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ECOWAS/EU SMALL ARMS PROJECT

 

Since 2015, the ECOWAS/EU Small Arms Project is being implemented in seven countries in the ECOWAS sub-region – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.  The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria. At country level, the project is implemented by the UNDP Country Offices in collaboration with the National Commissions on Small Arms (NATCOMs). The objective of the project is to collect arms from civilians in exchange for community micro projects.  In Sierra Leone the project is implemented in the north-eastern border districts of Sierra Leone, namely Kailahun, Kenema and Kono in the Eastern Region, and Falaba in the Northern Region, covering 12 border chiefdoms.

 

The project has four outputs as follows:

 

Output 1:  Sensitization and advocacy programmes elaborated and implemented;

 

Output 2: Capacities of relevant stakeholders (Armed security agencies, National commissions, civil society organizations) enhanced;

 

Output 3: Weapons collection, record keeping and destruction of small arms and light weapons conducted;

 

Output 4: Implementation of micro-projects in exchange for arms collected conducted and key projects provided.

 

In 2015, a National Technical Committee, comprising Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA), Mano River Union (MRU), Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA), UNDP, Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), European Union (EU), Council of Churches Sierra Leone (CCSL), Development Initiative/Hope for the Vulnerable Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS Unit of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, was established to perform an oversight function for the project.  The project was formally launched in July 2015 at Makeni by the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. J B Dauda. 

 

During the first and second years of project implementation, extensive community sensitization activities such as radio discussion programmes, community meetings, radio jingles, etc. were conducted, to educate the public on the dangers associated with small arms and light weapons. During this period also, needs assessment & community action planning exercises were carried out in all the 12 chiefdoms in the four districts. The two topmost felt needs that were identified were hand pump wells and motor bikes.  Training was also conducted for security personnel on physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) and civil society organizations on gender based violence.

 

As a result of the extensive sensitization programmes on the dangers associated with small arms and light weapons, as well as the provision of micro projects in exchange for arms surrendered, in the third year of project implementation, nine communities in Sulima Chiefdom, Falaba District, also surrendered 71 shotguns to the project. Buedu community in Kissi Tongi Chiefdom, Kailahun District, disclosed a pit containing unexploded ordnances (UXOs) kept by the former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.  

 

Four of the nine communities in Sulima Chiefdom, Falaba District, have never had safe drinking water. One hand pump water well has been provided for each of those communities. The remaining five communities, which already had safe drinking water, preferred motor bikes. However, only three motor bikes were purchased by the project.  It was therefore agreed that the three motor bikes be run on commercial basis by three communities to generate enough funds to buy additional motor bikes for the remaining communities.  The project has also provided two hand pump water wells for the Buedu Community in Kissi Tongi Chiefdom, Kailahun District for the disclosure of the UXOs kept in a pit by the former RUF rebels.

 

The provision of water wells for the four communities has helped:

  1. To reduce the incidence of water borne diseases among the people.
  2. To improve the general hygiene situation.
  3. To prevent the incidence of snake bikes that used to occur while moving along bush roads to fetch water.
  4. To reduce the workload on women and children as they now do not cover long distances to fetch water.
  5. To reduce the incidence of rape as girls and women go in search of water.
  6. Children to spend more time to study and do their home work.

The project has also created awareness among the general populace in the project areas on the dangers associated with small and light weapons. 

Images from ECOWAS/EU Small Arms Project