Liberia Moves to Silence Guns -Launches 2022 Africa Amnesty Month Project

By: Matthew H. Turry & Anthony Q. Jiffan, Jr.

MONROVIA – The Liberian government through the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) has officially launched the September 2022 Africa Amnesty Month Project under the theme “Silencing the Guns”, which aims at ending illegal possession of firearms among residents of Liberia.

Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the initiative in Monrovia Tuesday, August 16, 2022, the National Security Advisor in the office of President George Weah, Jefferson Kanmoh, said in order to support the initiative, the President will issue a proclamation granting full amnesty to all civilians in possession of firearms to voluntarily turn over those firearms to the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms and the Liberia National Police within a stipulated time frame with protection under the law.

The National Security Advisor also noted that if Liberia must have a safe and peaceful environment, Liberians must support the initiative to make the country safe and more attractive for investment and tourism.

According to him, the theme of this year’s Africa Amnesty Month initiative on the surrendering of illicit small arms and light weapons advocacy currently provides that those who voluntarily surrender firearms and ammunition illegally acquired should be protected from disclosure, arrest and prosecution.

Mr. Kanmoh furthered that making Liberia safe and secure is in line with the overall vision for transformation of the government of the Coalition for Democratic Change, which is the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) since its inception about five years ago. 

“We take delight in noting that the legislature can enact the Act to domesticate the United Nation Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the Act establishing the Liberia National Commission on Arms.

“This achievement made through the Act makes Liberia the third country in West Africa to domesticate the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty as well as expand the mandate of the national competence authority to fairly and transparently administer the trade, transfer, burglaries, used, manufacturing and possession of conventional arms”, the Security Advisor asserted.

In a special statement on behalf of the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms, the Chairman of the Commission, Atty. Teklo Maxwell Grigsby said the project, the September 2022 Africa Amnesty Month Project under the theme, “silencing the Guns”,  has been around since 2017. However, he clarified that Liberia has not benefited in terms of direct funding.

“There is a lot of money there for different works including work on peace, but they will not come to you unless you demonstrate discipline, integrity and understanding of what you want to do; so we demonstrated these by sharing with the United Nations Office on disarmament affairs, which is a five year strategic plan, and by indicating our vision for arms control here in Liberia”, he narrated

Also speaking was Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative Vincent Willie who has expressed concern over an earlier remark by a member of the joint security that Liberian security personnel need psychological counseling to ensure that they are mentally upright.

   His comment was seen as a reaction to a statement made  earlier by  Col. Wilson Moore, the head of joint security at the Ministry of Justice who  said some members of the national security appeared not to be normal, noting that there should be a psychological counseling program for them.

“For instance, a member of the Liberia Immigration Service took his gun and shot a transformer, that was not normal so we are proposing a psychological counseling program for security personnel” Col. Moore said.   

But the Grand Bassa County lawmaker reacted that it is very scary to note that some members of the country’s security sector are not mentally fit, but are allowed to carry firearms which endangers the lives of citizens across the country.

“There are other people who may choose to illegally possess firearms which threatens the lives of others and it requires the national security apparatus to arrest those people and the guns they carried; but, when the people who should be doing the arrest are not mentally fit, then we are in trouble” Rep. Willie asserts.

Representative Willie told the gathering charged with attendance of representations of local and international partners that he will inform members of the House of Representatives to invite the joint security to answer questions as to why mentally ill personnel will be in possession of firearms.

 “I will inform my colleagues at the national legislature, especially the House of Representatives where I am, that some members of our security sector are not mentally fit, but are carrying fire arms” he added.

The Grand Bassa County Lawmaker also blamed older folks for the fourteen years of civil war in Liberia, noting that they gave guns to the youthful population and allowed them to kill each other and destroy the country.

He however questioned those who continuously blamed the young people for the Liberian civil crisis, knowing that they were not part of the formulations of warring factions, but got involved when they were given guns to satisfy the desire of the very people who blamed them today.

Representative Willie indicated that the young people are sharing the blames of the older folks on the atrocities caused during the civil war in Liberia by those who were armed, and added that they will therefore get fully involved to end the illegal possession of firearms in Liberia.

Said Rep. Willie, “We, the young people, share the blame for the Liberian civil war only because they forgot that the young people were given guns by the older ones to fight in their interest.  But we will ensure that with our collective efforts of silence, the guns through our support to this initiative”

Responding to the Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative ‘s concern on the mental state of members of Liberia’s National Security sector, the  National Security Advisor Jefferson Kanmoh said security personnel in the country are well trained in firearms operations, adding,  “Our men are well trained in arms operations.”

 According to him, what has been the problem with security personnel carrying firearms in Liberia is that they have not been going for the regular training that firearms carrying personnel should undergo after every three months.

The National Security Advisor indicated that the process has not been due to financial difficulties, but noted that it has to be done for the safety of Liberians and other residents.

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