The National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, and in collaboration with the Ghana Armed Forces and Ghana Police Service, destroyed 1,319 seized illicit small arms during a Weapons Destruction Programme to commemorate the United Nations International Small Arms Destruction Day on Saturday 9th July, 2016. The event was also part of the Commission’s public education and awareness raising campaign drive to promote armed-violence-free elections in Ghana, particularly 2016 being an election year, as well as advocate for armed-conflict-free communities in the country.
The 2016 Weapons Destruction programme was held at the Trade Fair Centre, La, Accra, in the Greater Accra Region. It was under the theme: “Gun Violence, A Threat to Peace, Security, Democratic Governance and Socio-Economic Development”, and organised with funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office.
Collection and destruction of seized, confiscated, obsolete and surplus arms in the custody of State Security Institutions is one important strategy for small arms control and management. If seized weapons are not well secured or destroyed, they could be sources of proliferation and circulation of illicit arms. It is in recognition of this fact that the ECOWAS Convention on SALW, UN Firearms Protocol and UN Programme of Action on SALW enjoin Member States to collect and destroy all seized, confiscated, obsolete, surplus, unmarked and illicitly held weapons to prevent them from falling into the hands of unauthorized persons, who are likely to use them to commit armed crimes or fuel armed conflicts. Apart from that, a well organised weapons destruction event is an effective tool for public education and awareness raising campaigns.
Purpose: The purpose of the event was to prevent seized arms from falling into unauthorised hands and being used to commit armed violent crimes or fuel armed conflicts, raise awareness and sensitise Ghanaians on the risks of proliferation and misuse of illicit arms, as well as educate people on the impact of armed violence on the country’s peace, security and socio-economic development.
Objectives: The objectives were:
- To destroy over a thousand seized and confiscated illicit firearms from the Northern, Ashanti, Central and Western regions to prevent them from being pilfered and recycled into society for misuse;
- To meet obligations on Weapons Destruction under the various international instruments;
- To observe the United Nations Small Arms Destruction Day;
- To sensitise people on the dangers of proliferation and misuse of illicit small arms and their negative impact on national development;
- To enhance election security and promote peaceful elections in 2016;
- To discourage armed violence in all forms and advocate for armed-conflict-free and illicit-arms-free societies;
- To promote peace building and peaceful resolution of conflicts/disputes;
- To advocate for positive attitude to arms acquisition and use, as well as responsible gun ownership;
- To encourage Civilian/Media/Police/Commission collaboration in fighting the proliferation of illicit small arms and armed crime;
- To reduce the availability of seized illicit small arms in the country;
- To free up space in Police and Military Armouries where such arms are kept;
- To enhance the publicity of the Commission; and
- To solicit public support for the Commission’s mandate.
Collaborations: In organising the event, the Commission collaborated with the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Armed Forces, La Dadekotopon Municipal Assembly (LADMA), Ghana Fire Service, National Ambulance Service, 37 Military Hospital, Information Services Department (ISD) and State Protocol Department in view of its national character.
Participation / Attendance: In attendance at the event were the La Mantse, the Hon. Minister for the Interior – Mr. Prosper Douglas K. Bani, the Deputy Greater Accra Regional Minister -, the United Nations Resident Coordinator – H.E. Christine Evans-Klock, the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] Country Director – Mr. Dominic Sam, the Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Church – Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel S. M. Torto, Chief Director of the Ministry of the Interior – Mrs. Adelaide Anno-Kumi, COP Ampah Benin – representing the IGP, Board Chairman of the Commission – Brigadier General Francis A. Agyemfra (Rtd), Executive Secretary – Mr. Jones Borteye Applerh, Executive Director of WANEP – Mr. Chukuemeka Eze and Board Members of the Commission. Other participants included Directors from the Ministry of the Interior, Personnel from the various Security Agencies, the Clergy, Members of the National Democratic Congress, School Children from the Garrison Junior High School, Labone SHS, Accra Academy SHS, St. Thomas Aquinas SHS, Accra High SHS and La Presbyterian SHS, as well as the general public.
