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History Of Locally Manufactured Weapons In Ghana History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Ghana has had a long history of gun manufacture. Gun manufacture dates back several hundred years, when iron working was first introduced. In pre-colonial and colonial Ghanaian society, guns were used in a variety of different contexts, but were most often deployed in the slave trade.. While blacksmiths and locksmiths have been at work for thousands of years since working iron was discovered in Ghana, it was only in the early twentieth century that the capacity of gunsmiths to manufacture guns became a problem for the authorities. This was when such guns could be used to oppose colonialism and the expansion of British influence into the hinterland of Ghana. Legislation was then passed to criminalize, gun manufacture. [1] According to Kwasi Anning, among the several Ghanaian ethnic groups that were involved in the slave raiding expeditions, guns are a symbol of a “glorious” past now colourfully recreated during festivals. In some of the 10 regions of Ghana, gun manufacturing has been in existence over several years.

In the Volta Region, gun manufacture is deeply embedded in the colonial history of the region. Oral tradition suggests that the region’s first gun manufacturer, a man called Asamoah learned his trade from working with Europeans and studying in India. Some even claim that Asamoah knew how to make guns even before the arrival of Europeans. [2] In the Central Region, Agona Asafo, a town considered as one of the oldest towns in the Central Region boasts of two workshops of between two or three gunsmiths and apprentices each. A number have been in business for more than a century, and their primary clients have been Asafo (warrior) companies who deploy weapons for musketry displays during the annual ‘akwanbo’ (literally, ‘clearing the path’) festival. [3] 

The history of Ghana’s ethnic groups could be an indication of gun manufacture and proliferation of small arms. Not much is known about the types of weapons which were used by the Ashantis in their wars. After gun manufacture was criminalized by the Europeans, gunsmiths have gone underground for fear of arrest and prosecution. However the illegality of gun manufacture has rather made it difficult for locally manufactures weapons to be traced and properly monitored. Efforts could therefore be made by government to identify and legally register the local gunsmiths in order to be able to monitor their activities and encourage them to serialize their products for easy tracing.


Local production of small arms offers a good explanation to the proliferation of illicit SALW in Ghana. The dominant locally manufactured weapons are pistols, shotguns and single-barrel guns. Each of the 10 regions in Ghana houses gun-manufacturing workshops [4] .

In the Volta Region, Kpando, Tafi Atome and Ho are towns known to maintain significant levels of gun manufacture. Decades of conflict between the people of Alavanyo and Nkonya has contributed immensely to the gun making skills in the region. In places like Alavanyo and Nkonya, children start to learn the art of gun making at an early age. They begin by making toy guns for Christmas and by the time they are young men it is second nature to them [5] . Due to the skills acquired from years of practice, gunsmiths in the Volta Region now produce pistols known as ‘Klosasa’ or ‘Tukpui’ and single barrel weapons known as ‘Apirim’. Also manufactured in the Volta Region are pump-action short guns and traditional Dane guns known as ‘Gadoe’ and ‘Nueze’ respectively. A lot of weapons manufactured in the Region are as good as the imported to the extent that it is difficult to distinguish between the locally manufactured weapons from the imported ones. These weapons cost between US$15 to US$120. [6] 

The low cost of weapons in the region makes it easy for people to purchase such weapons for all manner of crime in the region and other parts of the country. If weapon manufacturers are identified and registered, the government could control the prices of these weapons by imposing heavy taxes on them in order to prevent easy access by criminals.

In the Central Region, Agona Asafo has two workshops of between two or three gunsmiths and apprentices each. Manufacturers here retain no organizational structure owing to the belief that it could spell disaster if one of its members were to be arrested [7] . Because small arms manufacture is more or less a family undertaking, expertise is usually passed on from father to son. Owing to increasing police pressure, artisans normally purchase weapon parts from out of town in order to avoid detection [8] . According to a police report from the Central region, weapons manufactured in Agona Asafo differ from imports only in the appearance of the trigger and the lack of distinctive marks. Both stocks and barrels are highly polished and smooth. [9] 

In the Northern Region, the people of Tamale are known for their blacksmithing skills, including the manufacture of tin drums and agricultural implements. Local artisans can also produce pistols and convert discarded steel pipes into lethal weapons. The name of one of Tamale’s suburbs, Sabunjida-Machelene, literally means ‘a colony of blacksmiths in Sabunjida’ A craft gun costs between USD 100 and 200 and can be produced within three days. Tamale gunsmiths have found ready markets for craft weapons following civil disturbance in several districts in the North, especially in and around Yendi. In the Kumbungu area, in the central part of the Northern region, demand for guns is driven by Dagomba warriors whose profession, identity, and manhood rest upon gun ownership. Warriors and blacksmiths have thus developed a symbiotic relationship and recognize the importance of each other’s skills to ensure the collective survival of the clan. [10] 

