Vice-President Mohammed Gharib Bilal has called on Tanzanians to collaborate with the security organs in search of people in possession of firearms which are used for poaching in the country’s national parks.
The call by the VP comes amid reports of rampant killing of endangered wildlife, noting that the act is a threat to the survival of animals, a loss to the government and the tourism sector as a whole.
He aired his concerns at a ceremony for the destruction of 3,193 illegal firearms and light weapons conducted by the police force yesterday at Ukonga prison ground 15 kilometres from the city centre.
The occasion was also witnessed by members of a joint sectoral council of the East African Community (EAC) responsible for defence, interstate and foreign policy coordination, which had a weeklong meeting that ended on Friday.
Dr Bilal said that continued acts of poaching in national parks is a major threat to the development of tourism in the country as important animal species such as elephants and rhinos face extinction if drastic measures are not taken to curb the outrage.
“I would like to remind you once again that our country’s security is the concern of everyone in the country. Therefore it’s imperative to collaborate with one another to curb illegal possession of firearms and that we should do it now without hesitation,” he said.
However, he has also asked the EAC defence secretariat monitoring peace and harmony in the regional bloc to strengthen efforts towards ensuring peace and security and the fight over illegal firearms as per the agreement by all five member states, expressed when the Nairobi protocol was signed in 2006.
Among the resolutions agreed in the Nairobi protocol by the working secretariat of the five EAC member states is to work on strategies laid down that would enable the curbing of trafficking of firearms from one country to another, as arms fuel crimes, hindering free trade in the sub-region. Dr. Bilal expressed gratitude to the government of Germany through its donor agency GIZ for the help it had been giving to the EAC security organs to curb increased possession of firearms and light weapons. Statistics shows that about 200,000 firearms have been destroyed within the region in the past ten years.
It is estimated that in the whole of the East African region there are about 500,000 illegal firearms which are still in the possession of bad people who continue to pose a great threat to the lives of people in the regional bloc, he further noted.
On his side, the German Ambassador Klaus Brandes who witnessed the occasion described the ceremony as a ‘Flame of Peace’ whose major task is to raise awareness and demonstrate that the EAC is moving towards sustainable peace and security.
He warned that the EAC partner states need to beware of illegal possession of firearms as they increase the intensity and durability of armed conflicts, undermine the sustainability of peace agreements, impede the success of peace and frustrate individual improvement and state capacity to organize development activities.
He praised the Tanzania police force, chiefly its firearms control department led by ACP Modest Mwauzi for tireless work to curb the proliferation of firearms in the country.
He also commended the strong commitment by the EAC partner states in the National Focal Points with each country’s police force who have been active in the implementation of practical small arms control measures. These include stockpile management, building of armories and awareness raising at the national level for each of the member states.
The exercise of destroying firearms was witnessed by Inspector General Saidi Mwema as host, along with senior government and EAC officials.
Others present included Foreign Minister Benard Membe, Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa, Kenyan Provincial Administration and Internal Security assistant minister Moses ole Sakuda, Burundi Public Security Minister Gabriel Nizigama and Rwandan Internal Security Minister Harerima Fazil.