As the region is increasingly facing security challenges, the ECOWAS Commission on Thursday hosted a meeting to review the Convention on proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the region. Held at Paradise Suites Hotel, in Kololi, the meeting brought together national commissions chairperson, experts from the region and the European Union.
In his opening remarks, Interior Minister Ebrima Mballow said Gambia government is cognizant of the threat posed by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He described the meeting as a step in the country’s determination to tackle the menace.
The initiative spearheaded by ECOWAS Commission is geared towards reviewing the activities of national commissions with a view to implementing effectively the said Convention.
“Our region has been characterized by considerable instability. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons have deeply affected the stability of Africa, and indeed West Africa,” Mballow said.
He further stated that economic integration can only prosper in an environment that is peaceful.
“Peace and security are prerequisite for a balanced economic development,” he reiterated.
The tiny West African nation is recovering from two-decade long dictatorship. New authorities have committed themselves to consolidating the values of peace, democracy and rule of law.
Interior Minister Mballow said the eradication of the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons top government agenda.
ECOWAS Commission Head of Small Arms Division, Joseph Piex Ahoba, who spoke to this reporter, said the annual national commissions meeting is very important as it help participants to update ECOWAS about the actions each country has undertaken to fight what appeared to be a growing threat.
Ahoba then added that the decision to hold the meeting in Gambia constitutes an important move, and illustrative of the continued support ECOWAS is providing to Gambian authorities.
“We needed to reactivate the national commission on small arms and light weapons,” he stated.
Ahoba deplored the fact the trafficking of contraband arms and ammunition from Libya continue to pose a real threat to peace and instability in the region.
He revealed that ECOWAS is committed to putting a halt to these activities from Northern Mali and that continue to spread instability within the West African region.