Rwanda : Public urged to handover fire arms
Light weapons and fire arms: Police calls upon the public to voluntarily hand them over
The Police have in the past conducted various campaigns to get firearm weapons from the public, but the rate at which they are causing harm shows that they are still scattered around the country.
Last week, September 5, a 12-year old boy died following a grenade explosion at their home in Nyarurama cell, Ntongwe sector, Ruhango District. The blast took place right in their store.
According to ACP Sam Karemera, the National Focal Point Coordinator on small arms and light weapons, there is still need for timely sharing of information on the whereabouts of firearms and those that still keep them.
He said Community Policing Committees should take such campaigns seriously.
In November 2009, the Police launched a six-month ‘Grace Period’ for the community to surrender arms willingly, which yielded positive results, according to police.
They however say that even those who surrender firearms willingly, though the grace period expired, will not be penalized.
Article 671 of the penal code stipulates that ‘any person who illegally possesses, lends or gives an arm, or falsifies its identification marks, is liable to a term of imprisonment of six months to one year and a fine of Rwf300,000 to Rwf3,000,000 or one of the penalties.
Although illegal possession of firearms has tremendously reduced, available information shows that firearms are still scattered in different parts of the country following the 1990-1994 war and the 1997 insurgency which affected most the northern part of the country.
Most of the weapons are said to have been distributed to the population by the genocidal government of Prime Minister Jean Kambanda in 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, especially in the Southern Province.
Hundreds of thousands of small arms and light weapons have since 2006 been destroyed in the region following the signing of the Nairobi Protocol in May 2005 which brings together 11 member countries from the Great Lakes Region, the horn of Africa and bordering states.
The protocol aims at prevention, control, and reduction of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region.
Regional countries established protocols including the Nairobi Protocol; the declaration of Kinshasa; Bamako declaration of Mali and the Central Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (CAPCCO) declaration, all aimed at bringing to an end the escalation of fire arms and light weapons in the region.
Karemera says that there are international organized threats, but there are also security threats in communities resulting from illegal possession of arms.
“Some people holding these arms have also used them in criminal activities like theft,” he added.
He explained that Rwanda National Police (RNP), Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) and other registered private security companies as the only institutions entitled to posses arms.
He, however, clarified that the public can also posses’ arms, but only through legal procedures.
In 2007, Rwanda established a Central Firearms Registry (CFR) to strengthen firearms registration, stock heap management and trace any illicit firearms within the country
Currently, Rwanda Police has received a fully equipped vehicle-machine to facilitate the marking of firearms in the country, and customized software for proper record keeping.
Over 46, 000 firearms, over 266 tons of ammunitions and 52, 486 tons of explosives were destroyed.
It is estimated that about 500,000 illegal Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are in circulation in East Africa, a situation the region considers a major threat.