In the Ashanti Region, the Suame-Magazine area of Kumasi is probably one of the most established gun-manufacturing centres in Ghana. This is largely owing to the presence of numerous mechanical workshops specializing in different products. This large manufacturing capacity has resulted in larger numbers of highly skilled craftsmen, which has in turn facilitated the proliferation of manufacturers producing high-quality weapons. Suame-Magazine and Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, are host to a large group of manufacturers organized under the rubric of the Ashanti Region Association of Blacksmiths (ARAB). Because raw materials are cheap and the retail price high, gun manufacture is profitable. Depending on demand, each manufacturer may produce more than a hundred weapons a year-mainly rifles and single-barrel guns are produced. [11] The manufacture of a pistol or a pump-action gun does not take place at a single workshop. Rather, different artisans produce and deliver parts to a central assembling point. Several reasons are behind this. First, subcontracting the manufacture of different parts to specialized artisans enhances the quality and increases the quality of products. Second, subcontracting individual parts ensures the financial survival of manufacturers. Also, because some gun parts are not identifiable they can be passed off as something else. [12] Furthermore the Brong Ahafo Region houses some 2,500 manufacturers with the capacity to produce small arms [13] In Techiman, customers include both international traders and local users.

Efforts could be made to give formal recognition to ARAB to be able to identify and properly register their members who are engaged in small arms manufacture. This will not only make it easier to control their activities but also assist the police to trace the people who have purchased weapons from them for criminal purposes. Again efforts could be made to strengthen the snap road blocks on the highway from Techiman through the North to Burkina Faso in order to arrest criminals who trade in small arms between Ghana and other countries.

Kasoa in the Central Accra Region is a well-known and technologically advanced gun manufacturing and trading centre. According to officials, a workshop raided by the police had developed the capability to produce an imitation AK-47 as well as revolvers that could hold up to eight bullets each. Proximity to the capital has facilitated technological developments in two ways: first, Accra’s strong industrial base makes possible the transfer of widely available technological skills. Second, in the capital there is a strong demand from land guards, macho-men, vigilante groups, and customers from Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. [14] 

It is evident that, land litigation and its associated land guards have a direct correlation with the state of illegal proliferation of weapons in Kasoa. Therefore tackling the problem of land ownership and litigation could reduce the demand for weapons. This could significantly reduce local manufacture of weapons in the Kasoa area.

Gun production in the Eastern region is limited, and tends to occur in small villages and towns. Manufacturers primarily specialize in the repair and servicing of guns. Most gunsmiths appear to produce the bulk of their weapons for farmers and hunters in the forest regions, or for purchasers who want their guns specially engraved. This uniformity of demand encourages better collaboration and support among manufacturers. Middlemen smuggle locally manufactured weapons to sell in larger towns such as Nsawam. In addition to local clientele, long-distance drivers heading to Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger also stop over in Nsawam to purchase weapons. [15] 

Takoradi has become geographically critical to the exportation of weapons to other West African states. Due to the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire demand for weapons is high in that country. Consequently locally manufactured weapons, smuggled to Cote d’Ivoire through Takoradi. Some gunsmiths in the Western Region have claimed that they have been invited to demonstrate their skills and train Ivoirians to make their own weapons. [16] Middlemen from Takoradi also facilitate the purchase of guns by foreigners residing in Ghana. Although gun manufacture remains profitable, serious seasonal price fluctuations occur depending on demand and security situation in the Western Region and in the wider West African sub-region. As of September 2004, prices fluctuated around USD 10 for a pistol, USD 135 for a double-barrel gun, and USD 100 for a rifle. [17] 

Ghana’s oil find off the coast of the Western Region is likely to attract a lot of criminal activities in the Region. There is therefore the need to improve on security in the Region to prevent weapon manufacture in the region in order to prevent more proliferation of small arms in the Region.

