- Kenya shares border with several countries, Tanzania to the South, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the North west, Ethiopia to the North and Somalia to the East, all these countries have in one way to another, have potential for proliferation of Small arms and Light Weapons (SALW)
- Small arms contribute to the escalation of hostilities in communities and engagement in cattle rustling, Terrorism, gang type and crimes
- The Kenya Police in conjunction with the Regional Center for Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA), Kenya National Focal Point for Arms and supported by UNDP conducted the public destruction of 2,545 recovered illicit firearms. Since 2007, police have confiscated thousands of weapons that were allegedly used in crimes.
- Fewer International and Local NGO's work in Small arms and Light weapons Program in Kenya, Apart from RECSA, they include, Oxfam, SaferWorld, Danish Demining Group and Northern Kenya Caucus(NORKENYA) among others.
The six legislators, Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central), William Cheptumo (Baringo North), Hellen Sambili (Mogotio), Grace Kipchoim (Baringo South), Asman Kamama (Tiati) and Baringo women representative Grace Kiptui asked the Government to act speedily.
Pastors from Baringo organised the prayers at Kabarnet High School on Sunday, following rampant cattle theft that has left a trail of deaths and property loss. Schools have been closed and families displaced.
MPs condemned the aggression by bandits suspected to be from East Pokot. “The Government must do massive disarmament across North Rift to end insecurity and bring development in pastoralist areas as it is its responsibility to protect its citizens,” said Mwaita. The MPs, especially those from Baringo North and South, dismissed the voluntary gun-surrender recently launched by the Government, terming it as ineffective.
“Voluntary disarmament is not enough as not all will surrender them. The solution is forceful disarmament which must be done with immediate effect to ensure that peace prevails,” said Kipchoim. She said for almost a year now, seven schools in Marigat are yet to re-open and over 1,500 families abandoned their homes following raiders’ attacks.
While that was that....Asha Abdulah, Halima Hassan and Mariam Quyu have one thing in common: they are all widows after their husbands were killed during tribal clashes in Northern Kenya. The three chatting in their own language wondered how a consignment containing 2,000 rounds of ammunition and a rifle was intercepted near their village by security officers in Lagdera on Aug. 30.
The consignment in four boxes were discovered in cargo compartment of a bus plying Mandera-Nairobi route and the police claim that the cache was destined to conflict zone of Tana River in southeast Kenya where raging inter clan strife has claimed 64 people, 230 people injured and 340 houses torched in various villages since August 2012. Quyu admitted that the discovery of the arms haul raises red flag on multi-million illegal arms trade flourishing in northern Kenya which is used as conduit to various local and regional arms market.
The bus ferrying the arms haul left Mandera (border) town that borders Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and passed various security checkpoints undetected before police acting on tip off from a rival arms dealer stormed the bus and intercepted the boxes containing the assorted ammunition and one rifle.
Did the arms haul passed all several security check points undetected? Was the consignment verified, checked and cleared at security check points along Kenya/Somalia border before reaching Mandera town?
These questions lead to thriving small arms and light weapon trade in the two arms market located in southern central Somalia and managed by Al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab militant group.
Quyu told Xinhua the bustling underworld business is undertaken by a wealthy cartel that procures arms from the two markets before ferrying across the border into Kenya. The illicit arms pass through some security checkpoints where they enjoy security patronage and further taken through undesignated routes to various transit points in northern Kenya and other areas in Nairobi. The two markets that supplies arms to Kenyan and regional markets are located in two towns of Bualle and Bardera in southern Somalia that are under control of Al-Shabaab terror groups and Kismayu port city acting as the main gateway of arms from various illegal arms exporters like Yemen, former Soviet satellite states, Libya, Egypt and Eritrea.Two arms markets were formerly located a few km from Kenya- Somalia border (Burahache and Dobley) and it was moved further interior into Southern central Somalia towns after Kenya Defense Force (KDF) waged war against the terror outfit two years ago.
According to an ex-gun runner, Hassan Uruko who is based along Kenya/Somalia border and who has since fled the area after losing favor with Al-Shabaab, the onslaught by KDF culminated with relocation of the arms market into areas viewed as bastion of the terrorist outfit.
“I lost favor with Al-Shabaab after they suspected me of procuring arms for a blacklisted community and I had stopped dealing with them and fled the area to undisclosed location,” Uruko told Xinhua in an interview.
“I use to buy arms from Dobley arms market for various groups, communities and clients coming from as far as Moyale, Marsabit and people from Ethiopia,” he said.
