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President Moi, in power since 1978, has publicly denounced the impact on Kenya of illegal weapons flows from neighboring countries. At a government conference on the proliferation of small arms hosted by Kenya in March 2000, marking Kenya's official entry into a growing international debate on the issue, Moi noted that the unchecked flow of small arms in the region, among other devastating consequences, "undermines peace, intensifies violence and impacts on crime."2 The Kenyan government has since been a proponent of international action to better regulate transfers of these weapons. Under a United Nations definition, small arms are hand-held firearms-such as revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles, submachine-guns, assault rifles, and light machine-guns-designed for use by one person.3 Light weapons, a closely-related category, are designed for use by several persons serving as a crew.

External Weapons Sources and the Spillover Effect of Regional Conflict

Much of East Africa and the Horn of Africa is flooded with guns, predominantly small arms, and a large number of those weapons spill over into Kenya. Since the late 1970s the countries bordering Kenya to the north (Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda) have experienced long periods of unrest and internal armed conflict. During the cold war these wars were fueled in part by the huge quantities of arms pumped into East Africa by the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies. The torrent of free or subsidized arms flowing to the African continent subsided significantly after the end of the cold war, but large quantities of arms have continued to pour into the region from numerous arms producers, including China, Bulgaria, and other countries of central and eastern Europe.4

Adding to the flow originating from distant countries, a huge quantity of weapons entered the private arms market with the fall of governments in Ethiopia (1991), Rwanda (1994), Somalia (1991), and Uganda (1979 and 1986), as well as conflicts in other African countries.5 Some governments in East and Central Africa have amply supplied rebel forces in other countries with guns and ammunition, thereby adding to the number of weapons in circulation.6 Fighters from wars in these countries are a prime source of weapons brought into Kenya, which they often sell for subsistence. Moreover, a number of East African states are also developing their own arms producing industries. Kenya itself, with Belgian assistance, built a bullet manufacturing plant in Eldoret capable of producing 20 million rounds a year, and such secrecy surrounds the plant that little is known about who purchases those bullets and whether they are available for export. In addition, kinship ties among pastoralist communities that straddle international borders can facilitate the movement of firearms from one side to another, as well as the spread of localized conflicts.

The patterns of weapons movements largely reflect the situation of widespread armed conflict in the region. Somalia has been a prominent source of arms since the early 1990s. Unconfirmed estimates for the volume of arms entering Kenya from Somalia range as high as 5,000 automatic rifles per month, with recovered weapons reportedly showing Chinese, U.S., and Bulgarian markings.7 As fighting in Somalia has quieted down and armed violence has flared up elsewhere in recent years, weapons siphoned from conflicts in Sudan and Uganda have become increasingly common.

In addition, Kenya has long been a major transit point for weapons shipments destined to war-torn countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa. For example, a large weapons shipment destined to Burundi passed through Kenya's Mombasa port before being impounded by Ugandan authorities in October 1999. A Ugandan official cited concern that new weapons flows would aggravate the war in Burundi as the reason for postponing delivery. Regional sanctions imposed on Burundi in1996 barred arms shipments, but those sanctions had been lifted in early 1999.8

According to Julius Miyumo, a former top Kenyan customs official familiar with the Burundi shipment and others, no explicit legal criteria exist in Kenya for determining whether an arms shipment should be permitted to transit the country, but in practice national authorities halt weapons shipments if they appear to violate a U.N. or regional arms embargo or if the arms cargo has not been properly declared. The existence of an abusive armed conflict in the recipient country and the risk of the weapons being diverted to an unauthorized third party (or of spilling back into Kenya), however, are not considered. Moreover, he explained that according to existing procedures Kenyan authorities designate sensitive cargo (including weapons shipments) "classified" upon the request of the recipient government, and all classified shipments are exempt from inspection, regardless of their content.9

The large quantities of weapons transshipped through Kenya to areas of violent conflict thus add significantly to the stocks of weapons in the region. Given the ease of weapons flows across borders, arms purchases by regional actors that are facilitated by the Kenyan government contribute to the problem in Kenya itself of weapons recycled from war. The Moi government, however, has not acknowledged this link and, to the contrary, has spoken of international arms flows to the region as if Kenya itself were not implicated in the trade. For example, without any apparent irony, President Moi expressed concern about armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa and their wider impact on stability in the region, noting: "In particular, I would like to register Kenya's strong opposition to the shipment of arms to the various theaters of conflicts or any other forms of external interventions in the region as these can only further fuel the conflicts as well as increase the human suffering."10

