It made for a dramatic sight, 15-foot piles of rifles and pistols numbering over 5000 guns being eaten up by flames of fire in a field on the outskirts of Nairobi, all in a bid to discourage the illegal arms trade in Kenya.
The deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto, was present and oversaw the burning, further sending a message to the Kenyan populace that illegal arms trade would no longer be tolerated. Deputy President William Ruto spoke at the event which took place on November 15 calling on Kenyans to surrender any illegal arms;
“I am calling on all citizens in Kenya who have unlicensed firearms to voluntarily surrender them.”
As dramatic as the sight may have been, the act of burning the arms is made less dramatic by the fact that Kenya’s public gun burning ceremonies have been held since 2003 as a part of a UN action program to eradicate the trade in small arms and light weapons.
The burnings have done little to discourage the illegal arms trade, but have rather only backed up assurances by the government that something is being done about it.
Still robberies and terrorist attacks in Kenya continue to be committed with illegal guns, despite having over 20,000 guns destroyed in the gun burning ceremonies. In fact, 20,000 guns are far short of a 2007 estimate by Kenyan officials that over 100,000 illegal guns were in circulation in the country and 20,000 guns burnt since 2003 are laughable compared to the new estimate of 700,000 guns currently in circulation.
Most of the guns are allegedly smuggled in from Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sudan. Gun laws in Kenya are pretty strict on paper; there is a high level of difficulty in getting a gun license with background checks and interviews required severally.
In real life, however, the demand and supply for the weapons on the black market remains high. Prior to the recent burning ceremony, Kenya’s interior ministry announced the formation of a national action plan to crack down on the trade with tactics like marking all state-owned firearms and setting up an arms mapping survey.
Analysts, however, feel that the government should do more to fight the sense of insecurity which causes people to patronize those involved in the illegal arms trade.