Sogakope, Ghana (PANA) - A three-day sensitization and capacity building workshop for journalists on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) control opened Thursday at Sogakope in the Volta Region, with a call on journalists to help redice the proliferation of such weapons.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission on SALW, Mr. Jones Applerh, charged participants to support national and regional initiatives to reduce illegal circulation of SALWs, which are fuelling conflicts in West Africa.
A statement from the ECOWAS Commission made available to PANA said the workshop was part of efforts to promote effective implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on SALW which entered into force in September 2009.
Mr. Applerh said the media had a critical role to play in public education that will engender appropriate behavioral and attitudinal change so that “we do not introduce small arms and light weapons into the litany of conflicts that have bedeviled countries in our region”.
He explained that three critical issues in gun control concerned weapons, legislation and the people, adding that in most conflicts the people are always the worst victims.
The media, Mr. Applerh said, were critical in conflict prevention, peace building and reorientation of the people to resist the gun culture.
In a presentation he made later, he noted that armed conflicts cost Africa some US$18 billion dollars annually, with 60-90 per cent of deaths in the conflicts traced to SALWs, while West Africa alone accounts for eight million of the 100 million small arms in circulation in the continent.
About 40 per cent of the small arms and light weapons in West Africa were in civilian hands, he said, adding that many countries in the region have experienced military coups, with uncontrolled circulation of SALWs exacerbating conflicts that have brought destruction, untold hardships, poverty and underdevelopment.
This year being an election year in Ghana, Mr. Applerh enjoined journalists in the spirit of the workshop to ensure that the country enjoyed peace before, during and after the elections.
Welcome the participants on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Cyriaque Agnekethom described the media as not just a partner, but a major stakeholder in the implementation of the ECOWAS SALW Convention.
He said effective implementation of the convention would contribute to regional peace and stability in line with the transformation from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.
The workshop, jointly organized by the ECOWAS Commission and Ghana's National Commission on SALW, is aimed at sensitizing participants and building their capacities on small arms and light weapons control sufficiently to enable them to play effective role as change agents, through sensitization of their various publics on a constant and sustainable basis.
-0- PANA MA 20April2012