Call for stronger laws to curb small arms’ proliferation

The Kenyan government is grappling with rampant trafficking of illicit small arms and light weapons but needs to pass tougher laws to contain the problem, officials said.

“It is really hard to fight against because we do not know precisely where these arms are,” Peter Munya, assistant minister for internal affairs, said on 10 August. “It also remains really hard to estimate how many of these illegal arms are circulating in the country - they could be 7,000.”

Speaking at the opening of a small arms exhibition entitled Crush the Illicit Trade in Small Arms at the UN complex in Nairobi, the minister singled out neighbouring Somalia as one of the sources.

“We know they mainly come from Somalia these days and that they often come in with the refugees who come into Kenya,” Munya said.

He also alleged that Somalia was only a gateway and that the arms originally came mainly from Europe and the Middle East.

Noting that the actual number of small arms and weapons in the country had decreased because there were fewer conflicts in neighbouring countries, Munya called for stronger laws to deter trafficking.

Both national and international laws are inadequate and do not target the manufacturers,” he told IRIN. “Even local laws are weak; if you are caught with such arms without a licence, you are bailable - you will be released and be able to return to the black market to buy another gun.”

The exhibition has been arranged under the auspices of the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa, which was signed in 2004. It obliges member states - Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi - to criminalise illicit trafficking, manufacturing, possession and misuse of small arms and light weapons.


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Photo exhibition on small arms

Kenya - where armed crime, urban and pastoral violence, cattle rustling, poaching and trafficking are common problems - submitted national reports on the implementation of an action plan for 2004-2007. The reports addressed, among other things, building the administrative framework for addressing the issue of small arms and light weapons, stockpile management, border control, and training and capacity-building.

Kenya has also revised its policies and legislation. “There are some protocol and action plans and there is international assistance, but harsher laws need to be billed,” David Kimaiyo, director of police operations in Nairobi, said.

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