Moreover, Kenya is vulnerable to illicit weapons trafficking through the same channels used for legal arms shipments. The Kenyan coastline and in particular Mombasa's port have been identified as entry points used by smugglers. UnitedNations investigators have reported suspicious arms flights that have transited Nairobi and suggested the weapons on board may have been destined to embargoed parties.11 Former customs official Miyumo, who also served on a U.N. expert panel on small arms, pointed out that the work of customs officers has been made much more difficult by unscrupulous arms brokers and shipping agents who use false documents, misdeclare cargo, file false flight plans, hide weapons in secret compartments in motor vehicles and shipping containers, and otherwise plot to traffic weapons undetected. He indicated that Kenyan customs authorities take a number of steps to rein in such behavior, but said better techniques and equipment were required to more systematically halt undeclared arms shipments.12

In all cases, however, the decision to impound or release an unauthorized shipment, as well as when to authorize an arms shipment through Kenyan territory, ultimately depends on political authorities in Nairobi. Miyumo stated that he was aware of two cases in which undeclared (and presumably unauthorized) weapons cargo detained by customs officials was later claimed by a neighboring country and, on the instruction of officials in Nairobi, the arms were released.13

Weapons Movements in Kenya

The vast majority of firearms in private hands throughout the country are illegal. It is difficult to obtain a license to own a gun in Kenya, and the unlawful possession of a gun is punishable with long prison sentences. The sale of firearms by unlicensed dealers is also subject to penalties, although much lighter and less commonly enforced. In general, analysts who conducted research on Kenya's legal controls found that, while there was room to tighten penalties further and close loopholes, the major weakness of the firearms legislation was the poor enforcementof existing provisions.14

Illegal gun movements in Kenya happen in secret and are difficult to document. Most of the weapons entering Kenya's illegal market appear to be trickling in, transported by small-time traders. Taken together, they account for a steady arms influx. Kenya's border is porous and in large part arid and thinly populated. Although there are nominal customs checkpoints at the main Kenyan entry points, the rest of the border is rarely patrolled and there are many smuggler's routes. The Kenyan police commissioner conceded this point: "The borders with our neighbors are expansive. Even if you take all the police officers in Kenya (about 35,000) to patrol the borders they cannot prevent the flow of guns. There are so many panya [smuggling] routes."15 Even main roads can be used for the cross-border transport of illegal guns. According to a gun trader, a small bribe of 200 to 300 Kenyan shillings (Ksh.), approximately U.S.$3 to $4, will ensure that a customs official looks the other way.16

Traders find it worthwhile to smuggle guns into Kenya because they command a much higher price there. For example, in 1999 Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) deserters reportedly could sell an assault rifle to pastoralist Karimojong traders on the Sudan/Uganda border for 30,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately $20), the Karimojong traders would in turn sell the weapons to Pokot traders living on the Uganda/Kenya border, who could sell it in Kenya for Ksh.10,000 (approximately $135). That same gun could then be sold in Nairobi for as much as Ksh.40,000 (approximately $530). In addition, it is not unusual in Kenya for guns to be bartered for other commodities. On the Kenyan border guns can be exchanged, depending on the current supply, for two goats or a cow.17

Prices fluctuate depending on demand, supply, location, and the type of weapon for sale. In some parts of northern Kenya, prices may run as low asKsh.5,000 ($65) for a firearm, while ammunition was estimated to cost Ksh.80-100 (U.S. $1 to $1.25) per round. Researchers found that just inside the Kenya-Somali border, where guns are plentiful, an AK-47 assault rifle could be had in late 2000 for Ksh.10,000 ($130), with the price increasing to Ksh.15,000 (almost $200) in Garissa, further inside the border province. The German-designed G3 assault rifle, carried by Kenyan security forces, is more expensive than the AK-47, commanding a price of Ksh.15,000 (nearly $200), but part of the G3's appeal is that ammunition for it is easier to buy. In 2001, during a time of relative shortage, it was reported that AK-47s sold by SPLA fighters to arms merchants in eastern Ugandan commanded a price of $90 to $147 each, a pistol could be purchased for approximately $30, and a rifle could be traded for a bag of sorghum.18

There is a thriving market for guns in the border areas, with demand for such weapons fueled by local and cross-border cattle raids, as well as armed border incursions. In addition, many of the weapons that traders smuggle into Kenya are transported to the interior of the country. They are sometimes smuggled by boat, but most often carried aboard commercial vehicles used to transport livestock or other merchandise. One common destination is Lokichokio near the borders with Sudan and Uganda, reputed to be a center of the illegal trade in firearms and ammunition in northwest Kenya.

Isiolo, gateway to Kenya's vast arid north (and on the Transafrica highway), is also reputed to be a hub for arms trafficking. In 1997, for example, Kenyan police closed a market near Isiolo that was known as an "arms supermarket," but the illegal trade continued in a more discreet fashion.19 One person described to Human Rights Watch traveling the same year to a clandestine open-air gun market outside Isiolo to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle.20 There, he said, dozens of guns were available for sale, transported by arms dealers who packed the weapons, disassembled, inside hidden chambers in the backs of their four-wheel drive vehicles. The informal and illegal market, according to him, moved from place to place in the Isiolo area to avoid detection.

