The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, Julius Rotich, has expressed concerns over unregulated transfer of arms within regional countries, saying it was posing a serious threat to peace and security.
He raised the concerns at an ongoing United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty that is underway in New York, United States.
“The region is not arms producing yet it remains awash with arms. The nexus between easy availability of arms, terrorism and piracy continue to manifest itself in the region and this remains of primary concern to region’s peace and security,” he said.
He explained that the EAC has over the years experienced and continues to experience devastating consequences of unregulated transfers, underlining that the Arms Treaty being negotiated must address problems associated with unregulated transfers of conventional arms.
Rotich also called for the instrument to provide sufficient safeguards guaranteeing respect to sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate access to related technology.
The EAC Partner States, he said, are all for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that includes all arms in the UN Conventional Arms Register along with Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and ammunitions.
The easy availability of arms has facilitated among others displacement of populations, widespread human rights abuses and undermined legitimate governments, added the EAC official.
The region has been hindered by rebel activities and terrorists mainly associated with the Somalia’s Al Qaeda-backed militants, Al Shabaab.
Rotich expressed optimism the ATT would radically alter the manner in which arms as the major security component have been managed to the advantage of enhanced global security, stability and development.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Sam Karemera, the Coordinator of Small Arms and Light Weapons at the Ministry of Internal Security, said the country is not hindered by the transfer of unregulated arms adding that sensitization campaigns have been put in place to avoid the unwanted arms that could bring insecurity.
“ So far we don’t have any problem with the issue of unregulated transfer of arms .We have embarked on campaigns to sensitize all nationals to always inform us in case any illicit arm is found,” He said.
He added that they introduced the mechanism that ensures that guns are owned legally through the arms marking programme.
Since 1995 about 52 tonnes of arms including guns and ammunitions have been destroyed as a mechanism to prevent insecurity in the country.
The global trade in conventional weapons – from warships and battle tanks to fighter jets and machine guns – remains poorly regulated according to statement sent to The New Times from EAC secretariat Arusha.
No set of internationally agreed standards exist to ensure that arms are only transferred for appropriate use.
Many governments have voiced concern over the absence of globally agreed rules for all countries to guide their decisions on arms transfers.
Countries have discussed the matter within the UN since 2006 and are set to come up with concrete outcome during the ATT meeting in New York expected to end on 27 July 2012.
Experts believe that without high common standards to guide national decisions on arms transfers, it is easier for arms to be used to violate the international humanitarian law and human rights and be diverted to illicit markets.
By Eric Kabeera, The New Times