Ghana’s weapons and ammunition experts are meeting in Ho in the Volta Region to discuss ways to approve a list of weapons and ammunition that will be allowed to enter or leave the country.
The two-day workshop, which has brought together participants from the security services and some ministries, departments and agencies, is in conformity with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which is an international instrument to regulate the trade in conventional arms and ensure peace, safety and global security.
Known as the Control List, the draft list of weapons is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval before being forwarded to the ATT Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.
The list is expected to comprise weapons, ammunition, their parts, components and any material that could be used in the manufacture, assemble or repair of weapons or ammunition.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, a Deputy Minister of the Interior, Mr Henry Quartey, said the government was very committed to the ATT process, as well as ensuring transparency in the global arms trade, in order to curb the illicit transfer of arms and their destabilising effects on countries, with their attendant debilitating effects on human lives.
“Ghana’s leadership role in ensuring peace in Africa is acknowledged globally and we will guard and protect that jealously.
“To that extent, the government will support the National Small Arms Commission (NSAC) to prevent the illegal trade, acquisition, possession and use of small arms in Ghana as part of our effort to fight crime and armed violence,” he said.
He said given their nature, the items to be listed required the permission of the government to enter or leave Ghana, including transit goods that fell within the category.
Ghana, as a state party to the treaty, is required to submit its control list to the ATT Secretariat as part of its initial report.
The Executive Secretary of the NSAC, Mr Jones Applerh, said the process was part of the United Nations intervention to regulate arms and ammunition diversion around the world.
He said the process was also aimed at ensuring transparency, promoting standards across the world and curbing illicit arms trade.
Who buys, who signs?
Mr Applerh said among the key recommendations expected from the workshop was also the determination of who signed the end user certificate that authorised the importation, transit or movement of weapons from Ghana, as well as the competent authority who could buy guns/weapons for the country.
Currently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signs the document, but there are people who are of the view that it should be signed by the ministers of Trade and Industry, Defence or the Interior.
Mr Applerh said across Africa, there was currently no level of uniformity as to who could order the acquisition of weapons, a situation which often created a duplication of roles.
Citing Nigeria as an example, he said in Africa’s most populous country, the ministers of Defence, the Interior, National Security, the Inspector General of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff could order weapons acquisition, which sometimes led to the faking of weapon procurement.
Ghana signed the treaty in September 2013 and Parliament has subsequently ratified it.
As part of global measures to ensure transparency, the ATT enjoins parties to put in place export and import control systems to implement the provisions of the treaty.
Key among the requirements is the control list.
Illegal arms trade
According to experts, the illicit trade in arms and light weapons had not only led to the proliferation of conflicts in most countries, including Ghana, but also the illicit transfer, storage, diversion and misuse of small arms and their ammunition, which were major contributors to pre and post-election related armed conflicts in most parts of the world.
Key among the government’s efforts to tackle the proliferation of small arms are the tightening of domestic controls in order to prevent small arms from getting into wrong hands, the strengthening of the NSAC, tightening security at national armouries, enhancing weapon marking and tracing and increasing intelligence gathering to enhance the work of the security agencies.