In welcoming the participants, the Chairman of LiNCSA Hon. James M. Fromayan expressed welcome on behalf of the Commissioners and staff of LiNCSA at the dialogue which is aimed at bringing safety and protection for the people in targeted communities. He explained that the Arms for Development Project has not achieved its intended impact of collecting arms voluntarily. He further stated that the Commission has not given up and that is why the dialogue was seen as a way of broadening the consultations. He informed participants that their level of influence in their respective countries could help residents to buy into the Project.
For his part, Mr. Blamoh Sieh, Programs Director at LiNCSA provided the guests with a background and synopsis of the ECOWAS/EU Small Arms Project. He disclosed that the project is a regional project on Small Arms which was launched in April 2015. The project is implemented in seven (7) countries covering two clusters within the Mano River Union (Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) and in the Sahel region (Mali, Niger and Nigeria). The project aims at sensitizing targeted pilot communities, strengthening operational and institutional capacities of relevant stakeholders such as National Commissions, Security Forces and Civil Society Organizations on the dangers of SALW proliferation, collecting arms/ammunitions including stockpile management support and providing responses through community based development projects for the return of arms.
The project is funded by the European Commission to the tune of Euro 5.56M and it is an integral component of the programme "European Union Support to the ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS)", implemented 2013-2019, which seeks to support ECOWAS in its capacity to effectively address factors of instability and reinforce a proactive approach to peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution in West Africa. Specifically, the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project seeks to advance implementation of the component "Practical Disarmament" of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) in Member-States. The entire project is being implemented by UNDP.
Reporting on the progress and current state of the project, Mr. Sieh disclosed that Liberia was not benefiting from the project because the citizens were not turning in the guns. He explained that in Ivory Coast, Guinea and other ECOWAS countries more than $100,000.00 have been spent respectively on projects selected by residents based on the number of arms they turned in. He provided a table which showed that the only thing collected in Liberia during the exercise last year was 354 rounds of ammunition which were surrendered by the leadership in B’hai, Grand Gedeh County. According to Mr.Sieh, “As a result of that minimal amount, we are still going to let them benefit from the project The town Hall of B’Hai Jozon (Grand Gedeh) will be rehabilitated based on ammunitions collected (very low) just to serve as example for other Communities to emulate.|”
Speaking during the discussion that followed Mr. Sieh’s presentation, the representative from Rivergee, Mr. Jerry Bleh raised a number of questions regarding the credibility of the information with which the Commission was working. For his part, Mr. Wesley D.M. Nyenatoh, proxy for Grand Gedeh Senator Hon. Alphonso Gaye, was concerned with the selection of the sites where the project is currently underway. Paul Doe, who represented Maryland County expressed delight for being at the meeting and expressed shock that the citizens did not understand the benefits to be accrued from the project. All the representatives called for more grassroots approach and stated their readiness to work with the Commission in reaching the citizens.
In her Vote of thanks, Commissioner Bennietta Jarbo thanked the representatives for responding to the invite and expressed excitement at their willingness to work with the Commission.
Meanwhile a four man LiNCSA –led delegation is expected in the Southeast this week to start the re-engagement process in the three counties.