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African experts meet in Nairobi to curb light weapons

13 May 2014, 19:13

Nairobi - Experts from across Africa will meet in Nairobi on Wednesday to seek ways to help address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the continent, ravaged by many conflicts.

A statement from the Nairobi-based Regional Centre for Small Arms (RCSA) said Tuesday the 3rd meeting of the AU-Regions steering committee on small arms and light weapons and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will seek ways of combating cross border flows illicit weapons.

"The meeting will discuss African Union support to its Member States in addressing the problem of small arms and exchange ideas on enhancing synergies in small arms work across the regions on the continent," the statement said.

The meeting comes after a recent survey conducted by the Kenya Action Network on Small Arms indicates that more than 600,000 illegal arms in Kenya.

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 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.

The statement said the meeting will also receive an update on progress in the establishment of the proposed African police chiefs coordination mechanism (AFRIPOL) and discuss progress in the implementation of a continental small arms project funded by the European Union and coordinated by RECSA.

The Steering Committee was formed to provide a forum for regular inter-regional discussions on small arms issues, including disarmament and others.

In addition to the AU, other members of the Committee are East African Community (EAC), Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) will attend the meeting.

Proliferation of small arms threatens the social fabric in the east African region thanks to a surge in transnational crime, human and drugs trafficking and terrorism.

The head of East Africa Institute of Security Studies, Werunga Simiyu, recently regretted that illegal flow of small arms has disrupted peaceful coexistence among communities in east Africa.

"Our social fabric is threatened by small arms as evidenced by a surge in youth crime and terrorist attacks. There has been a surge in transnational crime too, vehicles stolen in Kenya are finding their way in Tanzania or the Democratic Republic of Congo, " Werunga said.

- Xinhua


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