Call for stringent small arms policy (Wednesday April 21, 2010, pg 43)

A security expert, Dr Kwesi Aning, has called for more stringent small arms policies in Ghana to reduce armed crimes and curtail the manufacture of small arms locally.
He said in order to prevent the growth of the illicit arms trade, there was the need to review the current process of the importation of small weapons.
Dr Aning was addressing a press conference after the opening ceremony of the Maiden Course in Small Arms and Light Weapons and the launch of the Communications Strategy for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC).
The two-week programme, which has more than 90 participants drawn from 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, is expected to reduce the proliferation of small arms in the sub-region and is also a step towards the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The participants would be taken through stockpile management, border control management and the processes of tracing and marking weapons.
Available information indicates that approximately 90 per cent of arms used in armed crimes in Ghana are locally manufactured. Additionally, there are currently about 400,000-600,000 illicit arms in circulation in the country not counting the undocumented ones.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, an estimated eight million small arms and light weapons are circulating in the West African sub-region.
To address the problem locally, Dr Aning called on the government to invest in the country’s blacksmiths to provide them with an alternative livelihoods that would motivate them to stay away from the manufacture of arms.
He said blacksmiths could be empowered to manufacture agricultural implements and parts of hospital equipment.
“When the government guarantees market for such tools, the blacksmiths will not continue the manufacture of arms.”
Dr Anning suggested the creation of a national database to detail who was manufacturing, importing and storing weaponry and also to keep track of those who had licences.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, efforts towards curbing the arms proliferation is said to be hampered by corruption of security operatives, inadequate strategies and insufficient knowledge in the various countries.
Speaking earlier at the opening ceremony, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Martin Amidu, said in most countries in the sub-region, a thriving local manufacturing industry made it easy for gangsters and criminals to acquire cheap arms.
He added that these criminals then take advantage of prevailing volatile environments to establish networks that helped them profit from the arms racketeering.
He said Ghana had taken concrete steps which included the establishment of the National Commission for Small Arms and Light Weapons, and a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-sponsored firearms bureau in the Ghana Police Service where a database of arms in civilian hands was kept.
Mr Kamil Kamaluddeen, the Country Director of the UNDP, co-sponsors of the programme with the Japanese Government, for his part, noted that “armed violence - whether it occurs in the context of conflict or crime - is a fundamental challenge to our common humanitarian and development goals”.

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