By Henry Sekanjako
A total of 300,000 small arms and light weapons have been smuggled into Uganda and other East African community countries for the last 10 years.
This is as revealed by the executive secretary East Africa Action Network on small arms (EAANSA), Richard Mugisha has revealed.
Mugisha said the importation of illegal small arms was high in East Africa due to the existing arms embargoes which are too easy to break or ignore by different countries.
“How can the sale of mangoes be more tightly controlled than the sale of machine guns? It just doesn’t make sense. The situation is indefensible and it’s long overdue for countries to hammer out a legally-binding agreement on weapons transfer,” he said.
Mugisha made the remarks while addressing journalists over the weekend at Grand imperial Hotel in Kampala.
He added that the absence of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) had made it easy for countries like Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to deal in importation of illegal arms which he says have resulted into destruction of livelihoods.
Currently, countries under small arms and light weapons embargoes are working on an Arms Trade Treaty to bar illegal importation of such weapons into their countries.
However, Mugisha said, such a treaty must include legally binding criteria that prevent arms transfer more so where there is a substantial risk to violate international human rights , humanitarian law or undermine development.
“The new Arms Trade Treaty must be robust enough to have a genuine impact on the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians suffering from armed violence every single day,” he stressed.
According to latest reports by international humanitarian agency Oxfam, the absence of comprehensive international legal obligations to prevent irresponsible transfers of arms had resulted in at least $2.2bn worth of arms and ammunition being imported by countries under arms embargoes between the years 2000 and 2010.
The report shows how the lack of robust and legally-binding obligations on the sale and transfer of arms has allowed the ongoing flow of weapons into Syria.
It indicates that in 2010, Syria imported $167m worth of air defense systems and missiles as well as $1m worth of small arms and light weapons.
Iran had spent $57m between the years 2007-2010 while Uganda’s western neighbor, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) spent $124m between the years 2000-2002.
300,000 small arms smuggled into East Africa