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Concern over increase in illegal arms after post-poll violence

A boy plays with mud pistols in Mathare slum of Nairobi. Mathare Valley is one of the five large slums in Nairobi Kenya and one of the most dangerous slums
A boy plays with mud pistols in Mathare slum of Nairobi. Kenya (Manoocher Deghati/IRIN)

Very little has been done to check the increase in illegal guns in parts of Kenya that were hardest hit by the post-election crisis, an official of a peace and development NGO said on 23 May.

"The small arms problem is bigger at this point than at any other time in our country's history, especially owing to the post-election violence, which created new markets for illegal arms more than ever before," Mutuku Nguli, chief executive of the Peace and Development Network (Peace-Net), said. "The danger is these arms may not necessarily be in use currently but could be used for the wrong reasons in the near or distant future."

Nguli said efforts to check the increase in arms had begun in parts of Rift Valley Province, with the expected induction on 28 May of 105 reformed Pokot warriors in West Pokot district. This, he said, follows the surrender of arms this month in West Pokot. Nine guns were recovered in the district in April, he said.

Nguli added that the arms surrender and induction of reformed warriors were some of the activities planned to mark the Global Week of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons from 2-9 June.

Nguli said a PeaceNet survey conducted in the town of Eldoret in May indicated that trade in small arms in the region reached its peak in February, the second month of violence sparked by the disputed presidential elections held in late December 2007.

Studies have found that at least 100,000 illegal guns are in circulation.

Nguli said the post-election violence contributed to the illegal arms' market taking on a new dimension, with the opening-up of new markets in the North and Central Rift Valley.

The PeaceNet survey found that the price of an AK-47 rifle on the illegal market was at least Ksh25,000 (US$385) in the North Rift; 35,000 ($540) in Marakwet district; and up to 50,000 ($770) in East Pokot district.

These illegal markets source the guns from Uganda's Karamoja region, Southern Sudan and parts of South Ethiopia, according to PeaceNet.

The survey also found that communities in the Rift Valley had supplies of other weapons, such as bows, poisoned arrows, spears, machetes and knives.

"Bows and arrows were being manufactured locally and were delivered to the frontline fighters," PeaceNet said. "This practice went on unabated and where arrests were made, it was perceived as ordinary crime."

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The post-election violence opened up new markets for illegal guns, especially in Rift Valley province, which bore the brunt of the violence

The Kenya Action Network on Small Arms (KANSA), citing a baseline assessment undertaken in 2005, says at least two million Kenyans had access to guns, with people in the Eastern and Northeastern provinces possessing the highest proportion of firearms. In these provinces, it says, arms availability is linked to cattle rustling, proximity to the borders of Ethiopia and Somalia, and actual or perceived inability of the government to protect citizens.

Kenya was one of 10 countries in the Horn, East and Central Africa regions that signed the Nairobi Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons in 2000. This declaration later led to the binding Nairobi Protocol on Small Arms, which entered into force in 2005. Kenya officially launched its National Action Plan for Arms Control and Management in July 2006.

Kenya burnt up to 8,000 guns in Nairobi on 15 March 2007, its fourth national destruction of illicit small arms, an event coordinated by the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the National Steering Committee on Peace-building and Conflict Management.


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

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