UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
GREAT LAKES-HORN OF AFRICA: Centre established to combat illicit arms proliferation
NAIROBI, 24 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Countries in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa regions have signed an agreement setting up a centre on small arms to combat the proliferation and use of illicit light weapons and strengthen cooperation in the region.
The accord establishing the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (RECSA) - which will be based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi - was signed on Tuesday at the end of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from the two regions.
The founding countries are also signatories to the Nairobi Declaration on the Problem of the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, which was signed in 2000.
They are also parties to the 2004 Nairobi Protocol for Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
RECSA's main objectives would be to promote cooperation at regional and international levels and to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacture and use of illegal small arms and light weapons.
The agency also would promote peace and sustainable development in the region by "encouraging accountability, law enforcement and creating mechanisms for efficient control and management" of weapons.
According to the agreement, the centre would facilitate information sharing between governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society in matters relating to the trafficking of small arms.
The pact establishing RECSA was signed by Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
The foreign ministers, who were attending the third ministerial review of the Nairobi Declaration, also accepted a request by Somalia to become a signatory to the declaration.
Somalia was unable to sign the Nairobi Declaration because it had no functional government at the time. After the overthrow of Siyad Barre’s administration in 1991, it was ravaged by rival factions and had no central authority. A transitional government formed in Kenya last year is currently in the process of establishing itself back home.
"Now we are here to join the region - so that we can play our own role in curbing the threats coming from small arms throughout the region and across the borders," Abdullahi Sheikh Isma'il, Somalia's foreign minister, said.
Kenya's foreign minister, Ali Chirau Mwakwere, said he was encouraged by the commitment of states in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa to combat the problem of illicit small arms.
"The commitment made by all countries that are party to the Nairobi Declaration and Protocol is extremely encouraging," he said.
The Geneva Small Arms Survey of 2004 showed that there were 30 million small arms and light weapons circulating in sub-Saharan Africa. Seventy-nine percent of those weapons were in the hands of civilians, 19 percent were held by the police and the military and an estimated two percent were in the hands of armed groups and insurgents.
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