Freetown - Sierra Leone lawmakers have lifted a ban on small arms in new legislation which seeks to regulate ownership of weapons in a country ravaged by a decade-long civil war, an official said on Wednesday.

“The act will regulate the private ownership of guns and other weapons in the country to control the proliferation nationwide,” said Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Raymond Kabia, who piloted the bill.

“The act will also ensure that stockpiles of small arms and weapons by manufacturers, dealers as well as individuals are securely stored in accordance with prescribed standards and procedures,” he said on public radio.

Kabia said a national commission would be responsible for the “regulation and licensing of the transfer, manufacture, sales and use of small arms and light weapons throughout the country”.

He added that government would soon destroy a cache of more than 6 000 weapons and ammunition collected by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2004.

Kabia also said no new licences would be issued until after the November 17 presidential election.

At the end of a civil war in 2002 which claimed about 120 000 lives, the government banned all private ownership of small arms and ordered that all such weapons be handed over to police stations for safekeeping.

Under a massive UN disarmament programme in 2004, 75 000 combatants (including 6 845 child soldiers) were demobilised.

Local hunters and farmers have welcomed the lifting of the ban as many possess home-made guns to hunt or protect their farm crops. - Sapa-AFP