“When I was in the business, the market was located in Dobley and also Burahache which is close to Elwak town but the current war in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab has seen the group taking the market everywhere. I liked the former Dobley market as it was supermarket of arms and weapon spare parts,” Uruko said.
Uruko said the relocation of the arms market from close proximity to Kenyan territory has not stopped the proliferation of small arms and light weapons into Kenya but only skyrocketed the price.
He said the relocation of the markets has also changed the way these delicate and dangerous weapons are smuggled, handled and taken to various end users in various destinations within Kenya and far afield.
Uruko claimed Al-Shabaab have used the two arms market to sustain their armed activities as they rake millions of dollars from arms sales to support their terror activities. They also used part of the arms proceeds to recruit more Kenyan youths into terror outfit and also supply various conflict hotspots with various sophisticated arms that has caused death, destruction, massive displacement and recurrent conflict that undermine development and tranquility.
South-Central Somalia arms markets supplies various types of arms like AK-47, G-3, Aker, Patchet, M-16, FN rifle, various types of pistols, assortments of ammunition, home- made anti- aircraft launchers and various weapon spare parts, Uruko said.
He said the arms smuggling and supply business is controlled and managed by various cartels and players who control certain areas and delivering the cache of arms to other players who deliver it to the intended market and community for use in armed conflicts. According to him, the Al-Shabaab terror organization places tight grip on the two markets for fear of arms falling into hands of their enemies or communities that are not subscribing to their ideologies.
He reveals that the organizations had appointed a commander to oversee the two arms markets with various deputy commanders in charge of procuring arms from illegal arms source, others are in- charge of the market and sales while others take control of security for convoy that source arms from the market.
Another group takes charge of money transfer as most transactions are done through Hawala money transfer service while other buyers prefer dropping bags of dollars before collecting their cargo.
It’s the duty of the deputy commander in charge of the market and sales to establish which buyers are genuine before they take the tricky journey from various points in northern Kenya to the arms market. This clearance procedure has seen formation of local clearance unit in northern Kenya town whose responsibility is to check conflict trend between communities, collect local intelligence as they seek potential customers.
“This is the only business I know,” said Abdi Koronto, an arms sale fixer who has worked with various groups procuring arms in the two markets situated in Bualle and Bardera and the former markets in Burhache and Dobley.
“I have assisted many people, clans, militias, groups, bandits, security officials in procuring arms from former markets in Dobley and Burhache and also the new ones in Bardera and Bualle before I decided to withdraw from the business due to the risks and danger coming from new development in Southern Central Somalia.”
“In the past I have worked with various administrations that took control of the market including Al-Itihahad al Islamiya, Islamic Courts Union and now Al-Shabaab,” he adds.
Koronto said his work was to coordinate potential customers, check their background and where the arms will be used, and also doing some ground work like collecting intelligence.
“I used to check which officers will be manning various security checkpoints along the borders, check of any movement of security personnel along the border areas used to sneak the arms and also check if local communities along the border areas are unhappy with then consignments going through their areas at night hours,” Koronto said.
He remembered vividly his customers ranging from local politicians in high circles of northern Kenya politics to prominent community elders and also security officials procuring arms for crime markets in other parts of Kenya especially Nairobi areas, Coastal towns and other crime prone areas.
Recently, The Kenya Police in conjunction with the Regional Center for Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA), Kenya National Focal Point for Arms and supported by UNDP conducted the public destruction of 2,545 recovered illicit firearms. Since 2007, police have confiscated thousands of weapons that were allegedly used in crimes.
Fewer International and Local NGO's work in Small arms and Light weapons Program in Kenya and include, Oxfam, SaferWorld, Danish Demining Group and Northern Kenya Caucus(NORKENYA) among others.
“I have many years’ experience in this work and the only livelihood I know is gun running and fixing and I have dealt and assisted many people including some senior politicians in northern Kenya and other prominent elders and personalities,” Koronto added.
“I use to receive many orders and each order takes me 15 days to investigate the potential buyer and where he or she comes from and if the buyer is connected to my client Al-Shabaab enemies or spies,” he said.
Koronto said it takes him four days to establish the buyer and also liaise with other Al-Shabaab agents in Kenya to follow up on the buyer and obtain background information and submit profile to the commander before arranging for secret collection location along Kenya-Somalia border.
“Other customers decide to go to the arms market and choose various types of arms and I organize for their movement only after I get such order or clearance from Al-Shabaab high command,” he said.
Part reporting by
By Fabian Mangera and Stephen Ingati ISIOLO, Kenya (Xinhua)