insecurity and human suffering across much of the world. He said not only were SALW associated with over 500,000 deaths and millions of injuries yearly, but they also exacerbated ethnic and sub-regional conflicts, obstructed the achievement of peace and good governance and seriously undermined efforts to promote development and progress.

Chief Justice Acquah noted that most countries had some legislation or administrative procedures on the production, export, import and transit of weapons, even though, the presence of such laws and procedures did not signify adequate controls over related activities. He said it was now necessary to ensure that structures were in place to impose limitations on transfers of weapons to non-state actors, engage in the training and capacity building programmes for law enforcement agencies on all aspects of the issue, especially border controls.

"This view is based on the fact that human security broadens the focus from the security of borders to the lives of people and the communities inside and across those borders."

The Chief Justice observed that good governance, which all African governments were trying to achieve, facilitated transparency, accountability and security, but that the domination of guns resulted in insecurity and underdevelopment.

He said that as Ghana currently held the prestigious position of Chair of ECOWAS, it was important for the country to promote the culture of peace and sustain its crucial role in peacemaking and conflict management in the West African Sub-Region.

Nana Frema Busia, Technical Advisor and Coordinator of the GNCSA, said the violence and criminality occurring in the Sub-Region, the disrespect for the rule of law, human rights violation and the destabilization of governments by armed insurrections and rebel movements had rolled back the Sub-Regions' social-economic development for decades.

She said most of these conflicts were fuelled by the proliferation and misuse of illicit arms, which was steadily overwhelming the Sub-Region with the alarming results of millions of deaths.

Nana Busia appealed to Ghanaians to resolve conflicts and differences by utilizing the judicial system, traditional authorities, elders of the communities and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms available to them, no matter how flawed they were, rather than resorting to the use of illicit weapons.

"No matter how flawed or deficient these systems may be, armed violence ought not be an option because, ultimately, the fact is that it is peace that works", she said.

Mr Gordon Wetherell, British High Commissioner to Ghana, said the UK believed in working with its partners to address the root causes of armed violence.

He said that the reduction in the demand for guns would require a commitment to long-term, sustainable development, improved public security in communities, heightened public awareness and increased alternative opportunities for earning livelihood.

Mr Wetherell lauded the launch of the campaign, saying, "it would help to maintain Ghana's peace and security", and said his country supported the conduct of peaceful, free and fair elections in Ghana. Dr K. K. Marfo, Police Commissioner in Charge of Operations, called on the public to report holders of illegal arms and those who manufactured them to the Police.

He said Ghana was a comparatively peaceful country and urged all Ghanaians to strive to keep it up.

As part of the launch, there was a symbolic burning of seized and wilfully returned weapons at the Independence Square.

West Africa accounts for some seven million small arms. Most of these arms are smuggled or locally manufactured but are traded without much restraint. Insurgents, criminals, armed robbers and bandits are the regular customers or recipients.

In Ghana, estimates suggest illegal small arms total about 100,000. Many more cannot be accounted for. Some of the guns are manufactured locally without licence.

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