Ghana’s Small Arms Commission – a gun regulatory institution-- plans to launch a media sensitization initiative to educate Ghanaians to be vigilant, after expressing concern about a possible surge in the stockpiling of weapons in the run up to the November general election.
Jones Applerh, the executive director of the commission, said his organization is working closely with other security agencies, including the police and immigration service, in an effort to prevent politically motivated arms trafficking.
He said some countries that signed the Economic Community of West African states’ [ECOWAS] convention to collaborate with other countries in the region, have so far failed to do so, which he said has contributed to the proliferation of arms. The accord requires guns to be registered and monitored and the information shared in an effort to collaborate with neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism.
“What we are trying to do is to be able to make our civil populace aware so that they would know how to report when they find some of these illicit activities around them,” said Applerh.
He said armed robbers, militant groups and nomads have recently been arming themselves with weapons traditionally known to be supplied to national armies.
“So you find the weapons in the wrong hands… you have armed robbers having easy access to assault weapons that are sold to a state. How they get these weapons is something that we are trying to find out. But the solution of what we are seeing in Ghana is how do we get or civil populace to contribute to the security, to the internal security of the country,” he said.
His remarks followed recent arrests of individuals alleged to have crossed the Ghanaian border with truckloads of guns and ammunition. The commission also said Kumasi, Ghana’s commercial capital, appears to be attracting arms trafficking.
“As a country, I don’t think you would be happy seeing a lot of illicit weapons entering into your country …In recent times we have seen a number of arrests in our country. It reveals two things; that probably, there are too many weapons around us that is within the sub-region, or probably our security agencies are very vigilant so they are able to make those arrests,” said Applerh.
“We are worried about this illicit weapons against the backdrop that we have a pending [general] election in the next five to six months. What we know in gun control parlance, any arrest that you make, there are a number of them out there that you couldn’t arrest. And so the numbers that we are seeing is a bit discomforting for the Small Arms Commission and, hence the concerns that we’ve expressed.”
Some Ghanaians have also called on the security agencies to do more to ensure tensions are not created. This, they said could lead to accusations against political parties of wanting to destabilize the country because they lost the presidential election.
“Very soon the media sensitization campaign is something that you will see being rolled out very soon. There is going to be a positive engagement with the political parties …The election is going to be very competitive and so we have to be proactive in trying to ensure that no matter what happens [ we’ll maintain peace],” said Applerh.