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Salone rated high in small arms control

- but should commit more resources for Small Arms Commission

July 14, 2015 By Alusine Sesay

A report published by the Ghana-based Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA) on compliance with the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons has rated Sierra Leone as the only country to have domesticated the Convention in its Arms and Ammunition Act 2012, demonstrating preparedness towards complete harmonisation with other international treaties.

The report, however, recommended among other things that National Commissions within the ECOWAS region must be properly resourced, adding that the ECOWAS Small Arms Programme (ECOSAP) should renew its financial commitment to member countries.

Also, according to the report, member countries in consultation with the ECOWAS Commission on Small Arms should establish a Special Fund to strengthen the capacities of National Commissions and civil society organisations in peace and security, in a bid to develop and implement comprehensive small arms strategies geared towards the prevention of, and reduction in illicit proliferation of small arms.

The study was undertaken to investigate three ECOWAS countries’ – Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo – compliance with the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their ammunition and other related materials.

The main objective of the study was to track each of the countries’ compliance to key aspects of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and its related materials.

The report, however, noted that all the countries have problems with the harmonisation of local arms laws with regional and international arms laws, and that such appears to frustrate smooth cooperation and collaboration among member countries, especially in the areas of exemptions and prior authorisation provisions.

“Member countries should speed up the process of harmonizing their local laws with the provisions of the Convention. Thirdly, ECOWAS – through its appropriate department or unit – should continue to monitor the respective countries with regards to compliance to the tenets of the Convention while providing incentives such as logistics and funds to encourage compliance,” it said.

It underscored the role of civil society organisations, which it noted should be considered crucial in the whole process of seeking compliance, and that they must be given genuine space in the implementation activities of the National Commissions.

“The study found that the three countries were at various levels of compliance to the Convention. Generally, the countries had made significant progress in the areas of establishment of Natcoms; border enforcement; public education and the culture of peace but fared fairly in the other areas investigated.

“The implementation of the Convention was also seen to impact positively on the arms situation in the study areas as many respondents acknowledged that armed violence had reduced and the collection and destruction of civilian arms have reduced the arms in civilian possession,” part of the report stated.

It was however observed in the report that a number of legal, institutional and political challenges were identified as affecting negatively the compliance process.

“On the institutional level, the National Commissions on Small Arms (Natcoms) were faced with financial and logistical constraints as well as the problem of weak collaboration or non-involvement of some institutions,” said the report. “The political tier of the challenge had to do with perceive lack of political will primarily due to differing priorities coupled with a mirage of economic and financial constraints.”

Meanwhile, FOSDA recently concluded a meeting on the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which was attended by Director of Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms, Mrs. Florella Hazeley and a representative from the Sierra Leone Commission on Small Arms.

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