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Sierra Leone News: Salone’s porous borders poses arms smuggling challenges

The country has long and porous borders and it is unrealistic to expect its border management agencies whether alone or in cooperation with their counterparts in bordering states to be able to always prevent conventional arms from being smuggled into or out of the country. This is according to the recently launched national assessment report on Sierra Leone’s status on Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA). This is especially the case with movements of small numbers of small arms (the ant trade). However, there are steps that can be taken to better manage transfers of military items, especially commercial transfers – which are a significant focus of the ATT through formal border crossing points. Additionally, the report states that it is also not realistic to expect experts in identifying conventional arms to be available at all of the country’s border-crossing points. It was therefore recommended that no imports or exports of conventional arms be permitted into or out of Sierra Leone except through explicitly designated locations. It went further to add, limiting those named ports of Lungi International Airport (LIA), Freetown Sea Port and the official land-border crossings at Gendema and Pamlap, although with the proviso that exemptions could be made to that restriction at the discretion of the Commissioner General of the National revenue Authority (NRA) on a case-by-case basis. Where arms are discovered at any other border point, it was stated that they could then be held until an appropriate expert is able to determine either remotely through the use of photographs and documentation or where necessary, through physical inspection at the crossing point, as this standard practice worldwide. This does, however raise the issue of secure-storage facilities at border crossings, which should be the subject of the review by the Commissioner-General of the NRA. For military items exported from, imprinted to, or in transit through Sierra Leone, Customs and other enforcement agencies should ensure they have all required powers and full access. If this is not the case, the report urged that it should be subject to immediate review. The facilities and procedures at LIA, it noted, may not be adequate to safely handle or store commercial shipments of conventional arms. A joint review by both airport authorities, Police and NRA is said to be required. Increased cargo handling capacity at LIA could result in increased revenue for the airport and the State. Another approach to securing arms shipments would be to transport them as soon as possible from the border to secure storage areas, for example the national arsenal or nearest suitable army base. Procedures should therefore be established and communicated to all border crossing points for how to expedite such arrangements.

ZJ/27/11/18

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday November 28, 2018.

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