Despite the war in Sierra Leone that took many lives and destroyed many properties for several years, the government has decided to pass into law licensing of small arms and light weapons for citizens with genuine intentions.
The House of Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone on Tuesday 22nd June 2010 approved the bill titled “The Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms Act 2010”.
The bill was introduced to the House by the Minister of Presidential and Public Affairs, Joseph Koroma. After its first reading, the bill went through several stages before it was finally passed into an Act of Parliament.
Earlier the Minister told the Honorable House that the essence of such a bill was to establish the Sierra Leone National Commission on small arms as a means of controlling the proliferation of those lethal weapons in the country by domesticating the ECOWAS Convention on small arms. He informed the House that decision on the ECOWAS Convention was taken owing to several historical events such as war, military coups and many other similar mayhems that has pushed the African countries to backward status. “This bill when passed into law will enhance everlasting peace among citizens within the Mano River Union and even beyond,” he said, adding that it will help us to know and intercept the flow of arms in and out of our country. He spoke of the need to identify the users of arms and to prevent young boys and criminals who are unlawfully using arms from accessing them.
Responding to the Ministers submission, Hon. Bernadette Lahai of opposition SLPP demanded for strict measures to be put in place for the control of small arms and light weapons in the sub region generally and Sierra Leone in particular. “During the ten years’ rebel war in this country, those arms were used by dissidents to devastate women, children and many other vulnerable people,” she disclosed. She however entreated the government to improve on the social needs of the people, especially the youth so as to refrain from causing havoc.
Hon. Paramount Chief Mohamed Kailondo Banya hinted on the disadvantage of the bill. He said one of such disadvantages is that with restriction on the use of single barrel guns, wild animals continue to destroy cash crops and other agricultural products in the provinces. “Wild animals are now even chasing farmers from their farms due to the lack of weapon to shoot them,” he said as he advised the minister to adjust the bill so that farmers can protect their crops through the use of single barrel guns.
For his part, Hon. Siaka Suma of the PMDC expressed happiness over the bill, saying that it will help to minimize armed robbery in the country. He cited Guinea as an example where criminals are now using small arms and light weapons to rob in broad day light. “If our country adopts this bill into law, armed robbery will be drastically reduced.
The debate ended with the recommendation to make possible the registration and licensing of small arms and light weapons for citizens with genuine intentions.