ECOWAS EFFORT IN COMBATING SMALL AND LIGHT ARMS PROLIFERATION IN WEST AFRICA: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECT
Illegal transfer and ownership of arms has contributed to conflict generation in West Africa. The proliferation of such weapons across West African borders without a unified restraint to curb its menace led to the formulation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The dimensions and persistence of conflicts has created a favourable outlet for the sale of arms and other light weapons. In West Africa, the uneven implementation of regional agreements leaves loopholes that arms traffickers can utilize for their nefarious trade. These traffickers are usually quick to adopt trade routes where national controls are weak, and often take advantage of insufficient cooperation between border control authorities or differences in national regulation.Hence, the study sought to investigate the usefulness of the ECOWAS Convention and the importance of synergy between the states in the region.
The study is a qualitative research however it adopted the descriptive mode of analyses. The interview method was adopted as a primary method of data collection, while secondary data was obtained from sources on the phenomenon of interest such as United Nations reports, books, journals, magazines, newspapers and internet sources. The researcher adopted the content analysis method to analyse the data collected from the interview.
In advocating for the prospect for ECOWAS in dealing with the challenge of Small and Light Weapons, it was discovered that investment in tracking technologies for prompt border control should be considered. It was also found that community orientation would help galvanize massive support for winning the war against arms proliferation. The need for feedback from communities was also noted while strengthening regional security systems for better efficiency. Following the findings, the study concluded that the proliferation of Small and Light Weapons has not only crippled socioeconomic and political development but worsened human security in the region.
Thus the study recommended the need for a routine regional security meeting which will not only involve ECOWAS and Heads of Countries but also leaders of security organisations. Such should assess the current security situation at the time of the meeting and proactively seek out means of dealing with the challenges, a need to build a broad based relationship with communities living at the border for reporting suspicious movement to ECOWAS Security Group and the need to strengthen the relationship with civil society organisations and the media organisation for a comprehensive media advocacy and campaign against Small Arms and Light Weapons and instructing people on taking proactive measure.
Keywords: Arms, Weapons, ECOWAS, Border, Proliferation, Human security.