A national survey of local gun manufacturers carried out by the Network Research Consulting Services on behalf of the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA) has captured a total of 138 unlicensed local gun manufacturers with only 4 claiming they operate on blacksmith licenses obtained from district local councils representing 2.9% of the 138.

Findings of the research document were presented to stakeholders during the validation of the National Survey of Local Gun Manufacturers Report which was fully funded by the Government of Sierra Leone through SLeNCSA. The event was organized on Wednesday 31st August 2022 at the YMCA Conference Hall on 32 Fort Street in Freetown.

The research aims to address the issue of local gun manufacturers with the main aim to produce a wide-ranging register including the bio-data of gun manufacturers in the country

In his statement, during the validation events, newly appointed Commissioner (Rtd) Binneh K. Conteh (OOR) said the issue of gun manufacturing has a wider dimension in the context of global and human security.

He said the problem of Small Arms has been a topical phenomenon in the world, adding that guns have been the most prevalent instruments used in the destruction and devastation of human lives and property. “It is estimated that one billion small arms and six billion units of ammunitions are in circulation in the world presently, meaning that there are sufficient arms and ammunition to kill everyone on the earth surface as reported by Small Arms Survey, 2017,” commissioner Binneh said.

Speaking on the findings of the survey, the SLeCSA boss said the survey captured a total combined number of about 377 local gun manufacturers and repairers across Sierra Leone, further explaining that out of the 377 respondents, 138 are gun manufacturers while the remaining 239 are repairers.

He added that out of the 239 repairers, only one (1) is a female resident in the Port Loko District.

He said the highest number of local gun manufacturers was recorded in the Northern Region (68) accounting for 49%, followed by the Eastern and North-Western regions with 23% and 14% respectively.

At the district level, Commissioner Binneh said Falaba, Kono, and Tonkolili Districts recorded the highest number of gun manufacturers with 31, 21, and 20 % respectively, adding that the lowest numbers of gun manufacturers were recorded in the Kambia district and the Western Area with 1 and 2 gun manufacturers respectively.

He informed the gathering that the Survey discloses that almost all the gun manufacturers identified were involved in producing other products such as agricultural tools, household items, motor spare parts, and the like for economic reasons.

He said 41 (29.70%) of blacksmiths (gun manufacturers) are aware of the operations of the commission, while 67 (48.6 %) are aware of the Arms and Ammunition Act of 2012.

Another important revelation of the survey is that about 94% of local gun manufacturers representing 130 respondents are willing to abandon gun production for another economically viable alternative livelihood, with only about 8 manufacturers (6 %) determined to continue with the trade.

It was also observed that the majority of the local gun manufacturers are physically challenged and do not have the ability for free and unhindered movement, thus their only sustainable hope of livelihood, for now, is the gun manufacturing trade.

The SLeNCSA Commissioner said some of the specific objectives of the survey include producing a comprehensive register of local gun manufacturers in Sierra Leone, collecting reliable information data on gun repairers, educating the respondents and other community members on the dangers of carrying unlicensed firearms, the roles and responsibilities of the National Commission on Small Arms and to encourage them to register and obtain manufacturers and sales licenses from the Commission for legal production.

The Commissioner explained that the research made use of multiple survey tools including survey questionnaires and Focused Group Discussions (FGDs). Observation and photographing were also additional survey tools used for data collection. Overall, he said one thousand five hundred questionnaires (1,500) were prepared for the survey.

He informed the gathering that 1,440 questionnaires were administered across the one hundred and ninety-two (192) chiefdoms and in the Western Urban and Rural regions in Sierra Leone, with each district apportioned an equal share of questionnaires.

“The questionnaire was principally used to capture quantitative data including the actual number of gun manufacturers in Sierra Leone and their gender distribution of the gun manufacturers by region and district,” he said.

Jens Krauf-Masse, German Ambassador to Sierra Leone said that day marks an important step in the fight against organized crime and the legal flow of small arms and ammunition. He opined that the national survey on local gun manufacturers permits SLeNCSA for the first time to obtain a comprehensive view of the national production of small arms and by that effectively combat illegal trade in small arms.

He said as more lives are lost worldwide from non-conflict firearm events, than do during ongoing wars, Germany continues its long-standing support to ECOWAS and member states to advance peace, development, and stability in the region and to fight illegal flows and organized crime. “We are grateful to the EU for joining us in this effort”.

He mentioned that Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms is often referred to as a success story when it comes to post-conflict reconstruction and development through improved policies and reducing the spread of small arms and light weapons.

Representative of the Civil Society Group and Coordinator of Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA), Madam Adenike Cole, praises SLANSA congratulated Commissioner Conteh for such a bold step taken, and described him for such a bold step taken, noting that blacksmith is a hereditary profession wherein all of them have the tendency to produce guns.

She urged the Commission to make the document a workable one, rather than keeping them on their shelf. “LANSA continues to avail herself as always to ensure that is derived in terms of fostering peace and security in a bid to promote human security”.

Dr. Manso Mansaray, Director, Planning an Inter-Agency Relations (PIAR) on behalf of the Office of the National Security (ONS), said the growing trends in the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in contemporary times constitute sustained threats nationally and internationally.

“To this end, the ONS instituted and coordinated a Technical Working Group (TWG) to review the Explosive Ordinance of 1955 but also other related laws to reflect contemporary times relating to regulation and safe management of guns.

“As part of its institutional mandate, ONS does undertake vetting of applicants for Small Arms License. Currently, the database of the Vetting and Protective Security Directorate (VPS) indicates that background checks were conducted on thirty-one (31) applicants for small arms licenses in favor of the Sierra Leone Commission on Small (SLeNSA). All of these fine developments point to the strong synergy between the ONS and SLeNCA and by extension the security sector institutions”.

The validation meeting was officially opened by Hon. Sahr E Juana Chairman Defence Committee in Parliament applauded both the former and late commissioner and commissioner Conteh for the work of the commission.

He said the survey is a thorough document that captures almost all necessary information on small arms and their local manufacturers.

The meeting was climaxed by an overview of the work by the lead consultant Mr. Andrew Coomber, Wilfred Samuel Taylor, Programme Officer, SLeNCSA, and Commissioner Conteh of SLeNCSA with other speakers’ earlier making statements on the validation of the national survey on local gun manufacturer report.