Much of the country's gun trade happens on an even smaller scale. Kenya's thriving illegal arms market is largely supplied by impoverished rebels, well-armed herders, and corrupt members of the security forces. Acting individually, they sell their equipment to small-scale arms dealers who in turn illegally supply the market. In one example, after a month-long investigation of an "arms syndicate" that led to the arrest of four suspects, police recovered two assault rifles and less than one hundred rounds of ammunition, which reportedly had been obtained from military or police sources.21 A gun trader who spoke to Human Rights Watch explained that he does not keep a stock of weapons to sell, but rather travels to Isiolo or the Uganda border area to purchase firearms one or a few at a time at the request of clients.22 He added that although he has been involved in the trade for a number of years he sells weapons from time to time only and otherwise runs a legitimate business. According to him, his case was fairly typical because it is simply too dangerous to keep many weapons on hand to sell.

Larger-volume weapons sales for the private market also reportedly take place in Kenya. According to a top firearms control official, some wealthy individuals are involved in arms smuggling activities in Kenya and supply weapons to criminal networks.23 Kenya is also home to arms dealers who are involved in brokering weapons shipments for clients in other African countries, and their presence in Kenya has at times fed speculation that these individuals may also arrange to sell on the domestic firearms market. Moreover, an arms-trade researcher who in 2000 investigated Kenya's role as a major transshipment point for arms cargo reported that some of the weapons meant to pass through the country on their way to other destinations in fact were being siphoned off for sale inside Kenya, largely as a result of corrupt practices at transit and border points.24 She indicated that, in addition to small-scale arms dealing involving corrupt police and individuals, large syndicates were also involved in illegal cross-border arms movements.

Many of the illegal firearms available for purchase can be found in Kenya's urban centers. Certain neighborhoods in Nairobi in particular have earned a reputation as centers of the illicit gun trade. The gun trader with whom Human Rights Watch met was located in Eastleigh, one of the areas often mentioned in connection with illegal gun sales. In another Nairobi neighborhood, a team of journalists went undercover to purchase a handgun and were offered a range ofsophisticated weapons. Arms dealers even rent sophisticated weapons, with an AK-47 reportedly available for hire in mid-2001 for $30.25

Preliminary findings from an ongoing study of firearms availability in Nairobi indicate that the major staging points for weapons trafficking destined to Nairobi, in addition to Isiolo in central Kenya and Lokichokio near the Uganda border are: Garissa near the Somali border; Mombasa on the coast; Eldoret, Kisumu, and Nakuru in western Kenya; and Wilson airport in Nairobi.26

Blaming Refugees

Although weapons circulation in Kenya is complicated and usually involves many actors, the government typically attributes weapons trafficking, along with other crimes, to refugees living in Kenya and indiscriminately accuses refugees of being the major source of insecurity. For example, the senior official responsible for firearms licensing stated: "Many refugees immigrating from neighboring war-torn countries carry with them all manner of firearms" and identified the "majority" of refugees as former fighters who "cross the borders with the weapons and sell them for subsistence."27

President Moi himself has argued that refugees are largely to blame for bringing guns and crime into Kenya, and the top official in North Eastern Province has blamed arms trafficking on the refugee community living in camps.28 More than 200,000 refugees have sought refuge in Kenya from neighboring countries. The frequent xenophobic or anti-refugee statements, police harassment, arbitrary arrests and extortion by government officials have created an increasingly hostile environment for the thousands of refugees not implicated in arms trafficking.

In the name of security, the government has confined most refugees to camps in underdeveloped and insecure areas, one in North Eastern Province close to the Somali border and another in northwestern Rift Valley Province near the Sudan and Uganda borders. For those refugees and asylum-seekers who remain in Nairobi, particularly Somalis, police harassment and roundups are a constant problem. It isoften only with bribes that refugees can avoid arbitrary arrest and detention. The activities of the police are periodically intensified, as happened in September 1998, when roundups were carried out in a more widespread fashion, and refugees were asked to surrender their "protection letters" from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) without being given another document in replacement.

The Kenyan government has legitimate security concerns with regard to those who seek to use refugee cover to traffic arms, conduct cross-border military activities, or evade prosecution for criminal acts they have committed previously in their own country or elsewhere. Criminal elements among the refugee population have been identified as being actively involved in arms trafficking, banditry, and other illegal acts in and near the refugee camps, particularly in North Eastern Province. It has been alleged that arms have been introduced into a refugee camp in that province and temporarily stored there.29 The bulk of refugees in Kenya, however, do not participate in criminal activity and those that do, including those in camps, are subject to criminal proceedings under Kenyan law. Many refugees are themselves victims of armed violence, with residents of the refugee camps being especially vulnerable to attacks and violent crime.

