Despite advances in the policy and control of small arms and light weapons in West Africa, they still pose a very real threat to the stability and development of the sub‐region. While the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials entered into force in 2009 (and was ratified by Ghana a year later) the flow and use of SALW in West Africa is still widespread.
There are an estimated eight million small arms in circulation throughout West Africa, exacerbating conflicts and limiting development. Small arms are used in everything from armed robberies and ethnic and tribal feuds to armed insurrections, rebel activities and terrorism. SALW have played a central and destabilising role in conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and most recently Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. Research by Oxfam International, IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms) and Saferworld puts the cost of conflicts in limiting Africa development between 1995 and 2005 at approximately $300 billion.