The Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) has concluded three-day stakeholders’ validation sessions to endorse a five-year Strategic Plan (2021-2025) that has been formulated to provide strategic direction for the Commission. The Plan will essentially guide management decisions, planned programs and activities in the accomplishment of its general and specific mandates and institutional sustainability. The five-year Strategic Plan builds and improves on LiNCSA’s past accomplishments and milestone achievements to include; legal frameworks for arms control—the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act and its Administrative Regulations; several SOPs (standard operating procedures) for arms marking, arms inspection, civilian arms registration and those of related institutions while laying a foundation for the future, as the Commission turns the corner into another decade of daunting challenges relating to Small Arms, Light Weapons and related materials in Liberia and the ECOWAS region.
The validation, which was organized by the Commission in collaboration with UNDP, was held in the City Hall of the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County from June 3-5, 2021.
At the end of the three-day validation sessions, the draft Strategic Plan of the Commission (2021-2025), the draft document was unanimously endorsed by over Forty-Eight (48) participants drawn from Donor Partners, representative of the Office of the President of Liberia, Civil Society Organizations, State Security Agencies and senior employees of the Commission.
Speaking during the ceremony, LiNCSA Chairman Atty. Teklo Maxwell Grigsby II said, it has been a compelling need that Liberia do better in the fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which has over the past years devastated not just the Liberia but also other Member States within the ECOWAS region.
Atty. Grigsby indicated that one of the contributing factors to the over fourteen years (14) of civil unrest was poor management and disjointed efforts in the management and storage of State Security stockpile and inadequate regulation of civilian arms. Chairman Grigsby also asserted that Liberia did not consider combating and preventing illicit flow/trafficking of weapons and related materials as a priority thus leading to the mayhem that ruined the country for many years.
In order to address some of the needs of the Commission, especially the fight against illicit flows/trafficking of small arms, light weapon related materials, Chairman Grigsby emphasized that a strategic plan is needed to change the paradigm and guide efforts towards sustaining Liberia’s peace and preventing potential terrorist intrusion within and across the borders of Liberia.
As part of his plan, Chairman Grigsby said, his leadership will focus on capacity building especially the training of state armorers to ensure proper accountability of state stockpile and transparent and accountable Civilian Arms Registration program. The Chairman told participants that he envisions an arms violence free Liberia where people can live together in peace void of fear and terror of arms and related crimes.
Dr. Kimmie Weeks who served as keynote speaker during the opening session of the occasion, said there is a need for government to pay key attention to the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) and institutions with mandate to control and regulate arms and related instruments to include Liberia National Police (LNP), Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) among others so as to protect the Country’s fragile peace and prevent all possibility of reverting to the ugly past (Civil War and Arms and related violence).
Dr. Weeks intimated that Government support to the Commission’s programs and policies cannot be overemphasized, stressing that failure to support the programs and policies of the Small Arms Commission and institutions with related mandate will have a negative effect on the Country.
Dr. Weeks who is also involved into youth advocacy said, one major thing that caught his attention was the lack of resources towards the Commission’s programs and policies in the fight against illicit proliferation of small arms across the Country.
He noted that, considering the role LiNCSA is playing in combating illicit proliferation of arms trafficking and its related materials within and across the borders of Liberia, there is compelling need for adequate support.
Dr. Weeks called on the leadership of LiNCSA to transform the work of the Commission from its current state of moderate efforts to a more robust Institution uncompromising on issues of full enforcement of the arms control law.
He also said that, the Commission should do more work in explaining its mandate and vision to the general public through public education and awareness; decentralization of its activities and partnership with media entities to ensure public awareness on a regular basis.
He encouraged the Commission to also work with other relevant Institutions that are responsible for combating illicit drugs trafficking and illicit money flow in other to have a holistic approach in combating crimes.
He furthered asserted that, illicit funds and drugs are used to support criminal enterprises and the vital tools used for trading in drugs, illicit money, robberies, crimes are arms and related materials, hence the need for a national approach to combat the menace. Looking at general statistics of gun related crimes across the globe as highlighted by the United Nations, Dr. Weeks said, approximately 500,000 people died every year from armed related violence and if efforts are not concentrated in combating illicit flow of arms and terrorism, more people could die from the menace across the globe annually.
He concord with calls from the United Nations and ECOWAS for Member States to do more to prevent illicit trafficking of arms and related materials to reduce the adverse impact on mankind.
Dr. Weeks cautioned staffers and technicians of the Commission that whenever there are training opportunities abroad, staffers should be responsible and patriotic enough to return home to contribute to the country where their expertise will be more needed and utilized.
In his concluding statement, he thanked the leadership of the Commission for the effort to draft the five-year strategic plan (2021-2025), specifically the portion in which the commission outlined its weaknesses and encouraged them to develop a roadmap that will not only highlight its weaknesses but also derive strategies to turn its weaknesses into strength as envisioned in the strategic plan.
Participants as well as employees who attending the validation expressed optimism that the five years strategic plan defined clear goals and objectives; vision, values and principles; strategic directions and targets, as well as determine strategies for policy level engagements, and macro and micro level activities Small Arms control interventions for the next five years.
The three-day validation sessions was funded under the framework of Liberia’s Component of the Organized Crime West Africa Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T) Project, a three-year project for Seven (7) ECOWAS Member States funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO)- Cooperation Germany, managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and coordinated by GIZ.