By Henry Sekanjako
The East Africa Action Network on small arms (EAANSA) has called for tougher laws and increased vigilance among member states of the East African community (EAC) to curb illegal movement of small arms and light weapons.
According to the executive secretary EAANSA, Richard Mugisha, considering that the dynamics and movement of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) transcend the political boarders that divide state parties within East Africa, there is need for increased vigilance and concerted effort between and among member states in the EAC to control and manage illicit SALWs.
“We need to continue fostering partnerships between government institutions and civil society organizations for joint planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes to curb illicit small arms and light weapons,” said Mugisha during meeting at Grand Botanical Hotel in Entebbe.
Mugisha recently told journalists in Kampala that a total of 300,000 small arms and light weapons had been smuggled into Uganda and other East African community countries for the last 10 years.
“The importation of illegal small arms is high in East Africa due to the existing arms embargoes which are too easy to break or ignore by different countries,” he noted.
He added that issues related to illicit small arms and light weapons in East and West African regions was due to illegal manufacturing and possession of weapons by criminal arms dealers, illicit transfer of small arms within and across borders as well as use of illicit small arms and light weapons to create insecurity in member states.
Mugisha said 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.