Sierra Leone has set up an arms commission to control the illicit circulation of weapons in the hope of preventing the kind of violence seen in its decade-long civil war, a minister said.
Presidential Affairs Minister Joseph Koroma told reporters yesterday, the commission set up in line with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) small arms convention, would start operations on July 1.
“The commission will set in place programmes of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacture, trade and use of small arms and illicit weapons in all aspects,” Koroma said of the 10-member body.
“We want never again to get into the 10-year rebel war situation and one of the steps we have taken is to set up the commission,” Koroma said, referring to the country’s devastating civil conflict which ended in 2002.
He said the decision to adopt the ECOWAS convention was made due to “several historical events such as war, military coups and similar mayhems that have pushed the African countries to backward status.”
He said it would enhance lasting peace in the Mano River Union (MRU), including Liberia and Guinea.
“It will help us to know and intercept the users of arms and prevent young boys and criminals who are unlawfully using arms from accessing them.”
Abubakarr Sheriff, programme officer for the local NGO Action Network on Small Arms said some 6,165 guns were collected between 2004 to 2007 under the UN Development Programme (UNDP), many of which were locally.
“The programme has now been phased out and the UNDP is now expected to hand over the containers of guns to the new commission which will have to decide whether to return them to their owners or have them destroyed,” said Sheriff.
Pic: Child soliders from Sierra Leone