In the Upper East and Upper West Regions, gun violence appears to be on the increase especially due to the recent Bawku crisis. Also, armed robbers and cattle rustlers armed with AK-47s have forced herders and communities to arm themselves. Fulani herdsmen, who criss-cross the West African sub-region searching for cattle pasture, are also well armed owing to struggles with locals over access to grazing lands and watering holes. Bolgatanga and Bawku are among the principal gun-trading centers in the North of the country. [18] The recent Bawku crisis has to a large extent contributed to the booming trade of small arms manufacture. Often times it has been reported that the belligerents use sophisticated assault riffles which make it difficult for the security agencies to deal with the situation. While there is a strong suspicion that some politicians supply such weapons to their supporters, there is a high possibility that such weapons are locally manufactured. There is therefore the need for the security agencies to diligently trace the origins of weapons found in the conflict areas, in order to be able to tackle the problems associated with small arms in the conflict areas.


This portion of the study deals with the effects of small arms and light weapons in general on the socio – economic development of Ghana. The study goes beyond locally manufactured arms, in order to portray the devastating effects small arms in general could have on Ghana.

While the basic humanitarian suffering resulting from the use of small arms might be evident, the underlying damage to a society caused by these guns is often less clear. Beyond being used to kill more than 300,000 people a year in conflicts around the globe, usually in the world’s poorest countries, small arms are often the primary instruments that can set back the development process for years or sometimes decades. These illicit weapons often affect whether people can live in their own homes and communities, whether they can earn a livelihood and whether they will enjoy any legal rights or protection. [19] The abundance of small arms in Ghana constitutes a major threat to the country’s political stability. Small arms fuel internecine conflicts in various parts of Ghana, particularly in Bawku and Yendi in the Upper East and Northern Regions. The proliferation of small arms in Ghana is also bound to significantly change the character of conflict in homes, workplaces and communities, making conflict resolution altogether difficult. [20] Small arms also proliferation also facilitate conflicts, chieftaincy disputes, armed robbery among others.

2.3.1 Armed Robberies and Criminality.

According to the Ghana Police Service, about 90 percent of guns used by armed robbers arrested in the country in 2007 were locally manufactured. [21] The menace of armed robberies has been consistently increasing in Ghana over the years. This situation arguably can be a consequence of increasingly harsh socio-economic conditions, within the context of the inability of the State to provide basic human needs. There is however a mutually reinforcing relationship between SALW availability and armed robbery in Ghana. While social deprivation and poverty may have directly led to armed criminality, the easy availability of SALW has also facilitated the process of transforming frustration into crime. Even more disturbing is the fact that while most armed robberies employ guns as aids in their crimes, middle class Ghanaians are feared to be anxiously arming themselves, creating a veritable recipe for inter-class conflicts reprisal attacks. These pose a threat to individual and public safety, as well as to the health and longevity of Ghana’s political stability and democracy. [22] 

2.3.2 Ethnic Conflicts.

In addition, despite its overall peaceful existence, Ghana, like many of its regional counterparts, has been affected by violent ethnic conflicts. Land disputes in the north resulted in ethnic violence during 1994 and 1995. This led to about 1,000 people being killed and over 150,000 being internally displaced. In April 2002, a state of emergency was declared in the north when a tribal chief and thirty others were killed as ethnic violence increased. The Northern Region is currently in the grip of the Dagbon crisis which has resulted in the loss of several lives and property. Consequently, a dusk to dawn curfew was put in place in the region which significantly affected economic activities in the Region. Availability of SALW, both imported and locally-produced, are reported to have fueled these ethnic conflicts.

2.3.3 Land Guards.

Furthermore, the prevalence of multiple claims to land in Ghana has resulted in the phenomenon of land guards. These land guards whose function is to enforce the land claim(s) of their employer(s) against all rival claimants are normally armed with small arms. There have been instances where people have lost their lives in shoot outs among land guards. For example in May 2003, nine people took refuge at the palace of a local chief near Accra (Anyaa), following an attack on the residents of the town by suspected armed land guards and thugs wielding locally manufactured weapons and machetes. The availability of small arms makes it easy for land guards to operate since possessing a weapon gives them a sense of security.

2.3.4 Protracted Chieftaincy Disputes.

Over the years, chieftaincy disputes have resulted in violent confrontations between disputants. Supporters of the disputants and their factions have sometimes resorted to the use of small arms to resolve their problems. This development is not only worrying but also a serious drain on the meagre resources of the country. It is key to note that several of these conflicts that result from chieftaincy disputes have been facilitated by the availability and use of locally manufactured small arms. Security personnel are sometimes deployed in the troubled areas to keep the peace and prevent further destruction of lives and property. The resources the government spends in keeping troops in the conflict areas is phenomenal and a drain on the meagre resources of the government.

