Refugees put on notice over proliferation of arms

11Feb 2016
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Refugees put on notice over proliferation of arms

THE government yesterday warned refugees who have been behind the increasing number of small arms in the country to surrender their weapons to responsible authorities.

Home Affairs Minister Charles Kitwanga

Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Home Affairs, Major General Projest Rwegasira sounded the warning when speaking at a workshop on firearms and the Ammunition Control Act 2015 organised by Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA).

He admitted that the proliferation of small arms was a result of refugees entering the country and urged them to stop the smuggling.

Rwegasira also used the platform to ask the international community to adopt a system of creating safe havens in conflict-torn countries, with a view to preventing internal strife from spilling into neighbouring countries.

The PS also called upon those who possess arms legally to verify their weapons in time to reduce the spread of illegal arms.
He said the current law provided a mandate for the government to announce to owners of small arms to appear for verification of their weapons.

For his part, RECSA executive secretary Theoneste Mutsindsyaka said there were 875 million small arms and light weapons that were in circulation across the world, whereby 100 million of them were illegally circulated in Africa.

The centre also stated that the estimates indicated that every minute one person dies from armed violence and 10 other are injured due to illegal possession of light weapons.
He said the African continent had experienced and continued to experience conflicts and transnationally organised crimes including recent terrorism fueled by the easy availability of small arms and light weapons (SALW).

“This has led to devastating effects such as deaths of innocent civilians and refugees as well as internal displacement of communities and stagnated development, among other negative effects,” the official said.

“As a result of this menace, there is strong desire and commitment on the continent to address the problems resulting from proliferation of illicit SALW,” he detailed.
Africa, particularly the Great Lakes Region, continues to be engulfed by small arms and light weapons that are easily accessible and carried by individuals.

However, there have been several mechanisms put in place in East Africa to address the problem of SALW; they include the Nairobi Protocol on Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons, while in West Africa the mechanism is coordinated under the ECOWAS.

In the Southern parts of the continent the coordination is spearheaded by SADC while in Central Africa it is coordinated by the Kinshasa Convention.

Tanzania has been the beneficiary of the Africa Union (AU) –European Union (EU) project funded by the Weapons Removal Abatement in the US government. Tanzania has benefitted from USD 15,000 in drafting the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act.

RECSA is the only body whose sole mandate is to address the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons.