The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: Great Lakes Security Ministers Pledge Action on Small Arms

Security ministers across the Eastern and Central African region have renewed commitment to combat cross-border flow of illicit small arms.

Speaking during a Great Lakes Summit on small arms in Nairobi on Tuesday, the ministers noted that illicit weapons are mainly to blame for a rise in trans-national crimes and terrorism.

"The Great Lakes states have agreed on the need to step up the fight against proliferation of small arms," Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku said.

The Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes region organised the 5th ministerial standing committee meeting in Nairobi to rejuvenate action on illicit weapons.

The ministers agreed that collaboration is crucial to reduce cross-border movement of small arms and lethal materials. Small arms, Lenku added, have fuelled conflicts and trans-national crimes in the region. They are used by terrorists to kill and maim innocent civilians, he said.

We must initiate deterrent measures targeting the source and destination of these weapons, he told the meeting.

Lenku disclosed that his government has marked 70 per cent of state firearms using modern technology.

"We are leveraging technology to monitor firearms licensed by the state and have been able to identify those in the wrong hands. The government will not relent in its disarmament programme to enhance security," Lenku said.

Ugandan minister for Internal Affairs Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said proliferation of small arms threatens peace, stability and economic growth in the region.

"There is no denying that small arms have caused a lot of suffering in the region. Conflicts have recurred due to easy access to light weapons by militias," Nyakairima said.

He noted that renewed fighting in South Sudan and the Central African Republic is a drawback to regional progress. He proposed the establishment of early warning mechanisms to deter proliferation of small arms.

An estimated 875 million small arms are in circulation globally and the number could spike in the absence of legal safeguards.

The Executive Secretary of the Nairobi-based Regional Centre on Small Arms, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, observed that up to 100 million small arms are in circulation in Africa.

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