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Report accuses military of arming bandits

NAIROBI, September 2 – A report tabled at an International Arms Transfer conference in Nairobi on Wednesday showed that most of the firearms and ammunition used by militiamen in Northern Kenya belong to the armed forces.

The Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at the United Nations Daniel Prins told the conference the matter was serious and needed urgent attention.

“Close to half of the ammunition on the illicit market in the Northern Kenya has been leaked away from Kenyan armed forces stocks.” This is a serious matter” he said.

The report also blames the government for failing to account for firearms in the possession of its security agents, letting many of them to end up in the wrong hands.

Unless a permanent solution is identified, he said, the crisis was likely to deteriorate even further.

“Armed violence makes poorer people poorer. Countries plagued by it, in situations of conflict or crime tend to perform badly on Millennium Development Goals,” he said.

Prins said armed conflict had been singled out as an obstruction of the provision of health care, primary and secondary education and development aid.  It was also a cause of hunger.

He said relief organisations were also affected from armed conflict “because they spend up to a quarter of their budget protecting themselves.”

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Research has also shown that armed conflict formed a very serious impediment to economic growth.

“Nothing undermines investment climates as armed insecurity,” Prins said, citing a report by the World Bank.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka who represented Kenya at the conference declined to comment on the UN report that accuses the military of supplying arms to bandits.

He instead blamed European countries which manufacture the firearms for failing to regulate the distribution process.

He said many European countries which supply Kenya and other African Nations with firearms and ammunition were opposed to treaties that seek to regulate their sale and distribution.

“Many of these countries do not want such regulations because they are in business. They do not understand the effect of these firearms when they get into the wrong hands,” he said.

“Sadly, producers and brokers in the trade continue to benefit. They do not consider the end use of these deadly weapons. And the demand for these weapons in the developing world is left unchecked. This must be addressed,” he said in a speech.

Onyonka said delegates at the 2-day conference who represents various African countries will be protesting at the next major UN conference to discuss the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in October at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The First Committee deals with all of the disarmament concerns of the General Assembly and it mainly focuses on nuclear weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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Onyonka was standing in for Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula who is in Zambia attending the funeral of Levy Mwanawasa.

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