Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)

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.

SALW in Ghana

Of the estimated 220,000 small arms in civilian hands in Ghana more than half of these are unregistered, illicit weapons. Locally manufactured weapons constitute the primary source of illicit small arms in Ghana; there are an estimated 75,000 illegal ‘craft’ guns now circulating in Ghana. Despite the fact that arms manufacturing in Ghana is illegal there is a thriving industry operating underground. These small arms are trafficked across borders, not only towards Ghana’s neighbouring states but also to fuel the country’s own chieftancy disputes and to equip its armed robbers.

Around 80% of the weapons seized by the police and the Ghanaian security forces are locally manufactured. According to a governance campaigner for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Industrial weapons are getting harder and harder to get in Ghana because of the restrictions on the international arms trade and the local guns are filling the gap. They may look heavy and crude but they are no less dangerous.” It is estimated that up to one‐third of the 400 murders in Ghana every year are committed with a craft gun.

Conflict in Ghana

Ghana is seen as a beacon of stability within West Africa. However, it suffers from a variety of prolonged community level conflicts. According to national security sources there are an estimated two hundred plus major chieftaincy disputes across Ghana. These disputes have escalated into full scale conflict in the past, exacerbated by the prevalence of small arms and light weapons.

There are many factors contributing to community‐level conflicts in Ghana, not all are connected purely to chieftaincy disputes. Ghana has also seen conflicts arise over land and resources, religion and at the time of elections. The most high profile conflict in recent years occurred in 2002, in Yendi Northern Ghana, when tensions between the Abudu and Andani clans over the succession of the Paramount Chief resulted in the gruesome assassination of long serving King Ya Na Yakubu Andani and the deaths of 40 other people. Other high conflict profile hotspots include Bawku in the Upper East region, close to the border with Burkina Faso, where there has been ongoing tension between the Mamprusi and Kusasi tribal groups.
The causes of conflict in Ghana are rooted in the low level of economic and social development in some areas; weak governance at the District level and ethnic and religious intolerance.

Implications of a Lack of Peace and Security in Ghana

Conflict weakens the political authority of Government and the national economy.

Populations are displaced by conflict; within Ghana this has contributed to the ‘kayaye’ phenomenon where young people flee their communities for urban centres.

Youth are easily mobilised by conflict actors for violence; education and youth employment opportunities are negatively impacted during times of instability.

Women tend to bear the greatest impacts in conflict and post conflict situations: they are forced to flee their homes for safety; household responsibilities (monetary and emotional) are even greater when male household members are absent; they are vulnerable to acts of violence. Conflict further halts progress to gender equality.