The Angolan government is considering a three-phase voluntary plan to disarm civilians, local media reported on Thursday.
Jose Alfredo Ekuikui, Commander General of the national police, was quoted as saying the plan would involve an assessment of the number and location of weapons in the hands of civilians, an awareness programme, and setting up posts for the voluntary handover of arms.
He also said that at the end of the voluntary programme, civilians still in possession of arms would be forced to give them up. No timeframe for the plan was announced.
The large number of weapons in private hands has been noted as a threat to stability in Angola, where, according to some estimates, a third of the country's 14 million population is armed. Most of the firearms were distributed to civilians by the government during the three decades of civil war against the UNITA rebel movement.
Civic bodies involved in small arms awareness programmes in Angola welcomed the government's announcement, but said it lacked details.
Reverend Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga, executive secretary of the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace in Angola (COIEPA), which has contributed to peace efforts since the ceasefire with UNITA in 2002, said his organisation was participating in a nation-wide campaign to educate people in the dangers of holding on to their weapons.
"We tell them that having arms does not ensure security, but delays the 'explosion'," he told IRIN. Last month COIEPA began training 10 people in each of the country's 18 provinces, who will help groom 10,000 peace monitors by the end of the year. These monitors will then work closely with communities to persuade them to hand over weapons in their possession.
Ntoni-Nzinga said COIEPA's efforts had been moderately successful because they were hampered by "poor working conditions such as the bad state of the roads, which prevents us from getting to places quickly".
The NGO, Angola 2000, which has also been involved in awareness campaigns around disarmament, has been working more closely with the government.
Matias Capapelo, vice-president of the organisation, said Angola 2000's approach was based on the findings of a survey conducted in five provinces, which revealed that rather than cash payments, people wanted to be "paid in development [projects] in their communities".
"So we decided to involve government bodies, the opposition and other NGOs in our efforts to disarm communities," he said.
Angola 2000 has been working in the central province of Huambo. "We have set up networking teams in all the 12 municipalities in the province, which work with the communities in that particular area. Each team is headed by the deputy administrator of the municipality," Capapelo explained.
With more funding, Angola 2000 hopes to initiate similar programmes in the neighbouring Cuanza Sul and Malanje provinces.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions