865 weapons submitted to police due to government amnesty

Mr Jones Borteye Applerh...A total of 865 small arms and light weapons have been submitted to the police by their owners, as at Tuesday, September 5.

The arms have subsequently been registered, says the Executive Secretary of the Small Arms Commission, Mr. Jones Applerh.

This follows an amnesty granted by the government on August 16, to people in possession of fire arms illegally, to submit them for registration within 32 days.

The grace period for returning the weapons is from August 22 to September 23.

In an interview with The Ghanaian Times yesterday, Mr. Applerh said the exercise was not meant to punish the owners, but to have them registered.

He said apart from the move being used to check the proliferation of weapons in the system, it was in the interest of the owners, because in the event  of the weapons getting lost, they could easily be traced by the police.

By the announcement, he said, the owners had been empowered to freely surrender the arms.

Mr. Applerh, however, said, after the deadline, those who would fail to do so, would be prosecuted, besides, the Commission would adopt an intelligence based approach to retrieve them and prosecute the owners.

The Chairman of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Mr. Baffour Amoa, described the move by the government as laudable.

He said though the amnesty may not necessarily bring an end to the proliferation or for people to own such weapons, it was a good education and an avenue for legal and law abiding citizens to voluntarily submit their weapons for registration.

He was particularly worried about people who were loyal to a particular clan, faction or party to a conflict, who may fail to do so, because they may feel threatened that in doing they may not have the means to defend themselves.

“When people are party to a conflict, it may be very difficult for them to do so, but in all, the amnesty was a good one and people should feel encouraged to voluntarily submit their arms for registration”, he said.

Government on August 16, gave persons illegally possessing fire arms, a 32-day amnesty to voluntarily do away with those guns by returning them to the police, or face the full rigours of the law if caught.

Mr. Prosper Douglas Bani, the Interior Minister, at a press conference in Accra, said that “after the expiration of the deadline of the amnesty, the government will resort to aggressive measures to uncover the illegal or unlicensed weapons in the country.”

The nature of the amnesty, Mr. Bani said, was designed to conform to best practices and that it was part of a broader strategy to reduce the effect of uncontrolled possession of small arms and light weapons in the country.

According to him, an estimated 1.2 million guns were in the hands of civilians, which was a threat to the peace of the country.

The minister noted that besides the significant number of preventable small arms related deaths, the illicit access to small arms promoted crime, hindered dispute resolution, created mistrust among communities and undermined peace efforts at both national and community levels.

“The government recognises that there may be persons who desire to regularise or modify their small arms ownership and it is expected that all citizens in possession of unregistered weapons, as the law stipulates, should voluntarily take advantage of the amnesty and register their weapons without fear of being sanctioned by the law”, he added.

By Francis Asamoah Tuffour    

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