05.05.2005 General News

Govt to consolidate laws on arms and ammunition

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Accra, May 5, GNA - The Interior Minister, Papa Owusu-Ankomah on Thursday stated that Ghana's legislation on the production, export, import and transit of weapons had not adequately helped in controlling the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country.

To this effect, efforts are far advanced to consolidate all legislations pertaining to arms and ammunition to facilitate easy reference to enable the Police to establish a number of points of contact throughout the country to address the issue that had become a West Africa Sub-Regional problem, he said.

The laws to be consolidated include the Arms and Ammunition Act, 1962 (Act 118), Arms and Ammunition Decree, 1972 (NRCD 9) and the amended Arms and Ammunition Act, 1996 (Act 519).

The Minister said this at the inauguration of the offices of the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNCSA) on the premises of the National Commission on Culture in Accra.

The Commission has been without a permanent office since its inception, thus hampering the effectiveness of the organization. Papa Owusu-Ankomah said the new Arms and Ammunition Act would strengthen and harmonise procedures governing the control of firearms, strengthen the operational capacity of law enforcement agencies, increase cross-border co-operation between neighbouring countries, the collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons and improve Police-Community relations.

Other measures the Government has taken to control the proliferation of small arms include periodic exercises to retrieve unauthorized small arms and light weapons, destruction of surplus arms, constant dialogue with local manufacturers of small arms and the launch of awareness raising campaigns against small arms proliferation country-wide.

The rest of the measures to mitigate the problem include a more effective border control to check illicit cross-border-trade in small arms, increased Sub-Regional co-operation on trafficking and management of small and light weapons to strengthen relevant laws and the continued co-operation with the UN to ensure implementation of arms embargoes by the UN Security Council.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah noted that the potential of arms proliferation to undermine political stability could not be discounted because it had been established that there was a close correlation between the issue of small arms and the incidence of robbery and other violent crimes in the country.

He said the ready availability of small arms constituted an easy source of supply of lethal weapons for protagonist in intra and inter-ethnic conflicts, citing the Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo and lately C=F4te d'Ivoire, where small arms had been easily smuggled between these countries to exacerbate conflict.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah noted that one of the most serious issues concerning small arms was the large number of locally manufactured weapons by local blacksmiths, who had the capacity to produce 100,000 guns annually in the country.

He said small arms and light weapons had been recognized as the main instrument of violence in most developing countries, and was now known as the major source of insecurity and human suffering across much of the world.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said the Government was working closely with its neighbours in the Sub-Region, in collaboration with the UNDP, nongovernmental and civil society organization in its quest to prevent and combat illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Another important programme to combat the menace is the intensification of public education by the security agencies, civil organization and the Media on the sinister effects of the arms abuse. He said it was imperative that these organizations acted in a co-coordinated manner to be able to address the root causes of conflicts and violence in the country.

Additionally, he said, the Government was tackling the issue from a human development perspective by addressing the socio-economic consequences of illicit weapons proliferation and the formulation of programmes to create a safe environment that was conducive to sustainable development.

The Minister noted that good governance, which all African countries were striving to achieve, facilitated transparency, accountability and security, but where guns dominated, there was insecurity and development was undermined.

He said that the consequences of small arms proliferation were devastating and multifaceted as they transcended political, economic, social, educational and cultural frontiers.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah noted that apart from constituting a recipe for armed conflicts within and without the country, the proliferation of small arms also fuelled and exacerbated armed conflicts.

He, therefore, called on Ghanaians to contribute their quota to eradicate or at least minimize the menace of small arms, saying: "We can do this by increased public education, peaceful resolution of conflicts and volunteering information on those involved in the smuggling and trafficking in small arms and light weapons.

"Let us all as Ghanaians help to promote the culture of peace, tolerance and peaceful co-existence and sustain our crucial role in peacemaking and conflict management in the West Africa Sub-Region. In this way we shall be contributing to less armed robberies, less ethnic conflicts and a safer Ghana."

Major-General Edwin Sam, a Member of the Council of State and a former Chief of Defence Staff, stressed the seriousness of the problem in Ghana, and said, "we are better of without weapons".

He said the country needed peace to develop and not weapons, because the mere possession of a firearm without recognizing the limits to which it could be used was a dangerous situation that should not be taken lightly by the authorities concerned.

"We need to turn our metals into ploughs to produce more food and not instruments of destruction. We have the means of protection that is why the security agencies are there."

Dr Kofi Kesse Marfo, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations, said the effects of small arms had enormous consequences on the country.

He sounded a note of warning that those who possessed arms illegally would be dealt with according to the law.

Dr Marfo cautioned local blacksmiths to desist from the manufacture of arms because the law only permitted them to repair and not to manufacture arms.

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