Residents of the Western Area have started questioning the status of weapons collected by Sierra Leone Police (SLP) under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored Arms for Development Programme.
The recent spate of armed robbery in parts of Freetown has left many with the impression that the arms collected under the scheme have found their ways into wrong hands.
Andrew Bannie, the Director of the Arms Control Programme of the SLP, informed that at the close of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme in 2002, the SLP observed that there were still arms within the different communities.
He said with funds provided by the , they decided the undertake a programme called Arms for Development, in which localities declared as arms free were accorded a substantial development package.
He said during the exercise, people within the various communities cooperated by willingly surrendering their arms and ammunition to the programme in exchange for development.
Mr. Andrew Bannie described the programme as successful, mentioning that a total 45,000 ex-combatants surrendered their weapons, and 9,600
assorted fire arms also collected within the 149 chiefdoms across the country.
He pointed out that the programme stated in 2003 and lasted for five years, noting that Freetown was not targeted.
Not withstanding that however, he debunked claims that the weapons collected have gone to the wrong hands, thereby accounting for the spate of armed robberies around town.
According to him, all the weapons collected are in the safe hands of the SLP, and that they are just awaiting further instructions as to what should be done with them.
"All the arms that were collected are under lock and key inside sealed containers at police stations around the country", he maintained.
He ended by calling on UNDP to replicate the exercise in Freetown, noting that such a move will be of great help not only for the people, but the SLP as well.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.