While national and border security issues are clearly a priority for any government, no government can, in the name of security, trample on the rights of refugees. The responsibilities of a government to ensure national security and to uphold its obligation to respect refugee rights are not contradictory. To the contrary, long-term security interests are best served through the implementation of mechanisms that uphold the rule of law. Ultimately, abusing the human rights of refugees and indiscriminately penalizing refugees without due process or individual accountability is neither an acceptable option under international law nor does it provide the most effective and sustainable domestic security policy.

The Kenyan government can take other, more just steps to address security and prevent covert rebel activity, such as increased police patrols and intelligence surveillance along the border or among communities with high numbers of refugees, the relocation of the refugee camps and settlements with refugees further away from the borders with Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda, and the impartial investigation and prosecution of those individuals responsible for criminal activity, be they Kenyans or non-nationals. Each of these proposals is less restrictive than the indefinite confinement of thousands of people who have not historically jeopardized Kenya'ssafety, and would allow for a more sustainable and rights-respecting security policy over the long-term.

The Domestic Impact

The increasing availability of weapons has helped drive rising insecurity and crime in Kenya, where guns are commonly used to commit a range of violent acts. There are reportedly large numbers of illegal guns in the capital, and high levels of armed crime fuel a high demand for firearms licenses across the country.30 Underscoring the scale of the problem in the context of a country not at war, an analysis produced by the U.S. State Department in mid-2001 quoted Kenya's country's top firearms licensing officer as stating that "seventy-five percent of the country is awash with illicit arms" and itself declared that arms proliferation in Kenya had reached crisis proportions.31

Generalized Insecurity

In northern Kenya, the presence of guns is strongly felt and is having wide-ranging repercussions. In some areas, especially along the borders, guns are so common that they are openly carried. Violent incidents involving firearms appear to be sharply on the rise, and high numbers of casualties have been reported. Acts of banditry, including armed highway attacks, are widely reported in parts of Coast Province and North Eastern Province.

A Kenyan military expert who has studied small arms availability estimated that there are 40,000 firearms illegally held by communities in northern Kenya and that security forces have recovered less than 10 percent of them, leading to serious concerns that "such huge uncontrolled amounts of firearms could pose a significant threat to the stability of the area and undermine national security."32 For their part, community leaders in northwest Kenya have repeatedly stated that their communities will not give up their weapons without a guarantee of protection fromarmed attacks by rivals, including attacks launched from neighboring countries.33

Automatic weapons have changed the face of cattle rustling (also known as cattle or livestock raiding) in Kenya's northern border regions. Historically, cattle rustling in Kenya has been defined as the practice in some pastoralist communities of using traditional weapons to take livestock from a competing group, typically at night and using minimum force. More recently, such incidents have evolved into large-scale operations involving the theft, including in daylight, of hundreds or sometimes thousands of cattle; the exchange of gunfire; rape and abduction; and, very often, the killing or wounding of people, including of women and children. As a local religious leader commented in February 2000, "Cattle rustling [incidents] in the North Rift and other parts of the country are no longer [like] the traditional ones. These days, heavy weapons are used and the attacks also target humans."34 As one example among many, it was reported that raiders brandishing assault rifles and submachine-guns in a February 2001 raid killed thirty people and stole 15,000 head of cattle.35 It has been estimated that cattle raids in the latter half of the 1990s accounted for more than 1200 deaths and the theft of over 300,000 livestock.36

The introduction of sophisticated firearms has had far-reaching effects on communities, including social disintegration in some cases and the increasing resort to violence to address long-standing conflicts.37 Some broad trends are also evident. In particular, guns have become an important trade commodity and provide a means for competing groups to assert and expand territorial control and, hence, access to key resources. In addition, cattle rustling has become commercialized. Stolen livestock have been sold, often across international borders, rather than kept in communities. Theft during cattle raids has increasinglyinvolved other types of assets. Non-pastoralist raiders and youths, in addition to herders themselves, have been drawn into cattle rustling. Cross-border raids are common. More generally, the increased use of firearms has blurred the distinction between conflict and crime.38

Although banditry is usually viewed as an act of common crime, and cattle rustling is typically considered a traditional cultural practice, this analysis is flawed because both may at times harbor a political dimension. For example, residents of northern Coast Province have claimed that local government officials sponsor groups of bandits, sometimes unleashing them for political purposes.39 In addition, the harsh security response of government forces to occasional bandit attacks on government personnel politicizes such incidents, particularly as entire ethnic communities have reportedly been targeted for retaliation. In the case of cattle rustling among pastoralist communities, it is often difficult to distinguish between cattle raids motivated by competition over resources (such as cattle, access to grazing land, and water) and those that are at least partly driven by ethnic chauvinism or political motivations. Often the motives overlap. Moreover, it often has been alleged that cattle raiders are hired by businessmen and politicians for commercial purposes unrelated to the rivalries of pastoral communities.40

