SLANSA, SLeNSA synergise to silence guns in Sierra Leone

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Winifred Hannah Koroma

September 28, 2018

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Participants at the ceremony

While joining the world to observe the Month of Amnesty (September) as declared by the Africa Union in 2017,the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms(SLANSA) and the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms(SLeNSA) have echoed their commitment to silence guns in Sierra Leone.

As part the month’s observation,SLANSA in collaboration with SLeNSA,yesterday   engaged stakeholders including the security sector, civil society organisations, and, especially  blacksmiths who are mainly in the business of producing small arms across the country.

Addressing participants during the dialogue forum held at the Young Men Christian Association hall on Fort Street in Freetown, National Coordinator for SLANSA, Adenike Cole, stated that as a civil society organisation, they help to raise public awareness on the dangers of small arms proliferation.

She noted that by so doing they have been engaging blacksmiths on the need to stop manufacturing small arms and engage in alternative livelihood programs like agriculture,among others.

She said the month of amnesty helps in the collection of uncontrolled small arms by encouraging civilians to voluntarily surrender their illicit small arms without fear of arrest or prosecution.

“The Africa Union launched Amnesty Month in 2017 to help collect some of Africa’s millions of uncontrolled small arms and light weapons. It gives individuals the chance to voluntarily surrender illicit small arms and light weapons without fear of arrest of prosecution during the month of September every year,” she said.

Madam Cole continued that the amnesty is part the African Union forecast ‘silencing the guns in Africa by the year 2020’, and that its aim was to end conflict in the continent and usher in a new era of peace and development.

She said as a country, they have been involved in this year’s amnesty month through media engagement, pursuing a multisectoral approach that involves not only law enforcement agencies but other government ministries including Social Welfare, Agriculture and institutions in livestock and natural resources alongside blacksmiths.

Coordinator Cole continued that her organisation, with funds from the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulations (UNSCAR) has been implementing a project titled ‘Encouraging Blacksmiths to Alternative means of Livelihood.’

“The focus has been sensitising blacksmiths on the Arms and Ammunition Act of 2012,which requires them to obtain license from the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms ,should they at all  cost, wish to produce arms,” she said.

She noted that they have observed over the years that blacksmiths were engaged in the manufacturing or repairing of guns for economic purposes and that it would be important for them to identify ways and means of making it possible that they engage in alternative lucrative means of livelihood.

She promised to continue the campaign through public awareness campaign of Africa Amnesty Month and the need to acquire licenses to manufacture and possess small arms through conventional or social media.

She said they would continue to working with the security sector, local government officials and other relevant stakeholders on issues relating to arms control help children involved by organising a toy gun collection in communities and replace them with other toys that could foster creativity.

Representing the Deputy Commissioner of the Small Arms Commission, Wilson Taylor dilated on the mandate and activities of the commission ranging from marking of weapons, helping the police and military on how to manage stockpile of weapons, among several others.

For the blacksmith, they appealed for government to assist by providing them with a factory where they would be producing large quantity of agricultural tools and also help in regulating the export of scrap metals-the materials used to produce tools.