Monrovia Liberia â€” As part of preparations for the physical collection of small arms and light weapons within selected communities in the country, the National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has conducted a three-day refresher training for state security forces in Liberia.
Under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU) Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) project, the three -day event held from June 15-17, was aimed at further sharpening acquired skills of State Security personnel on the security of arms and Ammunitions Stockpile and Storage Facilities Management, Firearms Marking and Destruction.
It also provided an opportunity for the simulation of the collection, recording and destruction of arms in an attempt to establish minimum operational modalities for the impending community arms collection and destruction exercise.
Held at the Regional Justice and Security Hub in Gbarnga, Bong County, the training brought together officials of the Bong County local government authority and over twenty participants from relevant security institutions as well as officials of LiNCSA and UNDP.
During the opening ceremony, the Administrative Assistant to the Gbarnga City Mayor Alex Mulbah acknowledged the work of LiNCSA in the country, stating that the refresher was critical especially in the wake of the ongoing draw-down of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Mr. Mulbah said with the draw dawn of UNMIL, the need for a more robust and strategic collaboration between state security forces and communities should not be overlooked.
“There is also a need to enhance the capacities of our security and introduce additional sustainable programmes in the security sector that will help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of security forces.
Mr. Mulbah also stressed the need to build the trust of the people and alleviate fears amongst the citizens about whether or not the government and the national security forces are fully prepared to handle the security of the state after UNMIL leaves.
He emphasized the need for what he called, “a robust approach for border management, giving the fact that Liberia’s borders are very porous.
“It is important that National government prioritize strengthening the capacity of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to properly man the border” Mr. Mulbah intimated.
The long-term objective of the refresher training is to also ensure the transition towards the full autonomy of Liberian security forces in the management of collection operations as UNMIL draws down.
For his part, the Coordinator of LiNCSA, Josiah F. Joekai, Jr. said LiNCSA, under the ECOWAS-EU project has a significant role of ensuring that the issue of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is adequately addressed in Liberia.
According to Mr. Joekai, some citizens have expressed fear of reprisals from state security forces when they turnover weapons during the upcoming arms collection exercise.
In response to this concern, Mr. Joekai said the Commission is working with the Ministry of Justice in ensuring that a waiver is secured before the actual collection process begins.
“LiNCSA takes the waiver issue very seriously as it has been observed to be a major concern of the citizens in all of the communities we are working in,” Mr. Joekai said.
One of the participants responding on behalf of his colleagues pledged the full support and cooperation of the team of security agencies collaborating with LiNCSA and the project.
Divine Shammah encouraged his fellow participants to take the training and all other aspects of the project that require security involvement seriously to ensure that the project achieves its objectives.
For his part, Mr. Lacina Barro UNDP Project Coordinator of the ECOWAS-EU SALW Collection Project emphasized the need for strong collaboration amongst security and the communities.
He added that the arms collection component of the project is very important because it will determine the success of the programme.