The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has organized its annual coordination meeting of National Commissions on Small Arms in Ghana, Accra.

The 3-day meeting which was held from 17th-19th November was to review activities for the effective implementation of the convention of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in order to promote transparency and information exchange in SALW control, administration and management in the ECOWAS Region.

The annual coordination meeting brought all fifteen (15) Member States together to share information and experiences in order to reinforce existing commitments and practical initiatives to counter this menace.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Ghana, Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil stated that the ECOWAS Convention continue to be the main normative framework in establishing appropriate control standards both at regional and national levels.

He further noted that the Commission instituted weapons marking practices in order to avert incidences of diversions, theft and mismanagement of official stocks. He noted that marking machines for the exercise are being provided by ECOWAS as well as its partners to all Member States.

“With the increased number of arms marking taking place in majority of the countries, using the approved marking codes in the region, all recovered or seized weapons can be traced easily”.

Meanwhile, in a statement read on his behalf, the Minister for the Interior, Hon. Ambrose Dery, highlighted on the need for an ECOWAS Arms Database which would enable easy tracing of weapons among Member States.

“The Chairmen and Heads of the Nations must facilitate weapon marking and recordkeeping which would enhance traceability”.

On her part, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ghana, Dr. Angela Lusigi, urged the Member States to begin discussion on a “possible regional framework, the development of regional standards and procedures to deal with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) related issues”.

She reiterated UNDP’s commitment to working with the NATCOMS and other partners to reduce the proliferation of SALW, the threat they pose and the damage they cause.

The Board Chairman of Ghana’s National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Rev. Prof. Paul Frimpong-Manso attributed unemployment to the reason for many youth joining terrorist groups who mostly target civilian populations.

“Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. have used idle youth and SLAW to hit soft targets in our neighbouring countries Mali, Nigeria and recently Burkina Faso”

He therefore called for a collaborative and preventive effort to ensure a sustainable approach in the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention.

Based on the provision of Article 24 of the ECOWAS Convention on SALW, all the Member States have put in place National Commission on Small Arms Control.