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Kenya to acquire unmanned drones to monitor flow of small arms
Xinhua
Friday, May 17, 2013

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Kenya plans to acquire unmanned drones to help in tracking and monitoring the flow of small arms as it seeks to scale up its fight against the light weapons which are believed to be fueling the growing insecurity cases in the country.

Director of the Kenya Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons Engineer Patrick Ochieng said that the governments of the United States and Japan had agreed to come in assist Kenya in acquiring the drones which would be deployed to patrol the country’s porous borders.

“We need a concerted effort internationally, regionally and nationally in order to gain ground in this fight against small arms and that is why our development partners have decided to come in and assist us,” he told journalists in the northern Kenyan town of Garissa.

A recent survey conducted by the Kenya Action Network on Small Arms indicates that more than 600,000 illegal arms in Kenya and fears had been lingering about some illegal groups using the arms during the general elections, especially among the pastoralist communities.  

The use of firearms in Kenya has risen to alarmingly high levels in the past decade and has been blamed on Kenya’s porous borders, especially along the Kenya-Somalia border.

The East African nation Kenya is surrounded by neighboring countries that for a long time experienced civil strife which immensely contributed to the influx of the illegal weapons into the hands of gangsters and cattle rustlers.

In rural northern Kenya, small arms have replaced traditional weapons in ethnic warfare over pasture, water and livestock.

According to police sources, an illegal pistol would sell in some parts of Nairobi for 140 U.S. dollars, whereas large caliber weapons such as AK-47, which are not easy for city smugglers to access would fetch three times more.

Ochieng decried the extensive stretches of porous borders and cut lines which he said are used to smuggle in the dangerous weapons that find their way into towns like Garissa and Nairobi where they are in turn used to carry out attacks.

Ochieng welcomed the recent formulation of an international treaty on the regulation of small arms by the UN saying it would reign in the unscrupulous selling and buying of light weapons.  

“Despite strong opposition from Syria, Iran and North Korea which were opposed on the creation of this treaty simply because they were under an embargo, I personally asked to have the motion moved to the UN Security Council which after deliberations ratified its creation,” he said.

Kenya carries out its disarmament process under the Nairobi Protocol of 2000 which aims at combating the proliferation and use of illicit light weapons and strengthen cooperation in the region.

In 2005, signatories to the declaration agreed to set up a center in Nairobi, The Regional Center on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa to combat the menace.

The signatories to the Protocol are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Seychelles, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Most of these weapons circulate through war zones in neighboring countries before finding their way to Kenya’s illegal gun markets to intensify conflict among neighboring communities, and in the process blurring the thin line between longstanding ethnic competition and political violence.        

The spread of sophisticated weapons also makes it easier for groups under attack to arm themselves for self-defense.

Speaking at the same forum, Garissa County Commissioner Mohamed Maalim said that some people had now taken the smuggling of small arms as a full time job and were perfecting their tactics of smuggling the weapons into the country from the neighboring unstable Somalia.

“The weapons are being concealed in bags of illegal sugar where some half full bags are stuffed with pistols and grenades them sealed and imported into the country as sugar,” Maalim said.

He reiterated the fact that the government would crack the whip on deputy county commissioners and their assistants who failed to take action on persons within their administrative units involved in the illegal trade.

Maalim also said that the government was in the process of acquiring firearm detectors along all border points to help screen and detect weapons concealed in goods on transits.

Kenya is working on a national weapons management policy whose main objective is to eradicate illegally available weapons through strict control measures by marking all arms coming into the country to facilitate tracing in order to curb the proliferation of small arms.


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