The government is drafting a bill to tighten, control and limit the use of firearms by security agencies and civilians across the country. The Firearms, Ammunition and Related Materials Bill seeks to harmonise all existing laws governing possession of guns, including the Firearms Act, 1970.
The 1970 Act only regulates ownership of firearms held by individuals, while those held by the police and security agencies are governed under separate laws. It is not known how many guns are in the country but organisations like GunPolcy.org, put the estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Uganda at 400,000, however only 2,770 are registered. Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but the organisation's estimates puts them at 200,000. The defence forces are reported to have 133,000 firearms and the police are reported to have 28,000 firearms.
Victims in numbers
A number of civilians have in the recent past suffered injuries and been killed by gun wielding individuals or security personnel. The annual death resulting from gun shots increased to 2,669 in 2009, down from 2,753 in 2008 and 2,049 in 2004.
The license of guns is the role of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and one must give reason for use before a gun is provided. However, a number of guns enter the country through the porous border with neighbouring Sudan, DR Congo and Kenya.
"We carried out a mapping exercise which established that this country lacks a clear picture on the actual number of firearms. This Bill will actualise the number of firearms and light weapons," Lt. Col. Godard Busingye, the director legal affairs in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said on Thursday.
The Cabinet is in the final stages and the Bill will be presented before Parliament for debate, Mr Busingye added. He was speaking at the end of a two-day consultation workshop on the draft Bill in Mbale. Views collected from the consultation will also feed into the draft Gun Use Policy.
"The development of the national policy and legal regulatory framework is a timely and necessary step towards imposing the government to ensure systematic and comprehensive approach to prevent, control and reduce the problem of proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons," said Ms Betty Kyokunzire, member of legislative draft committee. "Small arms have been responsible for the exacerbating conflicts, which have in turn compounded human suffering, death, displacement of communities and escalation of refugee problem."
Lt. Col. Busingye said the porous borders between Uganda and its neighbours has worsened the situation "by many illicit guns being trafficked in and out of the country due to lack of stringent laws to deal firmly with such perpetrators in that trade."