Jul 21, 2009, 9:02 AM
The national commission on small arms convened a three-day sensitisation and capacity-building forum for journalists from the print and electronic media.
It got under way Wednesday at Kairaba Beach Hotel, designed to contribute to improving peace and security in West Africa and beyond.
Malick Jones of the ministry of Information, speaking at the forum, stated that ECOWAS is mindful of the inherent dangers and the possible escalation of internal conflicts, which small arms and light weapons can cause within the sub-region.
The forum was organised to add to the knowledge of media practitioners on small arms and light weapons, and to familiarise them with the ECOWAS convention on small arms and light weapons, and related issues.
Participants would also deliberate on current developments at the national level related to small arms and light weapons, Jones added.
The ministry of defence in Banjul has held a number of workshops and events on small arms, and at the end of the workshop a network of media practitioners would be formed, devoted to sensitising communities in The Gambia on the dangers created by the proliferation of small arms and lights weapons.
Conflicts are one cause of the proliferation of small and light weapons within the sub-region, Jones went on.
Daba Moussa, head of the ECOWAS commission in The Gambia, told the forum that ECOWAS has been primarily promoting economic integration of member states.
In addition, ECOWAS has proven its capacity to undertake successful conflict prevention, peace-keeping and conflict resolution, Moussa added.
ECOWAS is actively implementing the ECOWAS convention on small arms and light weapons.
The small arms division of the ECOWAS commission considers the media as a strategic partner for the purpose of public sensitization, in the quest to reach the greater part of the population in order to achieve the desire goals.
It is, therefore, essential to train journalists in member states on the ECOWAS convention, so as to enhance their understanding and knowledge of the convention and other related matters.
The possession of small arms and light weapons fuels a lot of conflicts in the sub-region presently, and these conflicts are covered by journalists for public awareness.
Reporting on these conflicts in tandem with the relevant ECOWAS convention and protocols, can go a long way in educating the masses, and possibly motivate concerned parties to come to peace.
The use of small arms and light weapons has also been growing significantly, as seen in the drugs trade and terrorism, and this needs to be addressed, the ECOWAS official pointed out.
Yusupha Dibba, permanent secretary at the ministry of Defence in Banjul, said the Gambia government is aware of the threat to national and sub-regional security, posed by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Therefore, this training forum is essential “for us in preventing its spread in The Gambia”.
“The hosting of this event is a worthy step, in our determination as ECOWAS member states to address collectively the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons, a critical problem that is unquestionably cross-border and international in character.
“Our region has been characterized by considerable instability, and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons has deeply affected the stability of Africa, indeed West Africa”, he added.
Lamin Camara a deputy permanent secretary at the ministry of Information, also noted that where small arms and light weapons prevail, peace, security and development suffer.
He urged media practitioners in The Gambia to live up to expectations, for the common good.