The five partner states of the East African Community have signed a Peace and Security Protocol in Dar es Salaam last week.
The signing of the agreement was followed by the open-air burning of 3,193 illicit firearms at Ukonga Prison Grounds on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
The protocol signed on Saturday outlines co-operation in ensuring peace and security for the region and in combating crime. The document spells out 15 areas in which it gives the EAC mandate to proceed with implementation.
As a result, Uganda's Minister of Defence Crispus Kiyonga said, the EAC will soon have a Director General in charge of Peace and Security. A Council of the EAC in charge of Peace and Security was also envisaged soon.
Tanzania's Vice President Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal was the chief guest at the torching of the illicit firearms. Saying the danger from proliferation of small arms and light weapons was affecting tourism through poaching of wildlife, Dr Bilal urged regional governments to hunt down criminals mercilessly. Increased armed crime in Tanzania, he said, was attributable to the presence of illegally acquired firearms.
Tackling the problem of illicit arms is not an easy task. I recognise that those in possession of illicit weapons are dangerous criminal networks with international affiliations. For those of our countries that have previously faced or are currently going through internal turmoil, this exercise will be particularly difficult. It is our responsibility to address this challenge because it has enormous repercussions in our lives and development agenda," he said.
The EAC Project on Curbing the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the East African Community has received support from the German government over the past six years.
The German ambassador to Tanzania, Klaus-Peter Brandes, said that Germany was keen on
disarmament and arms control as these were key to building a global security architecture of the future. "Weapons increase the intensity and duration of armed conflicts, undermine the sustainability of peace agreements, impede the success of peace building and frustrate efforts aimed at the prevention of armed conflict."
Earlier while opening the Fifth Joint Meeting of the Sectoral Councils on Cooperation in Defence, Inter State Security and Foreign Policy Coordination, Dr Kiyonga said the EAC was in the final stages of concluding all policy and legal frameworks required to operationalize Articles 123 to 123 of the Treaty to enable the EAC to have an institutionalized common approach to security challenges. "Indeed, the framers of the Treaty recognised the fact that peace and security are a prerequisite for social, economic and political development of our region.