Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms

Preparing both the Government and Craft weapon producing community for Firearm Registration in Kono District.


There  is  a burning desire  across  the  world for  peace and security.  The  truism  that  ‘Peace  and  Security are priceless’,   gives   credence   to the  relentless  efforts  international  corporate bodies and  state parties are  applying  to achieve  global   peace.

This  survey aims  at preparing  government’s  and  craft-weapon producers  to willingly   register  with  the  small  arms commission to obtain licence  to   manufacture  local guns. In the survey , it  tried to  capture  some of the problems  (obstacles)  that  prevent  the blacksmiths from registering willingly   and find  out the  solutions   needed  to  ensure  compliance.

The project  is  funded   by Small Arm  Survey  – an independent research  project at the  Graduate  Institute  of  International   and  Developmental   Studies in  Geneva,  Switzerland.  It  has  an  international  staff  and  works closely  with   a  worldwide  network of  researchers and  partners. 

The implementing partners  for  this   project are the Sierra  Leone  Action Network on  Small Arms (SLANSA)  and the Sierra Leone National  Commission  on  Small Arms (SLeNCSA) ,each with its  own  specific  mandate, which complements  the  other.

Founded in 2001, SLANSA  played  a leading  role in projects and campaigns related  to  human security  and development. As  a front liner in the  small Arms campaign,  SLANSA has  undertaken several   research  surveys in arm –related  studies:2012-13,Popularising the  Arms  and Ammunitions Act of  2012 in fourteen districts in  Sierra  Leone; 2013-14 National survey  on  armed  violence in Sierra Leone ,funded by Action on Armed Violence-UK , 2014,- A follow up survey  on the  Identification  of  Blacksmiths; 2017-18 – Training blacksmiths in  alternative  livelihood  Skills-funded by UNSCAR.

The  current  survey  is  being  conducted by a Network  Research  Consultancy-headed by the  lead consultant based in Freetown Sierra  Leone.

The  main  aim  of  the   survey  is  to  prepare  both  government (represented  by  the  Sierra Leone  National  Commission  on  Small Arms-SLeNCSA) and  the  craft producing  communities (Local  gunsmiths )  to  register  willingly and  obtain  licence for  the manufacture  of   their  local craft  weapons.

The specific  objectives   includes :  a)To  fully  explain  the  relevant portions  of the legal  instruments  to the  blacksmiths  which  provide  the  basis  of  registration  with  the  national  commission.  b)  Discuss  the  Obstacles  that  prevent  the  gunsmiths  from  registering  and  obtaining  licences    to  manufacture   local craft /weapons  and  to   find  ‘workable solutions’  to  ease  the  problem    and  c) To  examine  the  craft producers  readiness  to  register  their  workshops  and  obtain  licences  to  manufacture  their  craft  /weapons.

  Methodology :  The  survey   was   conducted   in     three  chiefdoms  including  Gbense, Kamara and Nimikoro) in  the  Kono  district, Eastern  Sierra Leone. The  population  sample   was  based  on  a  random  sampling  method    using  proportional  representation purposively . Fifteen  (15)respondents  were   selected  per  chiefdom  summing  to a  total  of  forty five (45) respondents in  all.

The  main  tools  used  were :  a) Focused  group  discussion  and  b)  “One   on  One” Semi  -structured interviews  with  key  informant  blacksmiths.

Fifteen Blacksmiths   participated  in the FGDs  which lasted for two hours  in each  chiefdom. Participants   were  asked  open-ended questions  based on  their   experiences and  knowledge  about the two  legal instrument on  Small Arms- AAA 2012 Arms  and  the  Arms and  Ammunitions Regulations  of 2014  and  their knowledge about  the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small arms  which  is the  legitimate authority to issue licences. What   problems   they encounter as  Blacksmiths that prevent them from registering  and  obtaining licence from the  commission   and  possible   solutions to  mitigate  those  problems.

