By Victoria Ojeme
The Economic Community of West African States has called for greater action against arms proliferation in West Africa.
This was contained in a report of the study of gender mainstreaming in the peace and security architecture of ECOWAS (Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Component) presented at a workshop in Abuja on Friday.
The report blamed electoral violence in Nigeria and other West African countries to illegal arms manufacturers whose work contributes to the illegal possession and circulation of weapons in civilian hands.
The study noted that intra-state conflict, electoral and political violence, terrorism and drug trafficking posed a grave threat to political stability in West African countries.
It pointed out that national and international instruments adopted in small arms were not well known by the security forces, especially civilians.
It further observed that banditry in towns and villages is increasingly rampant, thus creating a sense of insecurity among the population and justifying the use of weapons by certain communities for self-defence.
The ECOWAS report also blamed non-application of the Arms Trade Treaty, lack of programme on small and light weapons, porous borders and increased and uncontrolled arms trafficking for the illegal proliferation of small and light weapons in West Africa.
It said, “The proliferation and use of small arms has varying impact on men, women, boys and girls. While men and boys constitute the majority of users of small arms, women and girls are the victims, particularly during armed conflicts.
“United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/Res/65/69 on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control emphasizes that the involvement of men and women on the basis of equality and equity is crucial for lasting peace and security.”
To address the identified challenges, the report recommended raising of awareness on the harmful effect of the abusive use of small and light weapons and the need for gender mainstreaming in all projects and programmes, among other things.
“The uncontrolled proliferation of weapons particularly light weapons has extensive tragic consequences on the female gender, consequently, with the growing concerns across the countries of the sub-region, the armed forces cannot be left to tackle the phenomenon alone,” it added.