Armed attacks can unleash a vicious cycle of revenge attacks and escalating arms races between rival communities. This cycle is all the more dangerous when tit-for-tat cattle rustling is further charged with political grievances, as has been the case in and around Wajir District, North Eastern Province. The Wajir area has been the site of repeated outbreaks of armed ethnic violence, including large-scale cattle raids with corresponding loss of life. In one particularly bloody incident on October 25, 1998, in which automatic weapons and reportedly grenades were used, well over one hundred members of the Degodia community were killed and an estimated 17,000 camels, cattle, sheep and goats were stolen. The raid, known as the Bagalla massacre, is believed to have been carried by members of the Borana community with support from ethnic kinsmen from the Ethiopian side of the border,and the attack reportedly followed inflammatory speeches by Kenyan politicians.41

The Government's Failure to Provide Security

In the face of widespread armed violence and crime, the Kenyan government has failed to provide adequate security. Affected citizens in the hardest-hit areas often suggest that the main obstacle to greater security is a lack of will on the government's part. An additional explanation for poor security is that police-community relations are tense in some areas. Persistent allegations of widespread corruption in the police forces has further eroded public trust.42

Kenyan security officials, even if dedicated to their responsibilities, face difficult challenges in carrying out their duties. Notably, they lack the necessary resources, training, equipment, and personnel to monitor security conditions effectively throughout the country. Moreover, the government presence in some parts of the country is extremely limited and poor or non-existent roads further limit access. Criminals, bandits, and cattle raiders often are better-armed than government forces. Low pay, low morale, and low professionalism among police officers deter them from risking their lives in difficult working conditions and encourage corruption and bribery. In mid-1999 the then-police commissioner for Kenya publicly agreed that personnel shortages and lack of funding were severe constraints on police activities, but maintained-contrary to indications-that police forces were sufficiently well-equipped to confront threats to public security, including well-armed cattle rustlers.43

The Militarization of Society

Faced with rising insecurity and the sense that the government security forces are unable or unwilling to protect the populace, Kenyans are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Whereas many communities have long felt they could protect themselves, if needed, with traditional weapons they already own, such as bows and arrows, this is no longer the case in some parts of the country. For example, two assistant ministers from northern Kenya recommended in early 2001 that their ethnic community purchase guns on its own if the government didnot agree to provide weapons for protection from cross-border violence. One stated: "It's imperative for all those living on boundaries to be given the latest model of weapon."44

In the northern border regions of Kenya, steadily increasing incidents of armed cattle rustling, especially during periods of drought, have led pastoralist communities to conclude that they should acquire modern automatic weapons. In an ethnically charged environment, such moves have precipitated arms races between communities, as noted above. A religious leader in one particularly hard-hit area in northwest Kenya expressed concern about the successive arming of different ethnic communities: "We have seen the influx of arms methodically getting into the hands of the Turkana, the Pokot [...] and now the Marakwet and the Tugen have started acquiring them. What do you expect next?"45

Many pastoralist communities have organized private militias. In these cases, guns typically are not the property of individuals, but are owned by a clan or tribe.46 In 1999 the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) reported that its research had unearthed evidence of training camps in the North Rift used by such community militias, a claim the government hotly denied could be true.47 A more recent study carried out in Kenya's North Eastern Province examined the demand for small arms in one district and found that communities acquired arms for several reasons: to protect lives and property, especially livestock; to assert control over scarce natural resources; and to defend themselves against rival groups and carry out revenge attacks.48 The study also found that the communities resorted to arming themselves because they had lost faith in the government's ability to guarantee basic security.

The same phenomenon occurred elsewhere as well. In the town of Lokichokio, in the North Rift area, security officials have claimed as many as 90 to 95 percent of households are armed, with the guns no longer being used exclusively for self-defense.49 The provincial commissioner himself declared:

We believe that in Northeastern Province every family has a gun in good working condition. We also believe that most major clans have clan militia. We believe that each elder, each religious leader, and each political leader knows where the guns are.50

Moreover, as noted above, private individuals reportedly hire youths to engage in cattle raiding, suggesting that they too are readily able to organize private armed groups for their own purposes.

In addition to privately organized armed groups, there are community-based forces known as Kenyan Police Reservists. In principle, their role is to protect communities where the government security presence is minimal or ineffective, particularly in areas vulnerable to cross-border attacks. However, through this program the Kenyan government has formed, trained, and armed private citizens whose use of government-issued weapons is subject to few functioning accountability measures.51 Given that Kenyan authorities distribute G3 rifles and ammunition in a highly decentralized manner, controls are uneven at best and the system can be readily abused.52 In a rare confirmation of problems with the reservist program, a district official in 1999 admitted that guns distributed to reservists had been used in acts of banditry and said the government needed to vet future reservists to avoid mistakenly recruiting criminals.53 In another example, after a cattle raid in early 2001 in which some thirty people were killed, a police officer blamed police reservists, saying they "sometimes give out their guns to the [cattle] raiders."54 Others have openly accused police reservists of participating directly in cattle rustling and banditry, among other crimes.55

