• The threat of illicit small arms and light weapons
During the past internal conflicts in the Republic of Rwanda, arms were distributed to sections of the civilian citizenry. Many of these weapons were later used during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi before the civilians fled to neighboring DR Congo.
The defeated ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias now known as FDLR later used some of the firearms they fled with in attacks on the Rwandan territory from 1996-2000 with the North and Western regions as the most vulnerable.
The instability in the neighboring states has occasionally led to movements of some bandits crossing the border with SALWs. The porous borders emerge as a big challenge to effective control of possible traffickers of illegal SALWs.
The effects of illicit SALW may include the following; poverty; loss of life and property; displacements; environmental degradation; intra and inter community conflicts; waste of social infrastructure (Schools, Hospitals); development retardation; Civil wars and Insecurity; anarchy; corruption, loss of wildlife, among others.
It is against the above concerns that the Central firearms Registry office was established in October 2007 within Rwanda National Police structure with the objectives of strengthening firearms registration, stockpile management and tracing of any illicit firearms within the Republic of Rwanda.
Maintenance of peace, stability and security in the country requires robust defense and internal security mechanism that can control and retrieve illegal firearms from the community as one important component of the process.
Available information reveals that, although illegal possession of firearms has tremendously reduced, there are some firearms in the hands of non-state actors.
The strategy realizes that without national coordination and cooperation of stakeholders in elimination of illegal fire arms, peace, stability and development will remain a pipe dream in the entire Republic of Rwanda.
In implementing the above strategy, a number of activities have been carried out by the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) and some of these include;
Establishment of a firearms database, sensitization activities, disarmament operation, marking of firearms, destruction of surplus, obsolete and redundant firearms, capacity building for Police and RDF officers in stockpile management, arms and munitions disposal, arms marking and database management among others; Regional initiatives have also supported this endeavor notably the Regional Center on Small Arms (RECSA) which brings together 13 member states including Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti Seychelles and Congo Brazaville which recently joined.
These member states are signatories to the Nairobi Protocol and Nairobi Declaration for the prevention, control and reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and bordering states and are coordinated through the established National Focal Points on small arms and light weapons at national levels.
United Nations Regional Center on Small Arms (UNREC) and the East African Community desk on small arms among others. Various civil society organizations have also patterned in the initiatives to curb down illicit small arms and light weapons both nationally and regionally.
The Rwanda National Focal Point on Small Arms coordinates all stake holders in the management and control of small arms and light weapons in the country and is located in ministry of Internal Security. Some of the stake holders include but are not limited to the following; Ministry of Internal Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Finance (RRA), Rwanda National Police, Immigration office, Customs, Civil Aviation Authority, RDB-Tourism and Wild life among others.
In the next series we shall bring to you the detailed activities that are ongoing as efforts to curb down the illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.
In case you have information related to illegal presence of firearms and/or ammunition;