WEAPONS DESTRUCTION PROGRAMME ACTIVITIES
Weapons Collection: A team of Seven (7), comprising two (2) Senior Officers from the Commission, the Armourer General of the Ghana Police Service, a Director of the Department of Defence Intelligence (DDI) of the Ghana Armed Forces, a Policeman and two (2) Drivers visited Police and Military armouries in the Northern, Ashanti, Central and Western regions from the 23rd to 30th June, 2016. The Team’s mandate was to convey confiscated and seized illicit arms that were not exhibits before the law courts to Accra for the destruction programme. In all, 1,319 seized and confiscated weapons were identified and collected from Police and Military armouries in the aforementioned regions for the Destruction Programme.
Community Documentary Shows: The Commission in collaboration with the ISD organised Documentary Shows in two (2) local communities – La and Teshie – as part of the programme.
Street Procession: The Commission organised a Street Procession amidst Brass Band music to precede the main event on the day of the programme. The procession included school children who held Plaque Cards with various messages on small arms control and peace building to sensitise the general public.
MAIN EVENT: The main event was of two (2) parts: (i) Durbar, where statements and remarks were made by dignitaries and a School Pupil on behalf of the Ghanaian Children, and (ii) Weapons Destruction through burning.
PART 1: DURBAR AND STATEMENTS
Durbar: The Durbar started around 10:30a.m with a Christian prayer followed by a Ministerial anthem rendered by the Police Band. The welcome address was delivered by the Board Chairman of the Commission – Brigadier Francis A. Agyemfrah (Rtd), who was also the Chairman for the occasion. A School Child – Miss Marilyn Quaye read a message on behalf of all children of the motherland pleading for peace to prevail in the country before, during and after the elections. There were cultural performances by the National Dance Ensemble of the National Theatre and performances by the Police Band to spice up the event. Brief remarks were made by the Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), UN Resident Coordinator, the Executive Secretary of the Commission and Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Church. The keynote address was delivered by the Hon. Minister for the Interior. Mr. Baffour Dokyi Amoa – the President of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and a Board Member of the Commission rendered the Vote of Thanks after which a Muslim Closing Prayer was said. The Durbar ended around 12:30p.m with the rendition of a National Patriotic Song by the Police Band.
Keynote Address: The Honourable Minister for the Interior, Mr. Prosper Douglas K. Bani, in his keynote address, indicated that Ghana joined the international community to destroy illicit weapons as a symbolic demonstration by the government towards contributing to the reduction of the circulation of illicit weapons in society and creating a safe and secured environment for development. The Minister reiterated the fact that small arms and light weapons have contributed largely to the start and fuelling of major conflicts the world over, and that its control and management could enable countries to have stable peaceful environment for growth and development. Mr Prosper Bani said that the fight against illicit trafficking in small arms has become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to deal with. He added that the challenges notwithstanding, the government will continue to play a positive role in strengthening efforts to combat the illicit trade in such weapons and to prevent the damaging humanitarian consequences in Ghana.
He mentioned that the Government has adopted a multifaceted approach in order to address the problems posed by the uncontrolled use of small arms in an integrated manner. These measures, according to the Hon. Minister, include the adoption of effective means to settle disputes in order to maintain peace and stability; the control of the source of the proliferation of weapons in order to break the chain of supply; the tightening of domestic controls in order to prevent small arms from flowing into illegal hands; the strengthening of the capacity of the Small Arms Commission and other relevant state institutions to combat the illicit trade in small arms; securing national armouries; enhancing weapons marking and tracing; and increasing intelligence gathering.
The Hon. Minister noted that quite a number of the small arms destroyed were locally-made artisanal weapons which brought back the discussion on how as a country, the situation of local artisans who possess the skills to produce weapons can effectively be dealt with. He admitted that the discussions on the matter had been inconclusive. He added that in order to bring finality to the issue, the Ministry would soon initiate further discussions and consultations with relevant stakeholders to come up with a national policy on the way forward for local artisans who engage in the illegal manufacture of weapons.
The Hon. Minister expressed worry about the number of unregistered weapons circulating in civilian hands, and indicated that such weapons are usually at the center of most instant and violent crimes in Ghana. He, therefore, called on all well-meaning Ghanaians and residents in possession of unregistered weapons to take urgent steps to get them registered. He cautioned that the law enforcement agencies would soon ensure that individuals found in possession of unregistered weapons are arrested and prosecuted by law.