The One –on-One  Semi   structured   interviews were conducted  with  five  key  informant potential  Gunsmiths  who  displayed   high  professional  knowledge  in the  Focus  group   discussions  in each chiefdom. The identities of   the   respondents    are anonymous . Each Semi -structured   interviews  lasted for  thirty  (30) minutes .

The   draft  survey   was presented in  an  appraisal  meeting  held  between  the  Small  Arms Survey representative  from  Geneva,  Switzerland  , the  SLeNCSA  representatives  and   SLANSA . Salient  issues  were  raised  and   additional     relevant      action  points were identified   which  have  been factored into  the report  as  part  of  findings and recommendations.

A  team comprising  SLANSA, SLeNCSA    and  the Consultant   went   to Kono   to validate the  draft report from the  28-31,  May,2019 in  the   three  pilot  chiefdoms  of  Nimikoro, Kamara   and  Gbense.

After   each presentation  to  the  blacksmiths and  traditional  leaders, the document was accepted by all.  In   the  follow  up discussions , additional  recommendations were made and  action points  proposed   for  the  short  ,  medium and  long  term goals.

Key  findings of  the survey included:

1.That  there are gunsmiths  in Nimikoro, Kamara and Gbense  chiefdoms – Kono district who are operating underground  without  recourse   to  our national laws. That is  why  they  cannot openly  admit  that  they are gunsmiths. This poses  a threat  to  public safety  and development .

2.The  gunsmiths   produce  local guns mainly  for commercial   reasons, some  would  use  local guns  to  protect  their  farms  and their personal  safety.

3.Some gunsmiths knew about the Arms  and  ammunitions Act of 2012and the  regulations  2014 through  SLANSA.

4.The   gunsmiths do not  know about the national  commission for  small arms and  their  mandate  of registering and issuing gun  licence to people . However, the blacksmiths  said they pay for and  obtain  Blacksmith  licence  from the  Koidu  city  council,  which does  not  grant  them  the  authority to produce  guns.

  • They expressed their  willingness to register  with the national  commission  but said they  are faced with   the following problems:
  •  Distance  from  Kono  to  Freetown  :-   The  blacksmiths  expressed   serious  concern over  the  financial   cost they would incur if  they travel to  Freetown  and  the  time it  will take  to  complete the  process.
  • Fear of   arrest ,  intimidation and harassment   especially  by the police.  They said  the police  has  been harassing them in   previous   engagements .
  • Lack of   money, they  are  poor  and  cannot   easily  raise  enough  money to  be able  to acquire  a  licence .
  •    Lack of  secured  gunsmith workshop  where the safety of  their  craft will be  guaranteed,   and
  •  Lack of   working tools  and  materials.  Their  tools  are   obsolete  and  materials(SCRAP) metals have  been exhausted  by   merchants  who buy  and export them  causing scarcity for  the blacksmiths.


1.That the government  of Sierra  Leone  empowers  the  small arms  commission to decentralize offices to Kono  and  all  other  provincial and district headquarter    towns. To this end , the commissioner   of the National  Commission on  Small Arms  said financial  constraints  are  deterrent  factors  at  the  moment  because  the commission will be  required  to employ the requisite staff, rent an office and  accommodation  and  furnish them   which   will  incur  huge  cost. The  commission  will at the  moment  do  mobile   registration and  issuance  of  licence by  district  which  has been  successfully  done  in  Koinadugu and  Kenema districts .He  said  he has submitted budget proposals  to the  ministry  of  finance for the establishment  of  offices  at provincial headquarter   to   towns. Any subsequent  licence issuing will  be  done  in  Kono district.

2. That SLANSA in collaboration with SLeNCSA  and  other  agencies  to urgently carry out  massive public awareness raising nationally on the  registration  and licensing  processes for  gunsmiths  and those who wish to buy guns .The  was  experimented  in  a radio discussion  program  by  the  Executive  director  of  SLANSA  and  the  Commissioner of  SLeNCSA. It was found  out  to  be a  very  effective  way of  reaching  out  to wider audience. To   replicate same   across the country will require a huge   financial   support. It is  requires  a  short  term action  plan   in  order  to  raise awareness  among  the  blacksmiths  and    people who may wish  to acquire and  licence guns.

