Monrovia – Liberia is leading the reform efforts within in West Africa to conform to provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by ensuring the validation to amend the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act of 2015 and the Act creating the National Small Arms Commission of Liberia.
The new Arms Commission Act when enacted by the National Legislature will expand its mandate to regulate all categories of conventional arms including small arms, light weapons their ammunition and related materials.
Liberia Small Arms Commission Chairman Atty. Teklo Maxwell Grigsby II, speaking at a two-day validation session told participants that the proposed laws are very critical to addressing the concerns of proliferation of small arms which continue to pose threat to the sustenance of the peace of Liberia.
The Small Arms Survey report as commissioned by the African Union according to Chairman Grigsby, revealed the alarming rate of small arms proliferation and the danger to the continent.
Chairman Grigsby further that Liberia should be particularly concern considering the nature of its borders with neighboring countries.
Atty. Grigsby provided a broader context of arms control legislation in the Mano River Union basin concentrating on the right to civilian possession in variance with the arms control legislation in Liberia.
Chairman Grigsby in his statement said, though the laws of Liberia prohibit Civilians possession of firearms, the Commission has received countless reports of individuals in illegal possession of Firearms in contravention of laws; an act he considers a threat to peace and stability of Liberia.
Notwithstanding, Chairman Grigsby noted that his office has contacted the relevant authorities in government to take the necessary actions in conformity with laws of Liberia.
He reemphasized that the Firearm Ammunition and Control Act prohibits civilian possession of firearms and grants exception to hunters to bear shoulder single barrel gun for hunting purposes.
In Chairman Grigsby judgment, Liberia should remain very concern about illegal possession and illicit trade of firearms within and across the borders of Liberia and the sub-region and address all such concerns as national security threat.
The Chairman cautioned stakeholders to meticulously deliberate the firearms laws and the Act creating the Small Arms of Liberia during the two days so as to ensure the domestication of the Arms Trade Treaty and further accelerate the effective management of Small Arms, light Weapons, their ammunition and other related materials.
Liberia Foreign Minister, H.E. D. Maxwell Saah Kamayan, who was represented by Cllr. Deway Gray, Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveyed best wishes to the Commission and stakeholders attending the validation Session, noting that the validation is important giving the historic nature of the Liberian Civil War.
Cllr. Gray said, Liberia has always conformed to the signing of international treaties and worked towards ratifying and domesticating those treaties.
Cllr. Gray indicating to the participants that Liberia signed onto the Arms Trade Treaty in June 6, 2013 and was the 68 country to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty after a nationwide assessment was conducted by the Small Arms Commission of Liberia.
The assessment of the ATT ratification in Liberia, according to Cllr. Gray was intended to identify existing gaps and examined relevant laws for the purpose of making recommendations to improve Liberia overall compliance with the ATT.
During those deliberations, the Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs asserted that the main focus of the ratification at the time was to ensure that the Commission has a full mandate to regulate all conventional arms.
Cllr. Gray said, the convergence of relevant stakeholders and international partners to validate both the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act and the Act creating the Commission is a significant step to ensure compliance and domestication of the ATT.
Cllr. Gray assures the Commission of the readiness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its foreign mission to support the process of harmonizing the provisions of the ATT with the national laws.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Justice Cllr Musa Dean, the Assistant Minster for Codification of the Ministry of Justice, Hon. Abraham Mitchell extoled the role of the Commission in combating the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons in Liberia, especially the enforcement aspect in controlling and preventing small Arms within Liberia as intimated by the Chairman of the Commission, Atty. Grigsby.
According to the Assistant Minister, Liberians do not need to be rocket scientists to fully appreciate the extent of destruction small arms had on the progress of the country.
The donors represented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) thanked the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms and security sector actors for the great effort to domesticate the ATT and reaffirmed their support under the Organized Crime West Africa Response against Trafficking (OCWAR-T).
Also Expertise France thanked the Commission for the holding of the validation sessions in Monrovia weeks after the holding of the review session with the technical support of international consultants and informs the participants that Expertise France will support Liberia’s efforts towards the domestication of the ATT.
Dr. Sani Adamu of the Small Arms Division, Directorate of Peace Regional Security applauded the Liberia Government for the enormous political will and the great leadership demonstrated by the leadership of the National Commission.
He said the work of the Commission in Liberia is exemplary and calls on the NATCOM to stand prepare to share experience with other National Commissions amongst ECOWAS member states.
The validation session which commences March 30-31, 2021 at the Monrovia City Hall, brought together relevant actors drawn from government Ministries, Agencies and Commissions, Security Sector, the Diplomatic Circle, Civil Society Organizations and Members of the Religious Community to solicit views and inputs leading to the validation of the Liberia Firearms and Ammunition Control Act of 2015, its Administrative Regulations to reflect provisions of the Arms Trade and Transfer Treaty which Liberia has signed and ratified.
The validation session is part of initiative that is being held under the framework of Liberia’s component of the Organized Crime West Africa Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T) Project, a three-year project that is coordinated by the GIZ and managed by the United Nations Development Fund.
The project covers seven (7) ECOWAS Member States and is designed to strengthen regional governance frameworks in combating Transitional Organized Crime and trafficking and to enhance the capacity of state agencies specialized in combating these threats.