2,000 illicit guns burnt as State pledges stiffer laws
By Cyrus Ombati
More than 2,000 illicit firearms were burnt as the Government warned it could soon be a capital offence to posses an illegal weapon.
The 2,545 weapons were set ablaze at a public event in Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens, Wednesday.
Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said illicit firearms continue to pose a threat to peace and security, resulting to conflicts, deaths, destruction and even poverty.
"The problem of illegal arms has manifested itself in many areas including carjackings, robberies, cattle rustling, terrorism, and piracy, among others," he said.
Prof Saitoti said following the launch of an arms brokering software, the Government will keep a database and profile of dealers and agents of firearms, which will help to monitor them.
He added plans were under way to launch a simultaneous regional disarmament programme, which will include Uganda and Ethiopia.
Despite past promises to amend the Firearms Act to make possession of an unlicensed gun a capital offence, it is yet to be implemented.
Five years in
Yesterday, Saitoti repeated the promise to legislate laws to address the problem of proliferation of illicit weapons.
Currently, a person found with unlicenced firearm faces up to 15 years in prison.
In 2007, then Internal Security Minister John Michuki promised to help amend the law to make it a capital offence to own an illegal gun, but MPs are yet to debate the matter.
Police have also been pushing for stiffer penalties since 2007, when then Police Commissioner Hussein Ali proposed 12 amendments to the Firearms Act. Yesterday, Internal Security PS Francis Kimemia said research had established gangsters and cattle rustlers had spent Sh1.1 billion to acquire the destroyed guns and more than 50,000 bullets, which were recovered in the past year alone.
"This is a big economy and that is why the Government is determined to stop the illegal trade. People have been killed and maimed out of these weapons," he said.
Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said the illegal weapons also fuelled kidnapping, which is emerging as a new security threat.
The weapons were burnt in accordance with the Nairobi Protocol signed by 11 countries in the region in 2000. The protocol requires illegal weapons be burnt to ashes and metal parts smelted.
Police, the Regional Centre for Small Arms and Light Weapons, Kenya National Focal Point for Arms and UNDP organised the event.
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