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700,000 illegal guns in hands of civilians - Joseph Nkaissery

By CYRUS OMBATI | March 19th 2015

Kenya: Kenya has close to 700,000 illegal firearms in the hands of civilians, a Cabinet Secretary has said.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said yesterday most of the guns are used to commit violent crimes in various parts of the country and termed the number as alarming.

He said various measures are being taken to contain the situation and mop up the weapons.

"Kenya does not take the war against the proliferation of illicit firearms lightly," he said.

The current figure of the illegal guns shows there has been an increase as compared to the more than 500,000 that were reported in 2014.

Nkaissery added that Kenya is committed to the Arms Trade Treaty, which he argued will foster peace and security, put a stop to destabilizing arms flow to conflict areas within the region and help keep criminal cartels away from the gun.

The minister said the guns are behind the armed violence in the country that has devastating consequences.

Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan remain the main source of the weapons, which are in the Kenyan market.

"Armed violence denies people their fundamental rights, personal security and their ability to participate socially in their communities. Conflict degrades the environment, fuels illegal exploitation of natural resources and abets terrorism," said Nkaissery.

He made the remarks when he opened a consultative meeting of Regional Centre on Small Arms in Nairobi on Wednesday.

The minister said Kenya has so far put in place various measures to contain the proliferation. Part of the measures is their involvement in the Amisom operation in Somalia where he argued Al-Shabaab militants are facing an attrition hence affecting the flow of the weapons.

He said Kenya has so far marked 85 percent of the state owned firearms to facilitate stockpile management and accountability and they have a national arms mapping and survey to access the availability of the arms.

The minister said they now have a national action plan on firearms control and management, which is the instrument on preventing, combating and eradicating the proliferation.

Nkaissery said they are upgrading the forensic laboratory and acquiring new technological equipment and test firing of all weapons in the country.

The government is also improving policing capacities, policy framework on guns, civic education in the affected areas and addressing the plight of violence and arms induced displacements.

A research that was conducted in 2013 found out that majority of household respondents said they felt the most insecure time was during elections, which calls for peaceful management of the coming general election for a reduction of demand of the weapons.

The report states that approximately 20 percent of Kenyans had been victims of crime or an act of violence in the year and more than a third of them were confronted with a firearm.

Perceptions of government initiatives to control illicit firearms differ between Kenyans from law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations.

Weapons that are in Nairobi originate Somalia, Uganda and Sudan and come through road, rail, government vehicles and individuals while those in Central come through road and individuals from the same source.

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