The Forum for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA), has launched a report on the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons six years after it came into force in 2009.
The report dubbed: “Tracking compliance of ECOWAS States to the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and their Related Materials: A survey of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo” was launched in Accra at a sub-regional meeting of stakeholders.
The three countries are targets of the FOSDA IBIS funded West African Human Rights and Democratisation Project under, which the project is being implemented.
The Accra meeting was based on recent upsurge in armed violence resulting from crime, illegal economic activities such as mining, terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking and religious extremism as well as social unrests and intra-state conflicts in some West African countries.
The study found that the three countries were at various levels of compliance to the Convention and had made significant progress in the areas of establishment of National Commissions on Small Arms (NatComs); border enforcement; public education and the culture of peace but fared fairly in the other areas investigated.
Launching the report, Ms Afi Yakubu, Executive Director, FOSDA, observed that, notwithstanding, the fact that the conflicts that led to the advocacy for the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons had died down significantly in the last decade, the region is experiencing more complicated and sophisticated security challenges.
“Not only do we have to look out for groups and individuals wielding guns, we are also faced with threats from individuals ready to kill using their own bodies as killing machines. No state is immune to this type of combatant,” she said.
“These security threats go beyond mere laws and regulations. The technology and expertise to implement such laws remain a critical necessity, the absence of which undermines the vast resources spent on getting the Convention,” she added.
Ms Yakubu said these were the concerns that informed FOSDA’s initiative to track compliance to the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
With the kind support of IBIS, a Danish NGO, the study was started by FOSDA, using Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo as case studies in 2013 and completed it in 2014.
The study was also to examine the impact of the Convention, almost five years after it came into force.
It was also to identify implementation challenges and solicit recommendation to influence decision-making and policy formulation.
“The good news is that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) now in force. Therefore with the necessary revisions and modifications to the Convention, ECOWAS will have stronger legal instruments with which to confront both local and international security threats,” the Executive Director said.
She said to a large extent, the findings paint a more positive picture of the efforts of states to comply with the Convention and deal with the menace of small arms; declaring that however, there is still much more to be done with regard to education and monitoring.
The study strongly recommended that ECOWAS Commission and Member States should take steps to adequately fund and equip the commissions to fulfil their mandate.
It recommended that member countries in consultation with the ECOWAS Commission should establish a Special Fund to strengthen the capacities of the NatComs and civil society organisations (CSOs) in peace and security to develop and implement comprehensive small arms strategies towards the prevention and reduction of the illicit proliferation of Small Arms.
Mr Abayomi Adeomi, Programme Officer, Small Arms, ECOWAS Commission, Small Arms Division, assured that the Commission is committed to eliminate the menace of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the sub-region.
He appealed to member states to collaborate at their bodies in order to arrest the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Mr Abayomi lauded FOSDA for coming out with a comprehensive report on the state of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the sub-region.
He said the report would serve as a guide to the Commission in observing the implementation of its Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Mr Edgar Takyi Akonor, Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Coast, for the capacity building of CSOs and security agencies in fighting the menace of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the sub-region.
FOSDA is a CSO with the mission to promote peace and human security by working to realise the lasting potential of communities and individuals through the systematic and effective sharing of information, knowledge and skills.