Mr. Prosper Bani noted that even though Ghana had not experienced any major election conflict since the return to multi-party democracy, the government could not be complacent and afford to take its eyes of the gun factor, particularly going into elections in December 2016. He noted that the peace and security of the country, as the country inches closer to the 2016 elections, remained very critical to government, and that government would ensure that levels of crime, especially small arms-related crimes, remained low.
He urged all persons resident in Ghana to contribute to government’s efforts by volunteering information on criminals and people who possess illicit small arms to the various law enforcement agencies so communities would be free from miscreants and dangerous illicit weapons. The Minister implored the general public to unite and work together to protect the country’s peace, political stability and fledgling democracy, to help government realize the vision of a safer Ghana and promote the socio-economic development of the country.
Statement By the UNDP Resident Coordinator: The Resident Coordinator of the UNDP Country Office in Ghana, Ms. Christine Evans-Klock, in her remarks said that the UNDP saw the event as confirming Ghana’s ambition to maintain peace at home and contribute to maintaining peace in other regions by working to stop the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons. She also noted that guns are a threat to peace, security and economic development. Therefore, the provision of effective security for Ghana’s citizens and all residents, through the eradication of illicit small arms, remains crucial to sustainable peace and development, she added. She indicated that the weapons destruction event was a valuable occasion to create awareness among the general public and educate the citizens on the dangers of arms proliferation. She commended the Commission for organising the commemorative event.
The Plea of All Children for Peace: A Junior High School pupil of the Garrison Basic School, Burma Camp, Miss Marilyn Quaye, pleaded for peace on behalf of all children of Ghana. She called for unity among the political parties and urged politicians and all Ghanaians to desist from defamatory statements, tribal and ethnic sentiments, religious fanaticism and any utterance that would destroy the very fabric that holds Ghanaians together as one people.
Other Statements: Statements were made by other speakers including the Chairman of the Board of the Commission, Executive Secretary of NACSA, Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peace Building, and the Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Church. They also added their voices to the call for peace and the need to deal with the situation of illicit proliferation of arms in the country.
PART 2: DESTRUCTION OF SEIZED ILLICIT WEAPONS THROUGH BONFIRE
Inspection of Displayed Seized Illicit Weapons: After the first part of the programme, the dignitaries and participants moved a few metres to the Destruction Grounds for the second part. The second part of the programme commenced with the inspection of a few displayed illicit weapons by the Hon. Minister, Dignitaries and other participants to have a fair idea of the different types of illicit weapons to be destroyed. These illicit weapons ranged from single and double barreled shot guns, locally-made and foreign pistols, locally-made AK47 rifles, G3 Rifles, locally-made mortars, spears, bows and arrows, some of which were confiscated by the courts, seized by the Police in special Operations, or seized by the Military during the Nanumba and Kokomba war in 1974.
Marking and Cutting of Weapons (Including Demonstration at Event): In compliance with the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light weapons and the UN Firearms Protocol, the weapons to be destroyed were marked according to the ECOWAS standards before destruction. The Small Arms and Light Weapons Marking Team demonstrated how the weapons were marked to the dignitaries and participants. The Military personnel from the Base Workshop at Burma Camp who handled the cutting, arranging and destruction of the weapons also demonstrated how the cutting was done.
Lighting of Peace Flames: The Guest of Honour, the La Mantse, lighted the peace flame to set the weapons on fire. The Hon. Minister for the Interior and other dignitaries as well as participants witnessed the event.
Illicit Weapons Destroyed: In undertaking this exercise, One Thousand, Three Hundred and Nineteen (1,319) illicit arms were destroyed by burning. The details are as follows:
-Single Barreled Shot Guns and Cap Gun – 1,085
– Double Barreled Shot Guns – 79
– Locally-made Pistols – 127
– Pump Action Guns – 1
– Locally-made Morta – 5
– Foreign Pistols – 2
– AK47 – 7
-G3 Rifles – 6
– Barrels only – 4
TOTAL – 1,318
Other weapons destroyed included arrows, bows and spears seized by the Military during the Kokomba / Nanumba war in 1974:
– Arrows – 85
-Bows – 12
-Spears – 11
Disposal of Weapons Residue/Debris: The residue of the burnt weapons; the metal parts, which had been cut into pieces were properly disposed of at the Sentuo Steel Works, a smelting company at Tema, by the Commission and Military.
Pictures of the event can be seen at the Gallery of this website.