ECOWAS concern about influx of small arms across borders

Oct 21, 2016

Security personnel involved in the collection of amunition in Southeastern Liberia

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed concern about the proliferation of small arms in Liberia from Guinea. The Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Liberia H.E. Ambassador ‘Tunde Ajisomo who blamed such act on “porous borders said ECOWAS’ attention has been drawn to the proliferation of small arms from neighboring countries with Liberia.

Ambassador Ajisomo made the observation at the Fourth Steering Committee Meeting under the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project, funded by European Union and implemented by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNSCA).

The ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project is an integral component of the EU support for ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability which seeks to advance implementation of the component for practical disarmament of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework in member-states.

He said the collection of arms was a sensitive and delicate task. “Those who are in possession of arms are not willing to voluntarily lay down the arms without securing commensurate benefits” Ambassador Ajisomo noted.

According to the ECOWAS Ambassador, experience has shown that those who acquired arms illegally are desirous of holding on to them to commit crimes or to get something tangible in return.

He said that his recent visit to Lofa County with UNMIL’s Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in charge of Rule of Law also revealed the concerns of security agencies in Lofa County on the incessant inflow of these dangerous weapons and the need for the MRU countries as well as security agencies at border posts to address the smuggling and proliferation of these weapons.

Ambassador Ajisomo emphasized that it was important for EU, ECOWAS, UNDP and other international partners to urgently look for more funding to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region.

In the case of Liberia, Ambassador Ajisomo mentioned that these programs were taking place when Liberia was preparing for presidential and legislative elections in 2017.

“It is therefore imperative that we should all ensure the success of this project to further guarantee security protection for all, as well as strengthen the free, credible and fair presidential elections,” Ambassador Ajisomo stressed.

He said ECOWAS strategic presence in Liberia has made it possible to collaborate with LiNCSA and the UNDP in the implementation of ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs on Peace and Security Halima Ahmed said as Liberia prepares for elections come 2017, ECOWAS was fully behind the country’s elections process. Ahmed described the Liberian elections as crucial to the state.

"This cannot be possible when we have the proliferation of small arms in Liberia,” Ms. Ahmed said.

She noted that ECOWAS being part of the small arms project will do all it can to help reduce the illegal possession of small arms in Liberia and its member countries.

For her part, the Deputy Country Director of UNDP Nigeria Mandisa Mashologo assured the stakeholders that programs on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons will be properly and effectively implemented in the seven African countries.

Madam Mashologo said UNDP has recognized efforts by the government of Liberia to grant amnesty to individuals voluntarily turning over arms in southeastern Liberia during the implementation of the project and other governments for their unflinching support to the implementation of the project in their respective countries. 

Also speaking at the program, the  Chairman of Liberia’s Small Arms Commission James Fromayan said in order for Liberians to sustain over 10 years of peace; Liberians have to make sure that illicit small arms are discarded in Liberia and its member-countries.

“We cannot continue enjoying the peace we are enjoying today when there are still dangerous weapons flowing in our country, we need to collectively fight the proliferation of small arms in Liberia,” Fromayan stressed.

He, however, called on neighboring countries to help reduce the influx of arms in the entire region, saying Liberia would continue its efforts of ECOWAS-EU small arms project.

The influx of small arms in Liberia is said to be posing serious security problem for the citizens in various communities, as armed robbery is on the increase, while the police and others security apparatus struggle to battle crime.

The growing availability of small arms has been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts and in hindering smooth rebuilding and development after a conflict has ended.

Even though the civil conflict in Liberia has long ended and the country now enjoys peace, the proliferation of small arms still remains a major challenge for the government.

Liberia’s border is 1,585 kilometers long, stretching through three countries—Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. There are about 46 points of entry along Liberia’s borders, with only 16 of those entry points are manned by immigration officers, officials say.

Contact

For further information, contact:

Lacina Barro- Program Consultant E-mail lacina.barro@undp.org TEL: +231- 8860017856

Augusta Pshorr –Communications Analyst E-mail: augusta.pshorr@undp.org Tel: +231-770-003-819/886-521-425

Sam Zota –National UNV Communications Associate Email: zotasam@gmail.com Tel: +231-886-474-563/770175162

 

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