20 January 2010

Kenya: Country Extends Amnesty on Illegal Arms

Nairobi — The Kenya Government is preparing to forcefully disarm pastoralists who will have not have surrendered illegal guns in a month.

The exercise would have started sooner but MPs representing pastoral communities pleaded for an extension of a government amnesty that expires Wednesday.

Internal Security George Saitoti held discussions with the MPs from upper Eastern and North Rift parts of the country at his office and agreed to the extension.

"This is the very last extension of amnesty to surrender arms held illegally by communities. Anybody who fails to heed to this directive within this period will be disarmed forcefully."

The initial amnesty period ended in December 20, last year by which pastoralists had surrendered 2,399 firearms, a mortar, two grenades, a bayonet and 27, 186 bullets to authorities.

Another 381 firearms and 10,103 rounds of ammunition were seized from police reservists after the government realised they were using them for banditry and cattle rustling.

The police reservists, commonly known as the home guards are at present, being vetted afresh.

Guns will also be marked before being entrusted to reservists and their command and control structures strengthened.

The disarmament is aimed at checking cattle rustling and banditry after numerous incidents occurred last year.

"The country experienced an alarming frequency of armed cattle raids in the pastoralist areas. This culminated to great loss of lives and property," Prof Saitoti said.

The disarmament was agreed in October last year by National Security Advisory Committee, which brought together senior police, military and intelligence officers.

The joint security talks were held at a time when armed attacks were prevalent claiming over 40 lives in just a month.

The government hopes to have seized over 50,000 firearms after the mop up exercise.

A similar disarmament exercise -- Operation Dumisha Amani -- failed in 2005.

After Wednesday's meeting, Prof Saitoti directed that no animals would be moved from one place to another without a permit issued by the veterinary department.

"All Chiefs and their assistants must ensure that all livestock in their areas of jurisdiction are branded by April 2010 so as to curb cattle rustling."

MPs who attended the meeting pledged to mobilise their constituents to surrender illegal arms so as to escape a forceful disarmament.

And police were instructed to conduct patrols and provide escort through roads traversing areas in which banditry is rampant.

Prof Saitoti also announced he was talking to his counterparts in Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan to ensure the disarmament is carried out simultaneously across the borders.

Otherwise, Kenyan pastoral communities living on border districts would be left vulnerable to armed attacks from their neighbours since cross-border incursions, particularly from the Toposa of Southern Sudan, and the Karamanjong of Uganda, are prevalent.

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