West African treaty on gun violence becomes law

The West African Convention on small arms control entered into force on 29 September 2009. 10 of the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have now ratified the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and Other Related Materials.

Some of the features of the Convention include:

* prohibits all international transfers (imports, exports, etc) unless an exemption is granted beforehand by the ECOWAS Executive Secretary in consultation with the member states.
* exemptions for international transfers shall not be authorised if the weapons are destined to be used for violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law, among many other stringent criteria for refusing authorisation.
* international transfers to non-state actors are completely prohibited without the approval of the importing state.
* prohibits possession, use and sale of small arms by civilians unless they fulfill strict criteria to receive authorisation by national authorities.
* all manufacturing must be registered nationally (this includes local craft manufacturing, widespread across the sub-region).
* national and regional databases of small arms must be created.


So far the countries that have ratified the Convention are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Ghana and Gambia are among the countries undergoing the process to accede to the Convention.


"Small arms are West Africa's weapons of mass destruction, and the Convention provides a powerful framework for governments to introduce strong legal measures and procedures to prevent gun violence in the region" said Baffour Amoa, President of the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA). "Civil society has been a close partner with governments to create and ratify the Convention, and we are ready to help implement this important legislation."

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