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General News of Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

2.3 million small arms circulating in the country - Survey

A national small arms baseline survey conducted in 2014 has established that 2.3 million small arms are circulating in the country.

The study, which is the second to be conducted, said 1.1 million of the arms were being possessed illegally by civilians, posing a threat to national security.

A maiden research, which was conducted 10 years ago, also established that as of 2004 there were 240,000 guns in circulation.

The figures, according to the current research, indicate an increase of over 850 per cent in 10 years.

The research was conducted by the Small Arms Commission in collaboration with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The 141-page report which looked at the distribution assessment of small arms availability in Ghana, perception assessment of small arms, capacity assessment of small arms in Ghana and recommendations to the challenges of the proliferation of small arms in the country was launched in Accra yesterday.

It was aimed at establishing the magnitude of the problem of proliferation of small arms in the country, its consequences and make recommendations for the effective management of small arms and light weapons in Ghana.

Report launch

The Minister of the Interior, Mr Douglas Prosper Bani, who launched the report, said the management of the proliferation of small arms was a collective responsibility and called for domestic and international partnerships to control the proliferation of small and light weapons in Ghana.

He said since the release of the first report in 2004, the government had initiated several strategies in collaboration with the commission aimed at reducing the number of illicit small arms and its impact on the country.

Mr Bani said such strategies included the institution of a national plan on small arms and light weapons, the collection and destruction of over 4,000 illicit weapons, marking of weapons of state security agencies and creating the conducive environment for people to register their illicit small arms and for people to own guns legally.

“It cannot be overemphasised that the reduction of illicit proliferation of arms promotes peace and security, which in turn leads to economic development and enhancement of quality of lives of the citizenry,” he said.

He said the excessive accumulation of small arms in a country with appropriate data and management of stockpile was a danger to the peace and security.

He, therefore, called on those in possession of unlicensed weapons to take advantage of the conducive environment created by the government to get them registered.

Managing the proliferation of small arms, he indicated, was not just the responsibility of only the security agencies but collaborative efforts of all stakeholders.

Mr Bani expressed the government’s commitment to continue to provide the needed support to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations in the report.

Small arms still a challenge

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Brigadier General Francis A Agyemfra, said almost a decade after the first survey, it became clear that the illicit trade in Small Arms continued to pose a serious threat to peace, security and economic growth of the country as criminality had taken on a very serious dimension.

Consequently, he said, the Commission, with support from the Ghana Country Office of UNDP, mandated the KAIPTC to conduct a second nationwide Small Arms baseline study to identify options for small arms and light weapons control in Ghana.

The outcome of the initial survey was the formation of the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons by Act 736 of 2007 which charged the Commission to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in arms and light weapons.

For his part, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr Jones Applerh, said the survey revealed that between 1981 and 2013, the Police Firearms Bureau registered 1,236,128 weapons to civilians. However, in the last 10 years, fewer than 35,000 weapons licences got renewed each year, a situation the Commission found disconcerting.

That, he said, indicated that over 1.2 million people were holding their weapons illicitly and, therefore, the Commission would engage the Ghana Police to see how the data could be cleaned up to provide the basis for our actions.

“The second observation I had was that the survey also revealed that 62 per cent of the respondents interviewed had unlicensed weapons but were not willing to surrender them voluntarily,” he said.