Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal
A joint sectoral council responsible for defense, interstate and foreign policy coordination of the five member states of the East African Community (EAC) will today join hands in the destruction of small arms and light weapons by police officials in Dar es Salaam.
The firearms were impounded by the police and game wardens from poachers in national parks, or firearms illegally entered into the country and those caught in possession with bandits who come across such firearms by help of refugees from neighboring countries of DRC, Burundi and Rwanda.
Vice-President Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal will be to state dignitary witnessing the destruction of illicit small arms and light weapons, an EAC official said yesterday.
The activity organized by a joint sectoral council of the EAC will be preceded by the signing of the peace and security protocol by the five member states.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of political federation, Dr. Julius Rotich said yesterday in Dar es Salaam that the destruction is a joint initiative conducted in rotation fashion periodically, to eradicate illegal possession of firearms posing a threat to peace within the regional bloc.
He told a press conference that the exercise is in compliance with the Nairobi protocol signed in 2003 by EAC member states, conducted continuously on a rotational basis.
Elaborating on the signing of the protocol, Dr. Rotich noted that this provides a roadmap to ensure effective implementation of security matters and their engagement among the five partner states. The key objective is overall control of the porous borders through which illegal arms passes through.
The five partner states had agreed to sign the protocol to coordinate arms control activities in a bid to ensure peace and stability for the people of the EAC zone.
Rotich said the light weapons problem poses a great challenge to EAC integration as it is difficult to control and prevent people from trafficking arms. A good number of them including traders cannot be trusted to move along with large consignments, in the handling of goods delivered or sold to the public.
“We want small arms to be in the possession of constitutionally accepted agencies of the five member states in order to keep security intact,” he said. Illegal possession of such arms could disrupt peace and harmony among the people.
The occasion will be attended also by Internal Affairs Ministers from each of the five member states, along with residents of nearby areas who wish to witness the burning, as it takes place in an open space, he said.
For the last six years, the exercise has been sponsored by the German government to curb illegal possession of firearms, but as from next year the German state has ceased to sponsor the event. The five member states would be contributing and obtain help from the European Union.
Although the German government pulled out, the EAC joint council officials have appreciated its contribution as it had enabled the joint sectoral council todestroy about 200,000 fire arms in the region.
Elaborating on the exercise, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Modest Mwauzi said that this is the event will be the 13th to be held in the country since it officially started in 2003. In today’s event about 3,200 fire arms are expected to be destroyed by open burning.
ACP Mwauzi who is in charge of small firearms at Police headquarters told the press conference that after the burning exercise, remains of iron would be taken to the firearms workshops in Morogoro for smelting and use for other purposes.
He said once impounded, the government does not formalize them into legality to let them be reused by people who might wish to buy them and be given a government license. The police force collects the weapons from all corners of the country and shifts them to police headquarters.
Members of the joint sectoral council for EAC are in the country since last Sunday for a week-long meeting to discuss the possibility of maintaining internal security of the five member states which ends today. According to Dr. Rotich the meeting also enjoined foreign policy coordination.
Two main issues include maintaining of security in line with the burning of firearms and light weapons and the signing of the protocol on peace and security to be witnessed today.