Speaking at a media briefing in Nairobi on Wednesday, Elizabeth Kisiigha, the executive director of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa, said proliferation of illicit arms was a big challenge in relation to conflict witnessed and therefore is need to address the issue, especially being in an electioneering year.
The executive director said that recent studies by the Regional Centre on Small Arms show that between 500,000 and 680,000 illicit small arms are in circulation in the hands of civilians in Kenya, the most affected areas being the Rift Valley and Mount Elgon.
A lobby group has raised fears over what it says is increased proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Kenya heading to the August General Election.
“Illicit arms entering in various countries have been the cause of perpetual insecurity, sexual gender based violence, killings of innocent people and armed movements,” Ms Kisiigha said.
“These firearms are frequently used by terrorists and other deadly criminal gangs to carry out criminal activities like cattle rustling, carjacking, armed robberies and gang violence,” she said.
Ms Kisiigha said that informal settlements were in danger, with children as young as 13 years being in possession of guns, and the situation might deteriorate further because of election campaigns.
“In Korogocho and Ngomongo, informal settlements located east of Nairobi city, children as young as 13 years are going to schools with guns as they are being used as carriers of those weapons and sometimes recruited into illegal gangs,” she said.
She urged the government and Kenyans to join hands in flushing out the criminal gangs and other civilians who use the firearms to cause chaos and deaths of innocent citizens and expose the sources of supply of the deadly weapons.
Marcus Ochola, the director of the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, said that Kenya faces challenges when it comes to proliferation of illicit arms.
“Arms traffickers take advantage of situations caused by strife to smuggle weapons through porous borders which are not effectively policed, cross-border cattle rustling is also a concern while idle youths are vulnerable to recruitment into various criminal groups,” Mr Ochola said.
He, however, said that the government through the Ministry of Interior had been clear on use of illicit guns by political gangs and that the government department’s Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho had warned politicians of arrest and prosecution.
“We have briefed our officers to properly man border areas and also the Ps had warned politicians of arrest and immediate prosecution and we have also warned youths against being used by politicians,” the director said.
He said that they would have an operation in informal settlements to clean them up before the campaigns started.