The New Times (Kigali)

15 February 2013

East Africa: EAC Partner States to Sign Security Protocol Today

Photo: UN /Sylvain Liechti
The country has been applauded for being among the first within the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and bordering states to control and prevent fire arms distribution (file photo).

Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) are due to sign a peace and security agreement which is expected to serve as a regional instrument to enhance security across the bloc.

The protocol, developed through a highly consultative and inclusive process, is to be approved by a joint sectoral ministerial summit slated for today in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Ministers of Defence, Internal Security and Foreign Affairs from the five EAC member states are expected to grace the ceremony, according to officials.

Dr Julius Rotich, the EAC Deputy Secretary-General for Political Federation, told a news conference, yesteraday, that it took five years to negotiate the agreement.

"Protocols are not documents that just happen overnight," he said, emphasising that the period was important for all member states to have a common opinion on it.

"Consensus is the basis of our cooperation," he observed.

Dr Rotich said the protocol is of vital importance for stability to prevail in the region, while its signing is considered an important achievement in the efforts to guarantee peace and security.

"The protocol gives partner states a framework through which they can take action to tackle security threats based on agreed terms," he said.

"The protocol provides a roadmap upon which we are going to build on to engage each other to address security challenges that would likely have a regional impact," Dr Rotich added.

Leonard Onyonyi, an EAC peace and security expert, told the media that the protocol will serve the best interest of the public across the bloc.

Combating illegal arms

Today's event will also be an occasion to further encourage efforts in the fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW).

At the occasion, more than 3,000 SALWs will be destroyed as a sign of the EAC partner states' commitment to eradicating illegal firearms.

Rotich said illegal arms are responsible for destabilising the region through terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking, rape, among other criminal acts.

"We can't be safe while people are in possession of illegal firearms. These are the very arms which are used to commit crimes," he said.

Onyonyi, on his part, said despite the efforts being made across the region to fight the illicit trade in light weapons, they remain a serious threat to the region's security.

"One of the biggest challenges in the region is the long porous borders which are used to smuggle illicit arms into the countries," Onyonyi said.

Engaging all EAC member states to collectively take part in the fight is seen as an important strategy which should limit the number of illicit arms across the bloc, leading to their total eradication, officials said.

"We are working within a global context to ensure that they shall never be used to kill, to facilitate rape; never be used in poaching or other illicit activities," Onyonyi said.

The East African region has been bogged down by rebel activities and terrorists groups mainly associated with the Somalia's al-Qaeda-backed militants, al-Shabaab, something which has had a negative impact on the pace of development.

Marking and registering arms as well as controlling their movement are some of the key strategies being implemented by EAC partner states to fight the proliferation of illicit small and lights weapons.

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