1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. East Africa

Interview with Francis Sang, director of regional small-arms secretariat

Francis Sang, director of the Nairobi Secretariat on Small Arms and Light Weapons. IRIN
Francis Sang, Director of the Nairobi Secretariat on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Efforts to reduce small arms in Africa's Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions are set to get a boost in June with the creation of a Regional Centre for Small Arms. Experts from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania held a weeklong meeting on 16-20 May in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and drafted a declaration to establish the new centre. Foreign ministers from member countries are scheduled to sign this declaration in June. The plan is for the centre to grow out of an existing organisation called the Nairobi Secretariat on Small Arms, which is a department in Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its director for the past two years has been Francis Sang, a former director of criminal investigations in the Kenyan Police Force. He talked with IRIN on Friday after the conclusion of the experts' meetings. Here are excerpts of that interview: QUESTION: What difference will this new centre make to reducing small arms? ANSWER: This will be a truly regional organisation dealing with a truly regional problem. You cannot control arms in one country in this region, as the arms just slip across the border to another country. We want to put a stop to that by harmonising the ways in which each country deals with the problem. Q: What exactly will be harmonised? A: For example, laws on punishing people who illegally possess weapons. It's no good if one country imposed a mandatory sentence of five or seven years and then the neighbouring country imposes a sentence of only one year. There are a lot of gaps like this in the legislations of the various countries in the region. Take also laws on importing and exporting small arms and light weapons: We are seeking to develop common standards on that, as well as on procedures for marking, tracking and stockpiling arms. We are set to complete the harmonisation process by 28 April 2006. Q: But will the organisation be able to enforce these laws and procedures? A: We do not have the mandate to enforce, but we can work closely with regional and national police. We are developing standardised training curricula for police and customs officers as well as standardised documents for owners of weapons and export licences so that the arms can be verified when they move in and out of each country. Q: Exactly how many small arms are circulating in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions? A: We are not sure. There are an estimated 30 million small arms in all of sub-Saharan Africa. But there has not been enough research for us to say how many and what kind there are in these regions. We cannot properly deal with the problem if we do not know exactly what the problem is. So improving the research on small arms is something else we plan to do. Q: And what is the new centre's estimated budget? A: We don't have a budget yet. That will be worked out when the foreign ministers meet next month [in June]. In our current form, within the Kenyan foreign ministry, we have a budget of only about £200,000 [US $365,000]. Q: Do you expect the new centre to become much bigger? A: The new centre is not going to grow overnight. Currently, we have focal points in nine countries and seven professional staff at the centre, five of whom are Kenyan. Once the ministers sign the declaration, the centre will become a truly regional organisation funded by its member states. The plan then is to recruit 12 professional staff for the centre. They will come from countries in the region but based on merit. Q: And will you remain the director? A: That depends on what the ministers decide. In any case they will have to advertise the job.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.