Not surprisingly under the circumstances, the distinction between private militia and police reservists has sometimes blurred. Moreover, the distribution of weapons under the reservist program has appeared to favor certain communities, those most closely aligned with the ruling party. Such selective arming has contributed to the demand for weapons among rival communities and fueled the perception that rival groups who have been issued government weapons enjoy political sponsorship and impunity for armed attacks.56

Government Efforts to Combat Small Arms Proliferation

In Kenya, as elsewhere, international attention to the problem of small arms proliferation and misuse has been catalyzed by the global campaign to ban antipersonnel landmines, which culminated in the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On their Destruction (the Mine Ban Treaty). Kenya is not directly affected by the scourge of anti-personnel landmines, but it has a long-standing if limited problem with unexploded ordnance (UXO), some of which date back as far as the First World War. The government of Kenya signed the Mine Ban Treaty on December 5, 1997, ratified it on January 23, 2001, and the treaty entered into force for Kenya on July 1, 2001.57

The Kenyan government has since 2000 publicly and prominently recognized the need to stem the proliferation of small arms-the weapons scourge that causes the most devastation in Kenya. Drawing on growing international attention to the spread of small arms and light weapons, particularly in the lead-up to the first-ever U.N. conference on illicit trafficking in such weapons, held in July 2001, Kenya has taken an active role to promote initiatives to stem small arms proliferation at national, sub-regional, and regional levels; to support calls for international action; and to request international assistance for small arms initiatives in poor countries. While not sufficient, these steps do mark real progress in acknowledging the problem and suggest that the government is willing to take some steps to rein it in.

Most notably, Kenya took the initiative to convene in March 2000 a ministerial-level government conference on small arms in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes sub-region. The conference resulted in the Nairobi Declaration, in which ten governments pledged to work together to implement a coordinated regional action plan to stem the proliferation of small arms. In particular, theyagreed to improve information-sharing and to harmonize national legislation, giving particular attention to legal controls over the possession and transfer of weapons and the need to improve the institutional capacity of law enforcement bodies. They also called for international support to help them implement agreed measures and designated Kenya to coordinate follow-through. The Nairobi Declaration also recognized (in introductory language) many of the dangers posed by small arms proliferation and acknowledged the need for governments to dedicate themselves to addressing the root causes of demand by reducing poverty, enhancing good governance, observing human rights, and promoting democracy. Consistent with the position of the Kenyan government, it placed great emphasis on the responsibility of external arms suppliers to rein in the illegal arms trade.

After the Nairobi conference, subsequent meetings resulted in the adoption of a regional plan of action and also contributed significantly to the adoption of a common African position on the problem of small arms proliferation, known as the Bamako Declaration, for consideration at the 2001 U.N. conference.58 While the weak international plan of action adopted by consensus at the U.N. conference was a disappointment to African and European governments that had called for vigorous international action to control small arms flows, they vowed to continue to work to limit the spread of these weapons and alleviate their humanitarian consequences.59

Representatives of civil society, which has been a key actor in drawing attention to the issue, have been active participants in the effort to formulate strategies, carry out programs, and encourage implementation of neededgovernment measures.60 Regional governments, for their part, have worked with the Kenya small arms secretariat to identify priorities and develop a regional implementation plan. At this writing, an important initiative aimed at strengthening and harmonizing legislation governing small arms and light weapons was underway, with the hope that it would lead to the adoption of a regional legal protocol. However, concrete progress on cross-border cooperation to tackle small arms proliferation was hampered by the fact that signatories to the Nairobi Declaration have been slow to designate national authorities responsible for carrying out commitments. Moreover, governments had not yet agreed to the agenda for action at the ministerial level, many lacked national implementation plans to guide the work, and some have been slow to share information.61

At the national level, the picture is also mixed. The Kenyan government has taken a number of steps consistent with the objectives laid out in the Nairobi Declaration, most of them involving law enforcement measures. For example, it has worked to clear border areas of illegal arms, a process that it said had netted more than a thousand illegal arms in North Eastern Province as of early 2001.62 Kenya also has repeatedly used temporary gun amnesties to encourage citizens to turn in illegal weapons in exchange for a guarantee they will not face prosecution. (These have met with little success, as they do not address the insecurity and otherproblems underlying the demand for weapons.)63 In February 2001, the government announced that it would introduce legislation to increase penalties for firearms-related violations while simultaneously making firearms licenses more difficult to obtain.64 The government also launched an anti-crime campaign in 2001 to combat rising insecurity. Notably, the government announced in mid-2001 that it would add more police officers and better equip the force, as well as improve training of customs officials. Concerned about the impact small arms violence could have on the economy, especially the important tourism sector, it invited a delegation from the U.N. Department for Disarmament Affairs Conventional Arms Branch to conduct a fact-finding mission in Kenya in August 2001. These and other initiatives signal important progress achieved in a relatively short timeframe. Indeed, the Kenyan government is a leader in its region in recognizing the problem of small arms proliferation, as well as in working to coordinate a sub-regional response and implement a national strategy.

