The Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) has called for a maximum punishment for any person convicted on illegal possession of fire arms.
RECSA brings together countries in the Great Lakes, the Horn of African and bordering states.
The suggestion was made, yesterday, by Dr. Francis K. Sang, the Executive Secretary of RECSA, in an interview with The New Times at the sidelines of a meeting that brought together law enforcement agencies from 15 countries in Kigali.
Sang said that to effectively fight the circulation of small and light weapons (SALW) in the region, harsh penalties should be introduced and enforced.
"We are envisaging attaching more punitive measures on this matter because many people have made business out of this illicit trade," he said.
In Rwanda, the law on illegal arms stipulates that whoever is convicted of illegally possessing such arms is imprisoned for 10 years.
However, according to Sang, the current law is very soft for the culprits saying the circulation of the illicit fire arms has continued to cause insecurity in the Great Lakes region.
"The availability of these illegal fire arms in local populations has been a major obstacle to development, especially in countries emerging from conflicts, where these arms end up in wrong hands and hence increasing violent crimes," he said.
"Possession of these illicit small arms by criminals, who use them to rob, murder and terrorise residents, is still a major threat to the region".
Sang noted that there was need for stronger cooperation by law enforcement agencies in the member countries to enhance the capacity to fight the vice.
RECSA also recommended the need for more awareness in schools to let students know about the dangers of small arms.
It is only Rwanda and Burundi that have so far managed to enact legislation regarding fire arms.
Rwanda's fire arm legislation was enacted in 2008.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Sam Karemera, told this paper that so far, over 32,000 illegal arms have been destroyed since 2008. Last year, 40 tonnes of ammunition were destroyed at Gabiro School of Infantry.
In 2007, Rwanda established the Central Firearms Registry to control, manage and monitor the use of firearms.
According to UN estimates, there are more than 600 million illegal small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide. While over 300,000 have been surrendered and destroyed, there are an estimated 500,000 illicit arms in the East African region.