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Peace Activists Seek To Curb Proliferation
Of Illicit Weapons In Kenya

By Robert Manyara, NAKURU, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- Recurrent attacks in some parts of Kenya especially in the northern and coastal regions have caused major security shake-ups in the East African nation with the government reinforcing security in the affected areas.

During the attacks, people have died, livestock-which to some is the main source of livelihood, have been killed or stolen and property worth of millions of shillings lost.

Due to fear, some members of the local communities have moved away to places they feel secure while others are left with no option but to remain in their homelands under the protection of the police officers.

And peace keepers in the country maintain that neither social nor economic developments will be recorded in the affected regions if insecurity continue to remain a concern.

They attribute the increasing attacks to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the developing state, which is one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the world.

In efforts to counteract the fast spread of the deadly weapons among the civilians, the peace activists have now embarked on aggressive pro-active measures in areas deemed to be the trading zones of the arms.

Unlike in their current operations, they intend to have many disintegrated peace communities within the villages to relay the sensitive security information to the relevant authorities for action.

According to Abdi Bashir, Kenya’s Peace Building and Conflict Management director, increased supply and exchange of the illegal small arms and light weapons is a serious emerging security issue that needs coordinated efforts from all the stakeholders.

Development is pegged on security. When people feel secure, they focus more on the long term investments but without security they will not,” said Bashir.

With an increased number of the disintegrated peace committees in the areas mostly affected, we will able to have all pieces of information regarding the movement of the arms and together with the Kenyan security officers, we will be able to control their spread.”

In a 2012 report on the availability of the small arms in the country, firearms ranging between 530,000 and 680,000 were shown to be in the hands of the civilians.

The survey that was jointly done by Kenya National Focus Point on Small Arms And Light Weapons and the Small Arms Survey also indicated North Eastern, Upper Eastern, and North Rift as regions heavily infested with the exchange of the illegal arms.

This is one of the emerging issues that is causing distress to the maintenance of security not only in Kenya but other countries too. And we need coordinated and integrated efforts to end the circulation of these weapons. This means we need the input of every community member,” said Alfredo Teixeira, the deputy country director for UN Development Program (UNDP) Kenya.

According to the report entitled Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment, networks of dealers and suppliers operationalize the circulation of the firearms to various parts of the country.

Some of the major urban centers identified to be the conveyor channels or destinations to the deadly weapons include the country’s capital city; Nairobi. Others are Kisumi, Eldoret; Thika and Mombasa.

Although these dealers and suppliers said to have discreet contacts are known to the locals as reported in the survey, members of the communities fear reporting them to the security authorities.

To help the government short circuit the dragnets, the peace advocates say they will engage in consistent drives enlightening communities on the necessity of sharing security information to protect their lives and property.

Security information must be handled in a very covert manner and in extreme confidence so that the life of the individual who relayed it is not put at risk. This is what we need to assure the residents of, to have trust in us and the security officers. Otherwise, fighting this menace won’t be easy,” Nakuru County Commissioner Mohammed Birik said.

Under the new pro-active security response mode to be adopted across the country, all the peace committees in the devolved units in the county governments will be involved in actively engaging the public through dialogue and peace building initiatives in efforts to promote confidential volunteering of the intelligence information.

Already, the government together with UNDP and Peace Building and Conflict Management has completed holding consultative talks with all the peace stakeholders in all the 47 counties in the country in efforts to establish a formidable structure for maintaining peace in the East African state.

Through the relevant ministries, the government is set to come up with stipulated mechanisms based on the recommendations made by various peace agents and authorities during the forums.

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