This positive momentum, however, has been marred by some misguided initiatives to control weapons flows, including the closing of the border with Somalia in 1999 and again in 2001, which while they were in place trapped asylum seekers, barred legitimate cross-border trade, and hampered the free movement of people. Moreover, the positive steps Kenya has taken have not been matched by advances in implementation to uphold existing law. In addition, actual and proposed measures fail to address the full scope of the small arms problem within Kenya.

To date, the government has not pursued a comprehensive approach to the widespread circulation and use of small arms. In particular, its emphasis on a legal and law enforcement-oriented strategy, with very limited attention to the factors driving demand for weapons-particularly insecurity deriving from ethnic tensions, the existence of armed community militias, and cross-border attacks, as well as poverty (aggravated by drought) and other socio-economic factors-holds little promise of addressing the problem in the systematic way required. The governmenthas focused the blame for illegal arms on refugees. In diverting attention from its own responsibility, the government has ignored its role in permitting the transshipment of weapons throughout the region with inadequate controls. It also has failed to make the professionalization of the security forces a priority. Furthermore, by continuing to arm unaccountable police reservists and by neglecting to take action to address the dangerous role played by politicians who stoke communal conflict, the government itself contributes directly to the insecurity that drives small arms proliferation.

Part 2: Violence as a Political Tool in Kenya: The Case of the Coast

2 "Statement by His Excellency Hon. Daniel T. arap Moi," given at the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa Conference on Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons," Nairobi, Kenya, March 14, 2000, p. 3.

3 Secretary General to the U.N. General Assembly, "Report of the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms in pursuance of GA resolution 50/70 B," A/52/298, August 27, 1997.

