17 September 2012
The recent passing of a law in Sierra Leone legalising the ownership and use of arms and weapons by individuals, has been widely condemned, especially following the government’s importation of $5 million of military grade weapons, many of which, critics believe could be used to wage political violence at the forthcoming elections.
The legislation has also been described as retrogressive and inimical to the 2006 ECOWAS Regional Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, that is yet to be ratified by member states.
According to report from APO, this needs to be done as a demonstration of the collective determination to rid the region of the primary tools of violence and instability.
The proliferation of small arms and light weapons is believed to be facilitating the ignition and, or fuelling of perennial conflicts in the region.
Sierra Leone is still on the road to economic, social and political recovery, after ten years of peace building, following a ten year rebel war, which took the lives of over 50,000 people.
Elections in Sierra Leone will take place on the 17th November, 2012, with high expectations that they will be celebrated as the third free and peaceful elections to be held in the country, since the end of the war in 2001.
According to APO, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security – Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, told the 9th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers in charge of security in the West African region taking place in Abidjan, that; the ratification of the Convention had become imperative as “we move towards the elaboration of a Regional Concept and Plan of Action for the Security Sector Governance component of the 2008 ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, which focuses on human security.”
She enumerated the initiatives by ECOWAS and Member States, aimed at streamlining policies and operations to enhance coordination, efficiency and effectiveness of security services in the region.
The Commissioner said that, the significance of the meeting “is to give a stamp of political legitimacy to the commitments and numerous recommendations” made by the 13th Annual General Assembly West Africa Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) and the 8th Meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Security Services (CCSS), which preceded the Ministers’ Forum.
Commissioner Suleiman stressed the need to strengthen “political commitment at the national level and regional initiatives, to combat trans-border crime in order to open up our economies for sustained growth and development.”
To achieve this objective, she said; “it is necessary to consider the modernization and standardization of immigration formalities, the free flow of traffic in the region, on our sea, roads and air borders, as well as the status of implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right to Residence and Establishment without compromising on security.”
Opening the ministerial forum, Cote d’Ivoire’s Interior Minister, Honourable Hamed Bakayoko, thanked ECOWAS, its Member States and the INTERPOL for their strong support to the various platforms put in place for the deepening of cooperation and harmonization of strategies, among the police and other security services for the effective combat and control of organized crimes in the region – including terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and money laundering.
In his address of welcome, Cote d’Ivoire’s Inspector-General of Police and current Chair of WAPCCO/CCSS – Gen. Bredou M’Bia, expressed the hope that the four-day gathering of regional security chiefs in Abidjan would enrich the roadmap for the prevention and control of organized crimes in the region.
The Regional Security Division of the ECOWAS Commission, which serves as the WAPCCO Permanent Secretariat is responsible for organising and coordinating the different levels of annual security meetings, with a view to bringing together the relevant stakeholders to report, discuss, analyze, strategize and make recommendations in line with international best practices on crime trends and Police collaboration in the region.