Malawi govt, civil society strategise on action plan to curb the proliferation of firearms

malawi_aaron_sangalaMalawi is suffering from persistent attacks of gun violence involving small arms from neighbouring countries and within, Minister of Internal Affairs, Aaron Sangala (pictured) says there is need to put in place a National Policy and a National Action Plan to curb the proliferation of firearms.

Sangala said the policy will guide decision making in the way the government would like to tackle issues of small arms and light weapons.

I am aware that the Drafting of the Firearms Bill has started with the collection of desk data and that the Policy will primarily inform and guide the development of this Act, said Internal Affairs Minister.

The government in partnership with civil society organisations (CSOs) has been operating without a clearly articulated policy to guide action since the country attained independence in 1964.

The Minister said at the consultative workshop hosted by the National Focal Point (NFP) on Small Arms that issues of safety and security cannot remain the domain of the government alone.

Firearms issued to security services have sometimes been used in armed attacks.

The workshop held at Lilongwe Hotel in Lilongwe on 14th August, 2009 brought together approximately 50 participants from government departments, ministries, Police, National Assembly, civil society, traditional leaders, and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

It was convened to get stakeholders input into the drafted Policy for the Control of Firearms and Other Related Materials in Malawi.

The National Focal Point (NFP) had been working without having direction. It is envisaged that the policy will help in reviewing the Firearms Act of 1964, which is now outdated; as well as addressing issues such as monitoring of the influx of firearms across our porous borders, misuse of firearms by security officers and monitoring of such.

Following presentations on the background of the NFP in Malawi and overview of the Draft Policy on Firearms, participants discussed the draft policy at length; gaps were noted and recommendations made.

During the discussions, it was revealed that existing violent crime in Malawi is associated to illegal possession of firearms where licenses are issued but no effort is made to monitor abuse.

If the firearm license holder dies, for example, the law says the firearm should be handed over to the Police. But theres very little compliance with this law and nothing is done to check this.

The need for better monitoring of the influx of firearms at borders was discussed. In addition, it was observed that Malawis borders are so porous, its virtually impossible to monitor every firearm being brought into the country.

The workshop also noted that Malawi police is significantly under resourced, lacks training and specialized capacity such as firearms ballistic and forensic units to effectively combat the perpetrators.

It was also agreed that the vetting of police officers needs to be taken into account in the Policy to ensure that criminals are not brought into the system.

The conference recommended that theres need for firearms inspection and audits to be carried out.

Delegates also recommended that donor assistance should integrate crime prevention and small arms control into a wider development projects.

The conference resolved that the policy on firearms needs to clearly define what Small Arms are and what Light Weapons are and also commission a research on the sentencing and rehabilitation of offenders involved in possession or use of firearms.

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