It was indeed an alarming situation when a large cache of arms and ammunition, including anti-aircraft guns, AK47 assault rifles, G3s, automatic side arms, 9mm AK47 tracer ammunition, and machine guns, were found in the possession of one Moro Sata, a Burkinabe national in Akwatialine, Kumasi.
The truth is that he had these weapons illegally with him in Ghana. It is even more frightening when most of the Ghanaian daily newspapers stated that Ghana had become a transit point for gunrunning when the news broke out.
This issue raises several questions that must be answered if we are to live in a peaceful and violence-free society. The first thing that comes to mind is the issue of security at our borders and points of entry.
What is it like at our borders? How did Moro get all that into Ghana without being seen? Of course we would all agree that our borders are very porous, considering the numerous unapproved routes at the frontiers.
Due to the many towns that line our borders with the nationalities of residents of these communities in doubt, one would understand the plight of the border officials. And in any case, how well-resourced and skilled are they to detect and apprehend persons who come into the country with dangerous items?
The other critical point worth considering is whether the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNACSA) has dispatched men to check the weapons to track them to their source. This is because Ghana has signed to article 17 of ECOWAS convention on small arms which binds all member countries to mark all weapons of the security services to make it easy in such circumstances to track them when they leak. Has this been done?
An interaction with Mr. Jones Borteye Appierh, the Executive Secretary of GNASCA revealed that Ghana is yet to complete the arms marking exercise it started years ago. This is due to logistical constrains, as he said. In the Moro case for instance, we cannot determine whether the weapons were leaked internally or from across the sub-region.
This leads to the question of the commitment of member states of ECOWAS to adhere to the protocols they sign. If these arms are sourced from La Cote d’Ivoire as the suspect is making us believe, then it is clear that some member states including Ghana are not adhering properly to these conventions.
It therefore means that the laissez-faire attitude of our governments towards this protocol is directly or indirectly aiding criminals to ‘gun run’ in the sub-region. This means that if Ghana, just as the other states, has not committed to implementing the arms marking convention fully, then we have consciously opened our doors to gunrunners who are eager to make profit from fueling armed conflicts.
As Mr. Appierh indicated, there is the need to establish the true nationality of the man behind the deal in order to get to the real source of those weapons. We all bear witness that there is a high proliferation of small arms in West Africa due to the numerous intra-state wars in recent history.
As such there is the need to “step up our game,” as it seems there are cartels waiting for an opportunity to run guns and make profit.
For us in Ghana, this can be a very worrying situation coming on the heels of the recent incidents of political violence experienced in certain parts of the country. It becomes even more worrying when the country is about to go to polls year. What it means is that these weapons could easily get into the hands of persons who may want to perpetuate violence during the period.
It is high time governments within the sub-region demonstrated serious commitment in the implementation of the arms marking protocol so they could track every weapon that leaks into any country within the region. Research has shown that the presence of a gun boosts the risk of gun-related violence in the home.
Our situation is even worse because these are not registered weapons like what pertains in the advanced countries; these are weapons that are floating under cover and are acquired only because somebody wants to be a paid assassin, a robber, a political thug, etc.
For Ghana to complete its arms marking process, personnel of the GNASCA would have to be deployed in all regions of the country with its own intelligence network to supplement that of other security agencies.
In the meantime, as Mr. Appierh puts it, “there is the need for an effective collaboration between the security services in the country so it would be easy for GNACSA to track these weapons.” Again, he observed that there was the need for a collaboration between the security agencies and the communities in order for information to flow – but that would also depend on how well the police protect those who volunteer information.
Source-Alexander Nyarko Yeboah(GNA)