THE African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council has declared September as the month for the public in all African countries to surrender all illegal weapons to their respective governments as part of measures to reduce criminal activities on the continent.
The AU Peace and Security Council chairperson Susan Sikaneta announced the declaration at a recent meeting held in Maseru with government leaders and other stakeholders. The meeting discussed several issues among them, the political and security situation in Lesotho.
Ms Sikaneta met Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, security agency bosses and heads of foreign missions based in the country including the European Union (EU) where they agreed on several issues that need to be addressed and implemented to restore stability in the country.
Ms Sikaneta said they talked about the ‘silencing of guns’, a flagship programme for the AU which aims at getting rid of all weapons, especially illegal guns in many African countries.
“We need to get rid of the illegal weapons because they are being used to kill and to destroy property,” Ms Sikaneta said.
“Africa does not need these illegal weapons. So, September has been declared as a month for surrendering these guns and everybody is requested to do that. Surrender guns to the governments who know how best to get rid of them.”
She said the project is expected to clear out all illegal weapons by 2020.
Ironically, the declaration was made on the same day when two men were shot dead by three unknown male assailants at Naleli Bus Stop in Maseru.
According to police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli the deceased were in a grey Honda Fit when they were shot dead by three men who fled after the shooting.
Supt Mopeli said the suspects are still on the run and the police are still investigating the shooting.
Asked how the police are going to ensure that illegal weapons are surrendered to the authorities, Supt Mopeli called on the public to hand over weapons to the nearest police stations.
“We are calling on the public to surrender all illegal weapons to the nearest police stations and we urge members of the public who might have information about people keeping such weapons report to the police.”
Supt Mopeli said they would also embark on police operations such as ‘stop and search’ where they hold roadblocks to search for weapons in vehicles and on passengers.
“We will again work on police raids in the villages where we will be searching for those illegal weapons in various households,” Supt Mopeli said.
He said the police is committed to ensuring that illegal weapons are cleared from the public to reduce the country’s high crime rate fueled by weapons that are in the wrong hands.
He hailed the initiative and said they would work to ensure progress as the expectation is that by 2020 they would have completely silenced the guns on the African continent.
Supt Mopeli blamed the increase in the number of illegal guns among the civilians on the continued smuggling of drugs between South Africa and Lesotho. He also said the increase of locals working in illegal mines in the neighbouring country is also to blame for the rise of illegal firearms in the country.