MOMBASA, KENYA-The increasing cross-border cattle theft is raising concerns within the Great Lakes Region with experts saying that the vice increases the illegal possession and proliferation of illicit arms.
Speaking at a regional media workshop, the Senior Legal Advisor of Mifugo Project, Erasmus Twaruhukwa, said that cattle rustling has relegated the use of traditional weapons such as spears and arrows in favour of weapons such as the AK-47.
“It was noted over time that the traditional practice of cattle rustling had drastically changed…this has led to increased violence in episodes of the vice. Pastoralists remained armed in spite of the coming into force of the Nairobi Protocol on small arms and light weapons,” said Twaruhukwa.
Latest reports estimate that there are about 30 million illicit small and light weapons in circulation in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a similar development, the head of legal affairs at the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA) Barbara Munube, emphasized the need for harmonisation of regional policies on disarmament of individuals and groups in illegal possession of firearms, saying all concerned parties should look for best practices in the disarmament exercise and adopt it.
She however hastened to add that the figures provided by a 2004 Geneva Small Arms survey should be given less consideration since there is no precise criterion used to count the illicit arms that are still unlawfully possessed.
The Geneva survey indicated that 79% of the 30 million illicit arms in sub-Saharan Africa are believed to be in the hands of civilians, 19% within the military and police hands while 2% of these with militias.
Munube said that since the signing of the Nairobi Protocol in April 2004, only Rwanda and Burundi have come up with national laws against the illegal use and possession of small arms and light weapons.