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The growing availability of small arms has been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts and in hindering smooth rebuilding and development after a conflict has ended.

There are around half a billion small arms around the world, some 300,000 to half a million people around the world are killed by them each year, making small arms a major cause of civilian casualties in modern conflicts.

The civil conflict in Liberia has long ended with the country now enjoying peace for more than a decade while the proliferation of small arms remains a major challenge for the government.

The influx of small arms in Liberia is said to be posing serious security problem for the citizens in various communities, as armed robbery is on the increase, while the police and others security apparatus struggle to battle crime.

The proliferation of small arms from neighboring countries with Liberia has claimed the attention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Liberia H.E. Ambassador ‘Tunde Ajisomo said ECOWAS was concerned about the proliferation of small arms in Liberia from Guinea blaming the issue on porous borders.

Liberia’s border is 1,585 kilometers long, stretching through three countries–Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. There are about 46 points of entry along Liberia’s borders, with only 16 of those entry points are manned by immigration officers, officials say.

Ambassador Ajisomo spoke in Monrovia at the Fourth Steering Committee Meeting under the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project, funded by European Union and implemented by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with National Commission on Small Arms.

The ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project is an integral component of the EU support for ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability which seeks to advance implementation of the component for practical disarmament of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework in member-states.

“Let me also use this forum to address the issue of increasing inflow of short guns and hunter guns through our porous borders, especially from neighbouring Guinea as the Liberian Deputy Inspector General of Police alluded to this eloquently at the recent Technical Meeting that LiNCSA hosted, as a corollary towards addressing these nagging problem is to expand the scope of the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Collection Project to porous border areas such, as Lofa County that borders Guinea and Sierra Leone,” he noted.

He said the business of collecting arms was a delicate and sensitive task as those who are in possession of arms were not willing to voluntarily lay down the arms without securing commensurate benefits.

“Experience has shown that those who acquired arms illegally are desirous of holding on to them to perpetrate further crimes or to get something tangible in return. In this regard, it is apposite for this meeting to factor in innovative and creative individual benefits along with the established community benefits that have been discussed at various forums,” he noted.

Ambassador Ajisomo said his recent visit to Lofa County with UNMIL’s Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in charge of Rule of Law also revealed the concerns of the security agencies in Lofa County on the incessant inflow of these dangerous weapons and the need for the MRU countries as well as the security agencies at the border posts to frontally address the smuggling and proliferation of these weapons.

He noted that it was important for EU, ECOWAS, UNDP and other international partners to urgently look for more funding towards addressing problem of proliferations of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region.

In the case of Liberia, Ambassador Ajisomo said these programs were taking place when the Government of Liberia was preparing for an important and crucial presidential and legislative election in 2017.

“It is therefore imperative that we should all ensure the success of this project to further guarantee security protection for all as well as strengthen the free, credible and fair presidential elections,” he said.

He said ECOWAS strategic presence in Liberia had made it possible to collaborate with LiNCSA and the UNDP in the implementation of ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project.

“I am therefore glad to report to the Fourth Steering Committee that LiNCSA has recorded significant achievements since its establishment.

Among these achievements are securing of a befitting office accommodation with necessary modern facilities, ratification of Fire Arms Act, (FACA 2015) as well as facilitating the promulgation of the presidential proclamation, which granted amnesty for effective collection of arms, ratification and domestication of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT),” he said.

ECOWAS behind Liberia Elections

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs on Peace and Security Halima Ahmed said as Liberia prepares for elections come 2017, ECOWAS was fully behind the country’s elections process. Ahmed described the Liberian elections as crucial to the state.

The ECOWAS Commissioner said as head of the department that is reasonable for democracy and good governance do assist member-states ensure that they have a good and creditable election and Liberia is off no exception.

“As head of Political Affairs on Peace and Security at ECOWAS, we are concerned as Liberia goes to elections next year; it is our concern to ensure that free and fair elections are held in Liberia.

“This cannot be possible when we have the proliferation of small arms in Liberia,” she said.

She promised that her organization would host capacity building for media houses, women groups, and civil society organizations among others to help capacitate them for the 2017 elections.

She meanwhile noted that ECOWAS being part of the small arms project will do all it can to help reduced the illegal holding of small arms in Liberia and its member countries.

Also speaking at the program, the Commissioner on Small Arms in Liberia James Fromoyan said in order for Liberians to sustain the 10 years of peace; Liberians have to make sure that illicit small arms are gotten rid of in Liberia and its member-countries.

“We cannot continue enjoying the peace we are enjoying today when there are still dangerous weapons flowing in our country, we need to collectively fight the proliferation of small arms in Liberia,” Fromoyan he stressed.

He, however, called on neighboring countries to help reduce the influx of arms in the entire region, saying Liberia would continue its efforts of ECOWAS-EU small arms project.

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