3.That  SLeNCSA engages the  local  and  city  councils to  discuss   the licence issues   so  as  to  reduce  the disparity  especially, for the  gunsmiths  not   to   misconstrue   a  blacksmith  licence for that of gun production.

4.Where resources are available, the ministry of  internal  affairs supports  the small arms  commission  to construct centrally  located   and  secured gunsmith workshops  in the  chiefdoms for proper monitoring  of the gunsmiths activities by government  and  the commission. The  traditional   leaders  opinion   on this ties in with  the  SLeNCSA  Commissioner’s proposal  that  firstly , the  blacksmiths  register in  group and  form  cooperatives by  sections  in  each  chiefdom ,so  that  the Paramount Chiefs and  their  sub  chiefs   will  monitor  them(Blacksmiths)  closely   and report  to  the commission  on their activities.  The chiefdom  speaker  from  Gbense  therefore proposed two  things :a)that  only  the paramount chiefs  must recommend  blacksmiths   and  other persons wishing to possess licence  to  buy guns  from   the  commission and  b)  the blacksmiths must  register first with the  chiefdom  administrative  councils  before proceeding to  register  with the commission . This  will further  complicate the  process,  bearing in mind  the fact  that the blacksmiths had earlier  cited lack of  money as one  of the problems  preventing them from registering  with  the  commission .

5.Where feasible,  the  commission  to  allow heads of  gunsmith/black smiths  units  to register  as cooperatives  and  obtain licences  on  behalf  of  their  members  as an initial step   in  compliance with   the  AA act  and  regulations. This   will   reduce the financial  burden   on  them. It  will also  make  it  easier to monitor  them.

6.Providing alternative  livelihood  skill training support  for  the blacksmiths  that  will  persuade them   to  stop  manufacturing  craft /local shotguns . Majority  stated they  produce local guns to sell and  get money to  take  care of  their families, so  any activity that  will  bring  them sustainable source  of income  will  motivate them  to  stop producing  guns.

7.Setting up  of joint  monitoring  committee consisting of the paramount  chiefs  as  chairmen, SLeNCSA    focal  point,  representative  of  Blacksmith  cooperatives, Sierra  Leone  Police  and  the  ONS. The primary  objective of  this joint monitoring committee is to provide an  impartial  platform for vetting not only  the  blacksmiths  but persons who  wish  secure licence  to buy  and  possess  firearms. This outlined composition of  monitors is  provided for  in Part  four, paragraph 12of the  AA  Act  of  2012.

8.Dialogue ought  to  be  created between  SLeNCSA, the   exporters  of    scrap metals  and the  blacksmiths on the  sale  and  export of scrap metals   in an effort  to resolve the problem  of  availability of  material .

9.The Sierra Leone   National  Commission  on Small Arms  opens up dialogue  with the  city  /district councils across the country  to  clarify  difference(s)between the two  licences (Gunsmith  manufacture licence and  the ordinary blacksmiths licence.)This  will  counter any would –be discrepancy  that might  arise in their  legality  and  intended purposes. 

In  conclusion of the  survey,   a caution was  given  to those who  are  expected  to implement the survey recommendations  that  factual  information  collected   are  meant   to   provoke action so that positive results and  transformation can  take place. This study will  provide  a meaningful  reference guide for  both  the  national  commission  and  those  interested  small  arms  campaign in  Sierra Leone.

It  will also provide   a  study guide  or  reference material  for  research  students  on  future  small arms survey.

It  will also provide   a  study guide  or  reference material  for  research  students  on  future  small arms survey.

The Commissioner- SLeNCSA making a statement.
A Registered Firearm own by the Speaker of Kamara Chiefdom-Kono Disrict
Validation in Nimikoro Chiefdom- Kono District.
Validation in Gbense Chiefdom- Kono District

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