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15.03.2006 General News

Experts endorse draft on small arms convention

By GNA

Accra, March 15, GNA - Experts from Africa, Europe and the United States have endorsed the draft Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons after a two-day review meeting held at the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Convention would replace the eight-year-old Regional Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons, which was signed by Sub-Regional Leaders in October 1998. A statement issued by the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday and made available to the GNA in Accra on Wednesday said among the novelties in the 20-page draft Convention, which was prepared by two ECOWAS consultants, were a sanctions and monitoring mechanism for violations of its provisions.

This would equip the Sub-Region with the instrument to curb the inflow of these categories of arms into the area. The Heads of State and Government have signed a Moratorium as an instrument for the promotion of collective and human security through combating the proliferation and trafficking in this category of weapons.

However, at their January 2003 Summit in Dakar they directed the Executive Secretariat to examine the possibility of converting the moratorium into a convention with a provision on enforcement in order to enable the Sub-Region to have a more potent instrument for checking the circulation of such weapons.

This was after two reviews in November 2000 and October 2002 to evaluate its efficacy in controlling the proliferation of arms in the Sub-Region.

The statement said among the provisions of the Convention, which would consolidate the gains of the Moratorium, are the exclusion of non-state actors from importing arms and the requirement that precluded the importation of arms without the consent of the relevant Member State.

It also includes a provision for the publication of an annual report by international experts that will "name and shame" violators. The review of the draft Convention by international experts, the statement said was one of the prior processes to be completed ahead of its approval by Heads of State and Government next June. The next stages are its consideration by experts and Ministers from the Sub-Region.

The approval would be preceded by advocacy campaigns by the ECOWAS small arms unit in Member States to sensitize the public about its provisions to facilitate its ratification by the various Parliaments.

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