Rwanda: December Deadline for Regional Governments to Brand All Arms
19 August 2008
Posted to the web 20 August 2008
Nairobi: Countries in the war-ridden great lakes and horn of Africa are to put marks (brand) on all their weapons as a measure to control proliferation of illicit arms, the governing body says.
Officials from the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) announced on Monday in Nairobi-Kenya that by the end of this year, all these countries should have complied with program.
The countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, DR Congo, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda are already signatories to the Nairobi Protocol on small arms, and that obliges them to mark up the weapons, said Dr. Francis Sang - the Executive Secretary of RECSA.
RECSA is an institutional framework arising from the Nairobi Declaration to coordinate the joint effort by the 12-member block to prevent, combat and eradicate stockpiling and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa.
"All fire arms belonging to a given state must be marked with the country code and the serial number, such that if at all that particular weapon is found in another country, we can trace it", Dr. Sang told journalists on the sidelines of a six-day workshop that started Monday.
Experts with the Geneva Small Arms Survey say that there are up to 30 million small arms and light weapons circulating in sub-Saharan Africa. Seventy-nine percent of those weapons were in the hands of civilians, 19 percent were held by the police and the military and an estimated two percent were in the hands of armed groups and insurgents.
According to Human Rights Watch, war ravaged DR Congo has suffered the brunt of what uncontrolled flow of arms can bring. The campaign group has maintained that large quantities of arms that continue to flow into DRC have fueled gross human rights abuse including killings, rape and torture.
The weapons coming from Eastern Europe are dealt in by the militia groups roaming the vast country. Very often, according to campaigners, DRC's regional neighbours have been the entry routes for the illicit arms.
"Not only do these weapons prolong violent conflict, but their uncontrolled propagation equally poses a serious threat to stability, or long-term development - at national and regional levels", said Dr. Sang.
He said the countries have been given up to December 30 to brand all light and small weapons in their possession as a means of checking on soaring proliferation of illegal guns.
According to the report presented to the conference, Uganda has destroyed the highest number of illegal weapons in the Great Lakes and Horn Africa regions with 60,000, followed by Kenya with 20,000 between 2005 and 2007.
Djibouti has destroyed the least, 100, followed by Burundi which has burnt 200 in the same period. The report says: "The illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons remains one of the most pressing security challenges in the Great lakes region and East Africa."
Rwanda could be lagging behind, but last month some 160 tones of ammunition were put beyond use. Some 7,500 small arms and unexploded ordinances have been destroyed for the last two years.
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