Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) led by the 23rd Infantry Brigade Commander at the Edward Beyan Kesselley (EBK) Barracks, Colonel Prince C. Johnson, were elated yesterday when they witnessed the inauguration of the first ever turning over of weapons marking equipment.
Shortly after the equipment were turned over by authorities of the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), the process of marking arms assigned to each of the soldiers immediately got underway.
Yesterday’s event came barely two weeks after authorities of the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) and LiNCSA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Under the MOU, both parties recognized the need to put in place a mechanism to control and properly account for weapons by supporting an effective arms marking and recordkeeping for tracing regimen.
In the MOU, the LiNCSA and the MOD/ AFL both members of the Peace, Justice, Security and Rule of Law Pillar, recognized the need to implement arms marking to control and avoid proliferation of unregistered weapons across the sub-region.
The parties also recognized the obligation of Liberia to adhere to Article 77 of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Treaty relating to sanctions applicable in cases where a member state fails to fulfill its obligation to the country.
Yesterday’s ceremony coincided with the turning over of a set of computers to the AFL by LiNCSA represented by Commissioner Benoni Knuckles.
In remarks, Michael Page, an Advisor to the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General assigned with UNMIL Security Sector Reform (SSR), described the event as an important step towards achieving both the Government of Liberia’s plan for the security transition and also the requirements expressed in UN Liberia Sanctions Review of September 2014.
“We welcome the start of the marking of the AFL weapons as this is an important obligation Liberia entered into when it ratified the 2006 ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Arms Trade treaty,” Mr. Page asserted.
According to him, the arms marking exercise will allow the government to ensure that it is able to mark and trace all government owned weapons not only to ensure that there is no misuse of weapons, but also to better manage its arms stocks.
He said while this is a significant step it is also important to recognize that there is still more to do with regards to achieving the recommendation of the UN Sanctions Review. The Review noted the urgent need to implement a firearms regulatory regime across the country, which at the moment is largely absent.
“Importantly,” he said, “the Legislature still needs to pass the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act, which is due to achieve its second reading in a House Plenary soon.”
Mr. Page urged the Senate Committee on Defense and Security to review the Act as soon as possible.
The Review, he said, calls on LiNCSA to be fully operational to prioritize the Agenda for Transformation Pillar One on firearms management and urged that as the new budget is debated that LiNSCA receives the resources needed to fulfill its role in coordinating firearms management in Liberia.
Earlier in their respective comments, AFL Deputy Chief of Staff, Eric W. Dennis and Deputy Defense Minister for Operations, Saint Jerome Larbelee, underscored the importance of the exercise. They also expressed gratitude to the LiNCSA authorities, noting that it would also signify that Liberia is in the vanguard of the peace march in the sub-region. This is evidenced by ensuring that arms currently assigned all security sectors including the Liberian National Police as well as agents of the National Security Agency are registered and marked in keeping with the MOU.