“Passage Of Small Arms Bill Necessary”

By Jefferson D. Tweh

Liberia Human Right Lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe says the passage of Small Arm Act Bill by the National Legislature will provide the people of Liberia an instrument to sustain peace, stability and security in the country.

Speaking at the Civil Society and Media Engagement confab organized by Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LINCSA), over the weekend in Monrovia, Cllr. Gongloe who spoke on the theme: “The Proliferation of Small Arms in West Africa, a threat to regional peace and security” said the military coup d’etats that began in the West African Region in the 1960s, and continued in 1980 metamorphosed into armed civil conflicts in West Africa, and it started in Liberia on December 24, 1989.

Giving the political, social and economic situations in most of the West African countries were similar to the situation in Liberia; Cllr. Gongloe noted that the armed civil conflict in Liberia became an example for what could happen in other West African countries, and certainly, what was speculated at the beginning of the Liberian civil conflict to be possible became a reality with Liberia becoming a training ground for armed rebellion and a source of supplies for small arms.

According to Cllr. Gongloe, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia and Ivory Coast experienced armed conflicts and were directly linked to the Liberian conflict and proliferation of small arms conflict was produced, and angry former soldiers of ECOMOG who were members of the Sierra Leone Battalion of the ECOMOG led by 25-year old Captain Valentine Strasser, overthrew President Joseph SaiduMomoh, and assumed power as Head of State of Sierra Leone.

Cllr. Gongloe told the participants during the confab that the military formed a coalition with the rebel forces in Sierra Leone and formed a joint military council. Then in the Gambia another young captain, YayaJameh, led a group of soldiers to overthrow President Sir DawdaKariabaJawara, the first President of the Republic of the Gambia.

“In Guinea, the movement of small arms across the border led to the combination of military forces from Liberia and rebel forces from Sierra Leone who apparently worked with some discontented military elements from Guinea; they attacked Guinea and nearly took over Guikedou and finally, Ivory Coast that was a conduit for rebel incursion into Liberia, became a scene of military conflict in which Liberians and other West African fighters were combatants on the various sides of the military conflict, ”Cllr.Gongloe explained.

The Liberia Human Right Lawyer said recently, the conflict in northern Mali led by the Tuaregs as secessionist war, escalated beyond the ability of the Malian Government to contain, and the most troubling thing is the Boko Haram military activities in Nigeria, that extends to Cameroun, Niger and Chad.

Cllr.Gongloe noted that all of those conflicts were easy to start because more than two decades, there had been a continuous increase in the proliferation of small arms faster than the capacity of governments in the West African Sub-Region and ECOWAS to track, and in fact there has been no structured framework in the sub-region for tracking the movement of small arms.

“Let me tell you that One does not have to be a rocket scientist to reach a conclusion that if nothing is done to at least begin registering small arms, creating armories for them and tracking their movements, the West African Sub-region will experience greater conflict and instability and consequently, no peace, agricultural activities, and cross-border trade, and there will be mass state failure within the sub-region.

Cllr. Gongloe said, based on what Liberia has drafted a New Fire Arms Act and the Act which has been submitted to the National Legislature by the President of Liberia focuses on the identification, registration, licensing, sale, classification, custody and tracking or movement of small arms, amongst others and the penalty for violations of provisions of the Act.

Cllr. Gongloe further stated that, if the act is passed by the national legislature, it will greatly become a tool for controlling the possession, chain of custody and movement of arms because given the level of violent crimes in Liberia, particularly murder and armed robbery; the passage of this Act will create the avenue for measures for limiting the proliferation of small Arms in the country.

Meanwhile Cllr. Gongloe has encouraged the Liberian Media and Civil Society Organizations to get involved in the process.

Also speaking, the Commissioner of the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LINCSA), Benoni Knuckles called on the national legislature to pass the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act.

The purpose of the Small Arms Bill is to prevent and reduce violence caused by Small Arms and the proliferation of Small Arms and light weapons, ammunition and other related materials by putting in place a legal framework that would regulate the control and tracing of Small Arms and light weapons, ammunition and other related materials, the control of persons authorized to operate these materials, control of authorized activities, disposal of surplus Small Arms, and penalizing the illegal possession, manufacture, distribution, use and trafficking of Small Arms and light weapons.