Ecowas Convention on arms seminar opens

Friday, July 11, 2008
A number of members of the National Assembly and other stakeholders descended at the Jerma Beach Hotel yesterday for a two-day seminar on the Ecowas Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The seminar was organised by the West African Network for Peace-building (Wanep) Gambia and backed by Oxfam, with a view to equip the Gambian parliamentarians with indepth information about the convention, for its possible ratification by the country’s legislature, when it’s tabled.

The convention was adopted by the heads of state of Ecowas on 14th June, 2006, with the objective of preventing and combating the excessive and destabilising accumulation of small arms and light weapons within the Ecowas region, where an estimated 8 million illicit weapons are currently in circulation. The convention replaces the 1998 moratorium also signed in Abuja on 31st, 1998.

Delivering her opening statement, Hon Fatoumatta Jahumpa-Ceesay, the speaker of the National Assembly, described the seminar as well-placed, as it would prepare the NAMs to make informed decisions that serve the interest of those they represent in the legislature.

In view of the security challenges facing the sub-region, the speaker highlighted the importance The Gambia government attaches to the security of its citizenry and territorial integrity, which makes the convention all the more relevant to the National Assembly.

She also expounded on the disastrous consequences of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region, which has had a bitter past owing to the ravages caused by civil strife, compounded by illicit weapons in circulation.

Deeply concerned about the dangers posed by illicit arms, the speaker was clear on the course of action and therefore called on the NAMs to brace-up against the menace.

Speaker Jahumpa-Ceesay, widely known by her sobriquet FJC, expressed hope that the convention would be ratified by The Gambia in due course and urged the NAMs to take the training seriously, as it’s a unique opportunity for them to deepen their horizon. She then thumbed-up Wanep for organising the seminar and assured the Assembly’s commitment to a "genuine partnership".

In her welcoming remarks, Ms Pamela Cole, the national coordinator of Wanep, observed that human security can no longer be a monopoly of a country’s security apparatuses, as the world has been witnessing mounting challenges of insecurity at an overwhelming proportion.

Ms Cole, a well-grounded peace-builder, disclosed that the new model of tackling insecurity puts the citizenry at the epicenter of conflict prevention and peace-building.

She re-affirmed Wanep’s commitment to work all the way in partnership with the government and other stakeholders to make The Gambia a shining beacon of hope for humanity. She emphasised the importance of the seminar, saying that it would better prepare the NAMs to be on a sound footing to influence policy.

Author: by Ebrima Jaw Manneh