THE Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, has said that recovery of more than 500,000 small arms and light weapons presently in wrong hands in the East African region would be possible through shared information among the member states.
Speaking at the destruction of illicit small arms and light weapons, the event held at Ukonga Prisons Ground on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, and witnessed by delegates to the East African Community (EAC) Joint Meeting of the Sectoral Councils, Dr Bilal said joint efforts are important to counteract cross-border criminal gang network.
"Proliferation of small arms and light weapons has largely contributed to a number of criminal offences committed in the region. Peace for the region is essential and requires mutual support among member countries. Destruction of illicit arms (today) proves the seriousness of the region in defending its people and control of unlawful ownership of small arms and light weapons," Dr Bilal said.
He commended the regional leadership for joint efforts and impressive work accomplished so far that includes the establishment of different protocols such as the common market and now signing of the Peace and Security Protocol.
"The obvious consequences for having arms in wrong hands are reflected in the tour industry with escalating poaching in National Parks and Game Reserves. The challenge appeals for concerted efforts to address the problem," the VP observed. Among development partners extending support towards control of proliferation of small arms and light weapons is Germany through its development agency, GTZ.
Dr Bilal thanked Germany for helping the EAC secretariat to build capacity on coordination for control of illegal ownership of small arms and light weapons. "Apart from massive support to the construction of EAC headquarters, Germany has for the last six years shared experiences in the marking and tracking of small arms and light weapons in the region, give knowledge on record keeping, support of public awareness campaigns and logistical support in the collection and destruction of illicit weapons," he clarified.
The Germany Ambassador to Tanzania, Klaus-Peter Brandes, said torching of the recovered small arms and light weapons marked a milestone step among member states towards realization of true peace. "The flame of peace proves commitment in cooperation and mutual trust among member states to rid the region of state of instability.
I wish you success in realization of the plan of action and sustainable peace for the region," Ambassador Klaus said. EAC Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, said the region would build on the gains accrued from the sincere support by the Federal Republic of Germany.
"More than 200,000 small arms and light weapons and 400 tons of explosives have been destroyed in the region between 2003 and last year. Today a total of 3,197 surrendered or impounded small arms will be destroyed in Dar es Salaam. This reaffirms the commitment to the control of the proliferation," Dr Sezibera explained.
Earlier, the Tanzanian Coordinator for Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Unit, SACP, Modest Mwauzi, said until last year a total of 24,187 small arms have been destroyed in Tanzania. Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is a term used in arms control protocols to refer to two main classes of weapons:
Small arms are handheld small calibre firearms, usually consisting of handguns, rifles, shotguns, manual, semiautomatic, and full automatic weapons and man-portable machineguns. Light weapons include a wide range of medium-calibre and explosive ordnance, including man-portable and vehicle mounted antipersonnel, antitank and antiaircraft rockets, missiles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, landmines, antiaircraft guns, mortars, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and so on.
Nairobi Protocol on Small Arms and Light Weapons is a declaration on control of the problem in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. This was signed on March 15, 2000, by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and/or Representatives of the Governments of Burundi, DRC, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda and came to force on May 5, 2006.
The member states agreed to cooperate in terms of mutual legal assistance, law enforcement and transparency, information exchange and harmonization.