According to a press release, the exercise is being carried out under the auspices of the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms and Lights Weapons project, a regional initiative by ECOWAS and funded by the European Union (EU) to pilot "Weapons Collection Programmes" within the broader context of "Disarmament and Community Development" or “Weapons for Development." The Project covers two clusters covering 6 countries: the Sahel (including Northern Niger and Mali); and Mano River Union (including West of Cote d'Ivoire, Guinee Forestiere, East of Liberia, and North-East of Sierra Leone).
The Liberian component of the project is being implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) in selected clans in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties. The project has four outputs which, among other things, seek to create and enhance community awareness on the dangers associated with the illicit proliferation of small arms and armed violence as well as strengthening the capacity of security institutions and communities to enhance safety; and above all, encourage voluntary weapons surrender/collection in return for community based development projects.
To provide support for this exercise, the President of Liberia has issued a waiver that exonerates individuals who report arms from any form of reprimand. This was a sticky issue presented by elders and leaders of the three counties when they met with the Chairman of LiNCSA, Hon. James M. Fromayan in March this year. The leaders in that meeting informed Chairman Fromayan that their citizens might not support the exercise if the waiver was not forthcoming. Thus the issuance of the President’s proclamation has facilitated the start of this important security endeavor.
The physical arms collection was preceded by intensive awareness and sensitization activities in the targeted communities as well as capacity building of local project partners during the first half of the project’s implementation. Under this exercise, dubbed, “Arms for Development,” residents of the targeted communities will benefit from a development project of their choice once they have surrendered sufficient weapons. The exercise in the Southeast is a pilot project that is expected to be replicated throughout the country.