ECOWAS Ambassador Wants Experience Sharing

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 To avoid proliferation of small arms

The Ambassador of the Economic Community of West Africa, Tunde Ajisomo, has called on stakeholders within the Mano River basin as well as the ECOWAS to share experiences in combating the proliferation of small arms.

Small arms are any weapons that are illegally in the possession of a citizen for hunting and other reasons, according to the UNDP country director Pa Lamin Beyai. He added that it includes single barrel guns and any other weapon illegally carried by civilians or citizens.

Speaking at the one-day stakeholders’ meeting organized by the Liberian National Commission of Small Arms (LINCSA) in Ganta, Nimba County recently, Amb. Ajisomo said sharing experiences to fight or curtail the proliferation of small arms is the best way.

He said it is not easy to locate small arms because those in possession are not willing to leave the arms, but urged stakeholders to design an idea that can make the carriers to stop carrying arms. “Develop an idea by providing scholarships for the children who are in possession of the arms,” he added. Amb. Ajisomo noted that if money is used to retrieve the small arms, the carriers and the manufacturers will demand more and there will be more small arms.

The Ambassador urged Liberians not to carry small arms during the election period, saying that “small arms are not for ballot papers.” He said the rules of election should be respected by everyone and should not be used for violence or carrying small arms.

The one-day stakeholders meeting involved superintendents from Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, and Lofa counties, and representatives of other counties, including Gbarpulu, Cape Mount. The authorities of Nimba County were not present, although they were supposed to be part of the meeting, according to LINCSA.

The heads of the Guinea Small Arms Commission and his Ivoirian counterpart attended the meeting and shared their experiences in collecting small arms within their respective countries. They expressed great successes in the pilot phase of their small arms control programs.

The ECOWAS – EU Small Arms and Light Weapons Project is a regional initiative by ECOWAS and funded by the EU in a pilot weapon collection development, which is commonly known as “Arms for Development”.  The project is conducted within the broader context of disarmament and community development, or what is known as “weapons for development” in two clusters covering six countries in the Sahel.  They are Niger, Mali and Northern Nigeria, Mano River Union, including East of Liberia, Guinea Forestiere and North East of Sierra Leone.

The Liberia component of the project is being implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms in selected communities in Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland counties.

The project has four outputs which seek to create and enhance community awareness of the dangers associated with the illicit proliferation of small arms and armed violence as well as strengthening the capacity of security institutions and communities to enhance safety. Most importantly, it seeks to encourage voluntary weapon surrender/collection in return for community based development projects. The second phase of the program will include Nimba, Lofa, Gbarpolu and Cape Mount counties, according to Mr. James Fromoyar, head of the LINCSA.

The Superintendent of Grand Gedeh, Mr. George Solo, on behalf of the superintendents of the pilot phase counties, reaffirmed their commitment to fully cooperate with the small arms program, but cautioned LINCSA to empower them in order for them to engage community leaders through palaver hut discussions.

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