Amnesty Month aimed at promoting continental safety and peace

Niël Terblanché

Namibians will once again have the opportunity to surrender their illicit firearms without facing disclosure, humiliation, arrest, or prosecution.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety, and Security, Dr Albert Kawana, officially launched Amnesty Month in Windhoek yesterday and said the period marks the continuation of a crucial initiative that aims to address the proliferation of illicit firearms and promote peace, stability, and harmony in Africa.

An African Union (AU) initiative, Amnesty Month was initially declared in July 2017 to collect illegally owned firearms, ammunition, and related materials, with the goal of “Silencing the Guns in Africa” by 2020.

“However, recognizing the persistent challenges posed by unregistered firearms, the initiative’s duration was extended until 2030 during the 14th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns in December 2020,” Kawana said.

The minister stressed the importance of the flagship initiative within the AU’s Continental Agenda 2063, which seeks to end wars, conflicts, and gender-based violence, and prevent genocide in Africa.

“Amnesty Month offers individuals the opportunity to surrender their illicit weapons without facing disclosure, humiliation, arrest, or prosecution,” he said

The minister emphasized the alarming presence of an estimated 40 million small arms and light weapons in Africa. Out of these, approximately 20 million firearms remain unregistered, posing a significant threat to peace and security.

“The success of “Silencing the Guns” hinges on collective efforts to remove these weapons from unauthorized individuals,” he said.

Kawana called for political commitment and active engagement from all stakeholders, emphasizing the need to strengthen institutions and provide them with the necessary resources to effectively carry out their mandates.

He appealed to all residents, regardless of their residence status, to surrender unlicensed firearms, armaments, or ammunition held illegally.

“Those who comply during the Amnesty Month of September 2023 will be exempt from prosecution,” he stressed.

The minister warned that after the amnesty period ends on September 30, 2023, the Namibian Police will take stringent action against those found in possession of unlicensed firearms, ammunition, or armaments. Penalties will include prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment.

He indicated that during last year’s Amnesty Month, 1 312 firearms and 2 710 bullets were voluntarily surrendered across Namibia.

In this regard, Kawana expressed gratitude to the public for their commitment. He also commended the Namibian Police Force for their unwavering dedication to achieving positive results.

The Deputy Inspector-General for Administration of the Namibian Police Force, Major General Anne-Marie Nainda, shared critical crime statistics regarding licensed and unlicensed firearms and ammunition in Namibia.

She revealed that from January 2021 to July 2023, there were 109 murder cases, 322 attempted murder cases, and 1 017 cases of armed robbery cases registered.

In the same period, the police recorded 66 cases of pointing firearms at individuals and 101 suicide cases involving firearms.

Nainda emphasized the urgent need to intensify the “Silencing of Guns in Africa” campaign, as these crimes have detrimental social and economic impacts on Namibia. She called upon all citizens to voluntarily surrender their unlicensed firearms and ammunition to support the police in their efforts to combat criminal activities.

She expressed disappointment with licensed firearm owners who fail to secure their weapons properly. She encouraged licensed gun owners to report any negligent behaviour to the Namibian Police Force in order to contribute to a safer society.

Nainda went on to highlight the importance of firearm owners familiarizing themselves with Namibia’s laws and regulations regarding firearm storage.

“Compliance with these laws not only fulfils legal obligations but also safeguards communities from potential misuse,” she said.

The general assured the public that the police force stands ready to accept unlicensed arms, ammunition, and related materials without prejudice during the amnesty period.

She called on all citizens to actively participate in the initiative that would contribute to a safer and more responsible Namibian society.

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