By Sanna Camara
The Gambia government is yet to ratify the Ecowas convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and their Ammunitions and related matters’ despite the fact that it has signed it almost eight years ago.
Signed by Mr. Alieu Ngum in June 2006, the then minister of Trade, Industry and Employment, this convention deals with the transfer and manufacture of small arms and light weapons in the sub region; the transparency and exchange of information regarding them, as well as operational mechanism, institutional and implementation arrangements among other things in and within Ecowas member states…
“Ratification needs to be done in the legislature and the President then assents to make it law. Then the legal instrument which was signed by the President, is then forwarded to the ECOWAS Commission,” explained Mr. Oluwafisan Bankale of the Small Arms Division of Ecowas.
Commitment for implementation
Mr. Bankale revealed that the Convention entered into force on 29th September 2009 “because that was the day the ninth instrument of ratification was made by Benin thereby meeting the two-thirds requirement of ECOWAS member states.”
When a country ratifies the convention, “it is commitment for implementation of all provisions in the Convention that leads to domestication which enables provisions of the Convention to be reflected in national laws.” He also said that ratification provides opportunity for support from Ecowas and from funding partners.
Deputy permanent secretary, ministry of Interior, Assan Tangara, revealed that the process of ratification have begun I The Gambia, with the establishment of a national commission of small arms at the Ministry of Interior.
‘It is not just government business’
Mr. Yusupha Dibba, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence said the Gambian leadership has always exercised openness and dynamism in dealing with small arms and light weapons. “However, it is not just government business. Small arms and light weapons are everyone’s business,” said Dibba, noting that early warning systems and disaster mechanisms, terrorism, drugs and banditry are all related with small arms and light weapons.
He maintained that Gambia is committed to Ecowas protocols on peace and security as manifested in country’s peace building and conflict resolution profile.
A publication, Disarmament Forum which looks at the transfer of small arms and light weapons in West Africa, argues that “the uncontrolled movement of small arms and light weapons in West Africa has exacerbated conflict, created a climate of insecurity and undermined development.”
“During armed conflict, there is a continual circulation of arms between factions, as arms are captured and stolen by all sides. Small arms and light weapons also circulate through raids on police and military armouries, leakage from stockpiles and the desertion of soldiers,” the publication revealed.
Locally-made firearms also constitute a major problem
Experts have also warned that locally-made firearms also constitute a major problem. “Blacksmiths have a significant role in the manufacture and circulation of firearms in Ghana, and this trend is spreading to other states in the sub-region. When one conflict ends, small arms and light weapons are recycled or sold on for use in new or ongoing conflicts or crime,” said Mr. Bankale.
According to the Ecowas expert, small arms and light weapons have a significant impact on West Africa. “They have escalated the intensity and impact of intra-state armed conflicts. Even when conflicts end, small arms proliferation makes it easy for fighting to recommence. Small arms continue to be used in criminal activities and ethnic and political rivalries. They are the primary tools used to kill, threaten and intimidate civilian populations in West Africa. They play a significant role in abuses such as rape, enforced disappearances, torture and forced displacement,” experts warned.