2.3.5 Effects on Investment.

Foreign investment suffers in areas where there is instability and insecurity. It has been observed that the three northern regions of Ghana are the least developed areas in the country. Several factors are attributable to the state of development in these regions. However, a survey conducted on some natives of the three regions revealed that 80 percent of them were unwilling to invest in the North for fear of losing their investments as a result of continued conflicts. 60 percent of the respondents who do not hail from the North indicated their reluctance to invest in the North for similar reasons given by other respondents, who hail from the northern regions of Ghana,

2.3.6 Civil Wars in Neighboring Countries and Influx of Refugees.

SALWs have contributed immensely to the civil wars in the sub region. The conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’ Ivoire and many conflicts in the sub region are fuelled by the availability and easy access to small arms and light weapons. These conflicts have not only claimed lives and property but have cost governments millions of dollars to maintain security forces in these conflict areas. These monies could have been used for other developmental projects. It is estimated that locally manufactured weapons account for about 40 percent of the weapons used in all the conflicts in West Africa. [23] 

2.3.7 Possible Political Instability.

There are so many illicit weapons in the wrong hands to the extent the political stability of Ghana could be under serious threat. The Political atmosphere now seems calm. However, with the over 100,000 illegal small arms in the country of which 75,000 are craft guns now circulating in Ghana, the political stability being enjoyed could be a mirage if there should be outbreak of civil strife of any form at a scale that could engulf the whole country. The number of illegal weapons in circulation will make it extremely difficult for the security services to handle the situation.


2.4.1 Legalization and Registration of Local Manufacturers.

The Arms and Ammunition Act 1962 (Act 118) as amended by the Arms and Ammunition Decree 1972 (NRCD 9) and the Arms and Ammunition (Amendment Act 1996) prohibit both the manufacture and assembly of firearms. On the other hand, these laws legalize the repair of guns after a licence has been acquired. The effect of this legislation is that, local artisans have over the years acquired more skills through the various repair jobs that they undertake on guns. This cognitive process of acquiring more skills has resulted in a number of the artisans acquiring the skills to manufacture all manner of weapons [24] . Paradoxically, guns cannot be legally manufactured. This has driven the trade underground with no official statistics on the number of gun manufacturers in Ghana and the number of weapons manufactured locally. In solving the problem of illegal local manufacture of small arms, parliament could pass a legislation to legalize small arms manufacture. This may seem odd initially but the country could benefit immensely in the long term since small arms manufacturers will come out in the open to operate. This will make it possible for their activities to be closely monitored, and people who have illegally purchased weapons from them can be traced. The Ministry of Interior could also insist on marking of locally manufactured weapons by the manufacturers. This will enable the ministry to trace the weapons and possibly arrest people, who will legally acquire these weapons and use them for criminal activities.

Perhaps it is about time the country offer training to local manufacturers of weapons to produce to augment the weapons used by the country’s security forces. This will not only create employment but also reduce government expenditure on importation of weapons for the security services.

2.4.2 Strengthening the Police.

Also the police could be strengthened to undertake snap road blocks in suspected areas which are believed to have illicit weapons. The police could then arrest the culprits and prosecute them. The police could also intensify their patrols on the highways linking the country and other countries in the sub region in order to arrest and prevent illicit trade in weapons across the country’s boarders. This measure will not only send a clear message to the populace about the capabilities of the police, it will also restore the confidence of the populace in the police and reduce drastically the number of illegally manufactured weapons in circulation

2.4.3 Voluntary return of weapons (buying back).

Furthermore, when the police has been strengthened enough to protect and win back the confidence of the populace, a commission could be set up to buy back weapons from people who are illegally in possession of weapons. The government could set up a time by which people should bring their weapons for its monetary value without fear of prosecution. However after the expiration of the time, anyone found in possession of weapons could be prosecuted and given severe punishment. These weapons that would be collected could be destroyed openly, in order to avoid people thinking that the weapons are being used for different purposes.

2.4.4 Public awareness of dangers of small arms.

There is also the need for the National Commission on Civic Education to educate the populace about the dangers of the proliferation of locally manufactured weapons and the negative effects they have on the socio economic development of not only Ghana but also the entire West African Sub region. This would make the populace aware of the real threat that confronts the country’s democratic stability in order for the populace to cooperate with the police to deal with the small arms proliferation in Ghana.


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