Friday, April 20, 2012

Journalists Challenged On Small Arms, Light Weapons Proliferation In West Africa

Illegal arms seized by the Nigerian Army.

20 Apr 2012 07:34 Africa/Lagos


ABUJA, April 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A three-day sensitization and capacity building workshop for journalists on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) control opened on Thursday, 19th April 2012 at Ghana's border town of Sogakope, with the Executive Secretary of the National Commission on SALW, Mr. Jones Applerh, charging participants to support national and regional initiatives to reduce illegal circulation of SALWs which is fuelling conflicts in West Africa.

The workshop organized by the ECOWAS Commission and the National Commission on SALW, Ghana, is part of efforts to promote effective implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on SALW which entered into force in September 2009.

Mr. Applerh said the media has a critical role to play in public education that will engender appropriate behavioral and attitudinal change so that “we do not introduce small arms and light weapons into the litany of conflicts that have bedeviled countries in our region.”

He explained that three critical issues in gun control concerned weapons, legislation and the people, adding that in most conflicts the people are always the worst victims.

The media, Mr. Applerh said, are critical in conflict prevention, peace building and reorientation of the people to resist the gun culture.

In his presentation later, he noted that armed conflicts cost Africa some 18 billion US dollars annually, with 60-90 per cent of deaths in the conflicts traced to SALWs, with West Africa alone accounting for eight million of the 100 million small arms in circulation in the continent.

About 40 per cent of the small arms and light weapons in West Africa are in civilian hands, he said, adding that many countries in the region have experienced military coups, with uncontrolled circulation of SALWs exacerbating conflicts that have brought destruction, untold hardships, poverty and underdevelopment.

This year being an election year in Ghana, Mr. Applerh enjoined journalists in the spirit of the workshop to ensure that the country enjoyed peace before, during and after the elections.

In his welcome remarks on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Cyriaque Agnekethom, described the media as not just a partner, but a major stakeholder in the implementation of the ECOWAS SALW Convention.

He affirmed that effective implementation of the convention would contribute to regional peace and stability in line with the transformation from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.

The objective of the workshop is to sensitize participants and build their capacities on small arms and light weapons control sufficiently to enable them to play effective role as change agents through sensitization of their various publics on a constant and sustainable basis.

Print and broadcast journalists in government and private media organizations as well as ECOWAS Commission officials and resource persons are attending the meeting which is addressing the commonality of challenges of proliferation of SALWs and shared insufficiency of the level of awareness around SALWs and related matters in Member States.

The aim of the sensitization workshop is to engender a favourable environment for policies and programmes that will facilitate the implementation of the SALW Convention so as to reduce the spate and intensity of conflicts linked to illegal circulation of SALWs in the region.

Similar workshops have been held in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia, and the plan by the ECOWAS Commission is to cover all the 15 Member States.

Source: Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

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