The United Nations (UN) office in Ghana has expressed worry over the prevalence of illicit small arms and light weapons in the hands of politically motivated vigilante groups emerging in the country.
According to the UN, Ghana has over the last few years recorded over 2.3 million unregistered arms being in circulation and most of them in some way can be found in the hands of politically-affiliated militants.
Ms Christine Evans-Klock, the resident coordinator of the United Nations office in Accra, has expressed worry over the increasing use of illegal small arms and light weapons in the country’s growing problem of violent crime.
Speaking at a press conference to mark the ‘Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence’ in Accra yesterday, Ms Evans-Klock said, records from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Service indicated that these illicit arms are the main weapons used in conflicts over chieftaincy and land litigation issues in the country.
The worst of it, she said, was that, “there is new concern about their (illicit arms) used in the politically-related vigilantism that we have seen in Ghana since the December elections.”
She maintained that the Small Arms Commission of Ghana, with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has been measuring the prevalence of illicit small arms and light weapons since 2004.
In 2015, she said, “a survey estimated that there were 2.3 million unregistered arms in circulation in the country. This represented an increase of about 850% from 2004 baseline study that put the number of illicit arms in Ghana at some 240,000.”
Ms Evans-Klock noted that, the action of the politically-motivated vigilante groups, if met with impunity, without legal consequence, they could undermine Ghana’s democracy, stating, ” they tarnish Ghana’s image as a model of democracy and the rule of law throughout the region following its internationally-acclaimed successful elections last year.”
She cautioned that, if Ghana wants to maintain its push towards creating a resilient and robust economy to propel national development, then the country must deal with the menace of small arms and light weapons and its potential to fuel violent conflicts in its communities.
Mr. Henry Quartey, Deputy Minister of Interior, said the government is taking measures to stem the menace of lawlessness, especially mob justice, which is becoming a big problem in the country and that the police and other security agencies would be deployed across the country in that regard.
According to the Deputy Interior Minister, the issue of illicit arms and light weapons in the hands of civilians illegally would be looked at and that those who acquired such weapons with the premeditated minds to harm others rather than to protect themselves will be dealt with according to the law.
He reassured government commitment to maintain peace in the country, especially the menace of vigilante groups emerging in the country, saying anyone caught breaching the security of the nation will not be left unpunished.
Mr. Baffour Dokyi Amoah, the chairman of International Advisory Council of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), said Ghana has been ranked 172 in the world in terms of illicit arms and light weapons.
He said the IANSA will continue to work in collaboration with the UN to address the challenges in controlling the trend of increased illicit arms in the West African sub-region.
The theme for this week global action against gun violence was, “The Road to Development and Peace Begins with Silencing the Guns.”
Mr. Jones Applerh, the executive secretary of the Small Arms Commission of Ghana, said, out of the 2.3 million unregistered arms recorded in 2014 survey, 1.2 million are not known, while 1.1 million are known, and therefore making the system more dangerous to the citizens.
He therefore called for information volunteerism from the media and the general public to sanitise the system, stating that, it is illegal for someone to possess a gun without registering it or obtaining license to that effect.
He also blamed the law enforcement agencies for not being proactive in implementing the laws on control of arms acquisition in the country, as most of the locally-made arms are traced to local manufacturers who made them without the license to do so.
Previous reports by the UN revealed that Africa is awash with arms. It has the greatest number of armed conflicts, most of which are intra-state clashes, extremist insurgencies and resource conflicts dominated.
It is also established that, people in possession of weapons fuel, aggravate and escalate conflicts. They also spawn a culture of violence and impunity. Their intractability thwarts conflict resolution and peace-building efforts on communities and countries.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba