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Proliferation of small arms hinders development in W. Africa
From Francis Ameyibor, GNA Special Correspondent, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Freetown (Sierra Leone), Dec. 25, Ghanadot/GNA – President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone on Thursday said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa is stalling economic ventures in the sub-region.

He said the continued availability of illicit arms in peace time and post conflict situations undermines the region’s ability to sustain peace and stability and is a major impediment to sustainable human development.

“In addition to conflicts there is the incidence of high levels of crime which has prompted businesses such as petrol stations and supper markets to close down early.

“Women traders, who formerly used to leave their homes early to go to market now, have to wait until day light to leave, and return earlier. The fear of being attacked makes them lose four to five hours of work everyday, resulting in a loss of income and productivity,” President Koroma stated in a statement read for him during the second civil society forum in Freetown
The second civil society forum was organised by West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) in collaboration with OXFAM Great Britain, ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme (ECOSAP), UNDP Sierra Leone and UNREC.

President Koroma also identified increasing police roadblocks as another indirect aspect of the harmful effect of small arms, stressing; “while the roadblock provides some amount of satisfaction and create a sense of security there are instances in which police officers take undue advantage of the citizens, especially traders”.

The Sierra Leonean President whose country went to a protracted war, noted that recurring, violent conflicts undermines years of development, resulting in abject poverty, hunger, displacement and social and economic inequality.

He noted that tackling illicit small arms proliferation is basic to the over all sustainable development of the world in general and West Africa in particular.

President Koroma therefore commended the role of civil society actors, especially WAANSA for being the main advocate for elimination of small arms in the sub-region.

“The results is now all ECOWAS countries have realized the importance of stemming the proliferation and misuse of illicit weapons and the need to adopt, ratify and domesticate international regimes on small arms and light weapons,” the Sierra Leonean President stated.

Prof. Oliviera Bonaventure, President of West Africa National Commissions (NATCOM) said about 98 percent of ECOWAS members has established National Commissions.

He said the establishment of NSTCOMs are tangible demonstration of West African governments’ willingness to control weapons proliferation.

Prof. Bonaventure said the public will only appreciate NATCOM’s effectiveness if they actively engage civil society to participate in community awareness and arms reduction programme.

Mrs. Jacqueline Seck Diouf, Director of UNREC and Mr Samuel Musa, Deputy Regional Director OXFAM Great Britain commended the efforts of WAANSA in advocating for ratification of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms.

The second civil society forum on small arms and light weapons was attended by NATCOM members, civil society activists of small arms, West Africa Network of Journalists for Security and Development (WANJSD) and serving and retired security personnel.






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