NewsWest AfricaGhana gives illegal gun owners amnesty ahead of polls


Posted on Thursday, 18 August 2016 11:41

Ghana gives illegal gun owners amnesty ahead of polls

By Dasmani Laary

File photo©Felipe Dana/AP/SIPAGhana has given people with illegal firearms a 32-day ultimatum to hand over the weapons without the prospect of prosecution as the country gears for the December general elections.

The government extended a month long weapons amnesty to individuals and groups to curb the proliferation of arms ahead of the crucial polls. The amnesty will be observed between August 22 and September 23.

Those with unlicensed guns are expected to hand them over to the police or the Ghana Small Arms Commission (GSAC).

Interior minister Prosper Bani told journalists on Wednesday that those who failed to take advantage of the amnesty would be dealt with severely.

"Following an assessment of the situation and based on advice from the security agencies, the president [John Dramani Mahama] has directed the Ministry of the Interior, the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Small Arms Commission to take steps to enhance the management and control of the proliferation of weapons by instituting a limited weapons amnesty exercise," he said.

Last month, the GSAC destroyed 1 300 guns seized from illegal owners.

The commission said there were still more than 1.1 million firearms and light weapons in wrong hands.

"Many Ghanaians will be safer, many businesses and homes in Ghana will be spared from potential armed robberies and violence by the use of weapons," Bani said recently.

"Many homes will be spared from potential break-ins, all these are the result of the removal from our society and the destruction of thousands of illegal small arms."

Ibrahim Irbad, an international relations and security expert, said although the amnesty was noble, the 32 days given to illegal firearm owners to surrender them was too long.

He urged government to descend heavily on those who failed to hand over their guns especially in areas considered to be violence hotspots.

A simulation exercise by an elections and security taskforce early this year identified about 5,000 flashpoints in a move that formed part of broader plans to clamp down on violence ahead of the elections.

The security agencies said the mock exercise was meant to send a signal that the taskforce was prepared to ensure peaceful elections.

Security experts estimate that there are around 2.3 million weapons in civilian hands in Ghana, with only 1.2 million being legally registered.

Stakes are already high as Ghana, a country paraded as beacon of democracy in Africa, goes to the polls in 110 days' time for 14,031,793 voters to choose a president and 275 lawmakers from 25 political parties.

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