The national chairman of the ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme (ECOSAP), Larry Bassie, announced Friday that strides were underway to make Sierra Leone an arms-free zone.
He made this statement when he announced that ECOSAP together with the UNDP would be holding a national consultative conference this Wednesday on the theme “Affirmative action for an arms-free Sierra Leone for peace, good governance and sustainable development” at the Kimbima Hotel in Freetown.
The ECOSAP chair said the consultative conference was to raise public awareness on the prevention of Arms proliferation into Sierra Leone and offer an opportunity to chart out a way forward for the nation to deal with the scourge.
Mr Bassie stated that, “the conference is also to serve as a harbinger to a country survey which will be conducted by consultants hired by the UNDP with the scope to determine small arms numbers within the country and also discerning the challenges to national arms and ammunition stockpile administration and management processes”.
The ECOSAP chair pointed out that great strides had been made towards sustainable post-conflict recovery in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau but that however, while the overall security environment had improved, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons continued to be of great concern.
He noted that according to the United Nations Security Council report on West Africa (March 2007), “there is increasing extension of illegal manufacture of firearms, trafficking in firearms and armed robbery in the sub-region”. As a result of this situation, Mr Bassie said member states had jointly adopted a Harmonized Regional Small Arms And Light Weapons (SALWs) Control Implementation Action Plan in Bamako, Mali, last year to determine among others the extent of SALWs problems in member states and in the sub region at large, to identify the societal distribution in terms of supply and demand of small arms including stockpile management and administrative processes and to determine the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of citizens on small arms control.
He noted that these steps were fundamentally important to enhance future political and economic sustainability, averring that the conference and the survey were follow ups to ensuring an arms-free Sierra Leone.