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Great Lakes countries have until 30 December to brand arms

afrol News, 19 August - Uganda and countries in the Great Lakes have until 30 December deadline to brand all light and small firearms to control soaring illegal firearms.

Executive Director of the Regional Center for Small Arms - Nairobi Chapter, Dr Francis Sang, has urged regional member states to seriously observe deadline on small arms and light weapons at a meeting in Kampala.

"We expect all member states to meet this deadline because computerised marking machines that will brand the guns have already been dispatched to all 12 member states," he added at sub-regional workshop on small arms and light weapons.

Mr Sang said, branding of guns is meant to easily identify state-owned arms that are illegally acquired by criminals, further saying they could easily be traceable if are being misused by both officials and criminals.

He added that ultimatum was agreed to by line ministers from 12-member states and was also recommended under Article Seven of 2000 Nairobi Declaration.

In the past, national armies in Great Lakes Region, including Ugandan troops, have been accused of selling weapons to armed groups, which has contributed to soaring proliferation of illegal arms in the region.

He said the secretariat had procured 12 branding machines and delivered them to members, saying branding machine will insert information bar code that can only be detected by a computer in order to avoid manual alterations by criminals.

"At first we wanted to brand (guns) with only the country code on top but we later decided to use high-tech machines that brand all internal parts of the guns with a bar code," he said.

According to Mr Sang Rwanda had branded 8,000 firearms using chisels.

Recent surveys have indicated that over 100,000 illegal arms are circulating in Karamoja and 120,000 in Turkana region, in Kenya.

Uganda has destroyed the highest number of illegal weapons in the Great Lakes and Horn Africa regions with 60,000, followed by Kenya with 20,000 between 2005 and 2007, Dr Sang reported at the conference.

United States ambassador, Steven Browning, said his government is ready to assist Great Lakes countries fight proliferation of small arms.

According to report presented by Mr Sang Djibouti burned at least 100 arms whereas Burundi destroyed 200 in the same period.

The illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons remains one of the most pressing security challenges in the Great lakes region and East Africa.

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