THE three Northern Regions and the Ashanti Region have been identified as the hub for the haulage of large cache of illegal weapons in the country with the Ashanti region serving as a major user and transit point across the country and beyond, a baseline study on the proliferation of small arms in the country has revealed.
The study further revealed that while analysis of the distribution of ownership of these arms with respect to age was more concentrated in ages above 35 years, the Ashanti region recorded the highest number of young persons (less than 24 years) who own small arms followed by the Brong Ahafo Region.
A possible interpretation given to the high concentration of small arms in the hands of young people in the Ashanti region was that there are a growing number of young criminals, which could pose a serious and sustainable threat to the security in the region.
Another possibility was that there are emerging young entrepreneurs in the region whose economic stake vis-à-vis the growing crime rate in that region is driving them to acquire arms for self-protection.
How arms are trafficked into and across the country
The report revealed that metal workers, locally referred to as wielders, are the experts in creating concealed compartments on vehicles for transporting illicit arms, drugs and laundered cash across the country.
In northern Ghana, for instance, the study found that such haulage trucks often loaded with lumber and other goods cross into Burkina Faso and offload their cargo, including arms.
“The trafficked goods are then loaded underneath other trucks coming into Ghana, mostly with tomatoes. On entering Ghana, the tomato-laden trucks finally offload the arms at their final destination, mostly in conflict areas in the north,” the report stated.
The study further revealed that there was a strong perception of official complicity in the illegal arms trade, which runs in the league of other trafficking methods, such as, shipping with fake documents, activities of unlicensed manufacturers and concealment in vehicles.
Women: conduit for illicit arms
The study also said in conflict areas, women are the ones who hide weapons that are used during conflicts and also the conduit for ammunition through the use of a local container with a lock used by market women to store and circulate their wares.
Fear of small arm-related crime
The study further noted that although the issue of the impact of small arms availability and misuse is rarely discussed, the majority of respondents say they had experienced small arms-related crime.
As many as 73.2 percent of the respondents in the study said they had occasionally experienced small arms-related crime. “Occasionally, in this context, means the frequency of the crime experience is once every three months,” the report stressed.
Again, 62 percent of respondents said the fear of being attacked affected their movement.
The study suggested, among others things, a strict enforcement of the existing laws on arms and ammunition control as a step to nip the proliferation of the small arms menace in the bud.
By Daniel NONOR