4 See, for example, Human Rights Watch, "Global Trade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to all Sides in the Civil War in Sudan," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 10, no. 4 (A), August 1998; "Bulgaria: Money Talks-Arms Dealing with Human Rights Abusers," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 11, no. 4 (D), April 1999. 5 For example, when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was forcibly deposed in 1979, the Moroto Army Barracks were looted and an estimated 15,000 guns and approximately two million rounds of ammunition were stolen by local Karimojong warriors. Curtis Abrahams, "Why Disarming the Karimojong has not been an Easy Choice," EastAfrican Weekly (Nairobi), March 17-23, 1997. 6 See, for example, Human Rights Watch, "Global Trade: Local Impact." 7 Robert Muggah and Eric Berman, Humanitarianism Under Threat: The Humanitarian Impacts of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Special Report No. 1 (Small Arms Survey: Geneva, July 2001), p. 10. 8 "Uganda confiscates large arms shipment on way to Burundi," Associated Press, October 19, 1999; "Uganda releases arms for Burundi," New Vision (Uganda), BBC Monitoring, October 31, 2000. 9 Human Rights Watch interview with Julius B. Miyumo, Head of Tax Programmes and New Business Initiatives, Kenya Revenue Authority, and former deputy customs commissioner, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 25, 2001. Miyumo stated that Kenyan customs officials routinely escort classified cargo to the border and hand it over to the authorities of the importing country. 10 Judith Achieng, "Conflict-Horn of Africa: Illegal Arms Flow Worries Kenya," Inter Press Service (IPS), February 3, 2000. 11 United Nations, Supplementary report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA, U.N. Document S/2001/966, October 2001, paras. 86-104. 12 Human Rights Watch interview with Julius B. Miyumo, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 25, 2001; Julius B. Miyumo, "Role of Customs in Small Arms" and "Kenya Revenue Authority," papers distributed at a conference organized by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) and co-hosted by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Resource Group on Disarmament and Security in the Horn of Africa (IRG), titled "Curbing the Demand Side of Small Arms in IGAD States: Potentials and Pitfalls," Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 23-26, 2001 (hereafter the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side..."). 13 Human Rights Watch interview with Julius B. Miyumo, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 25, 2001. 14 Firearms Act (Laws of Kenya), Chapter 114; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Kiflemariam Gebrewold, SALIGAD Project Director, BICC, March 30, 2001, drawing on the preliminary results of commissioned research to be published by BICC as Brief No. 23. 15 "Arms war tough, concedes Abong'o," Daily Nation (Nairobi), August 2, 2001. 16 Human Rights Watch interview with a gun dealer, Nairobi, June 28, 1999. 17 See E. Ogoso Opolot and a special correspondent in Karamoja, "Rising Armed Crime Linked to SPLA Guns," EastAfrican Weekly, September 13-20, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with a gun dealer, Nairobi, June 28, 1999; Rukia Subow, Pastoralist Peace and Development Initiative (PPDI), "The Proliferation of Small Arms and Pastoralists in the Horn of Africa," statement given at the U.N. conference on small arms, July 2001. All monetary figures have been converted to U.S. dollars using the exchange rates that prevailed at the time of the transactions. The conversions were performed using an online currency converter available at (March 28, 2002). 18 See Lt. Col. H.I. Hussein, acting head of security, Kenyan Armed Forces, "The Effects of Small Arms Proliferation on Banditry and Rustling in Northern Kenya: A Military Perspective," presentation made at the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side...," p. 2; Ebla Haji Aden, PPDI, "Small Arms Proliferation in Garissa District: Reasons Behind the Demand and Supply," paper presented at the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side...," pp. 2-3; "Uganda/Sudan: Guns for $30 in the Border Markets," Indian Ocean Newsletter, March 17, 2001. 19 Ken Opala, "Flourishing trade in guns," Daily Nation, March 26, 1997. 20 Human Rights Watch interview with an owner of an illegal gun, Nakuru, Kenya, May 14, 1999. 21 "Police unearth arms syndicate," Daily Nation, August 10, 2000. 22 Human Rights Watch interview with a gun dealer, Nairobi, June 28, 1999. 23 "Gunrunning is out of control, admits State," Daily Nation, February 14, 2001. 24 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Kathi Austin, Fund for Peace Arms and Conflict Program, April 17, 2001; Human Rights Watch email communication with Kathi Austin, March 14, 2002. 25 "Over 5,000 unlicensed guns in Nairobi," Daily Nation, July 12, 1999; Simon Robinson, "Kalashnikovs for Hire," Time, July 30, 2001; "Police promise to reward informers on illegal firearms," KBC Radio, FBIS, July 5, 2001. 26 Kizito Sabala, Africa Peace Forum (APFO), "The Proliferation, Circulation and Use of Illegal Firearms in Urban Centres: The Case of Nairobi, Kenya," presented at the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side...," p. 2. The final paper is to be published by BICC as Brief No. 23. 27 "Gunrunning is out...," Daily Nation. 28 Ken Opala, "US keeps eye on Moi exit," Daily Nation, April 13, 2001; Victor Obure, "Govt recovers over 200 guns," East African Standard, July 27, 2001. 29 Kathi Austin, "Armed Refugee Camps: A Microcosm of the Link Between Arms Availability and Insecurity," presentation at a workshop organized by the Social Science Research Council's Program on Global Security and Cooperation, titled "Workshop on International Law and Small Arms Proliferation," Washington, DC, February 6, 2002. 30 "Over 5,000...," Daily Nation; "Gunrunning is out...," Daily Nation. 31 U.S. Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research and Bureau of Public Affairs, "Arms and Conflict in Africa," fact sheet, July 9, 2001, available at (March 29, 2002). The fact sheet noted that, while in 2000 the Kenyan police was reportedly recovering between 1,800 and 2,000 unlicensed guns per month in Nairobi, in 2001 an estimated 5,000 illegal firearms remained in circulation in the capital, amounting to one illegal weapon for every 560 Nairobi residents-this without including unrecorded sales, which were expected to be considerably higher.

32 Hussein, "The Effects of Small Arms Proliferation...," p. 2.

33 See, for example, "Moi gun order will not work, says MP," Daily Nation, April 23, 2001.

34 "Rustling: OAS is urged to intervene," Daily Nation, February 9, 2000.

35 Stephen Muiruri and Waweru Mugo, "Thirty Killed in Raid," Daily Nation, February 9, 2001.

36 Human Rights Watch email communication with a Western security analyst, April 1, 2002.

37 See Karl Vick, "Small Arms' Global Reach Uproots Tribal Tradition," Washington Post, July 8, 2001. In one case, a community-based approach introduced to curb small arms misuse, while showing some promise as a crime control measure, introduced serious new problems. Because there was no legal framework defining its scope and its limits, and because government supervision was inadequate, the community used draconian tactics to pursue suspects, leading to a number of deaths and serious human rights abuses. Peter B. Marwa, SALIGAD regional coordinator, "The Sungusungu in Kuria: Vigilantism or an Indigenous Initiative to Curb the Demand for Small Arms and Light Weapons?," paper presented at the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side..."

38 See, for example, Kennedy Mukutu, Pastoralism and Conflict in the Horn of Africa (Saferworld: London, December 2001); Dr. Paul Goldsmith, "Cattle, Khat and Guns: Trade, Conflict, and Security on northern Kenya's Highland-Lowland Interface," paper presented at a conference on Conflict and Conflict Management in the Horn of Africa, May 1997, pp. 24-33.

39 Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Banditry and the Politics of Citizenship: The Case of the Galje'el Somali of Tana River, (Mombasa: Muslims for Human Rights, 1999), especially pp. 29-34.

40 See, for example, "Cartel is funding cattle rustling, say leaders," Daily Nation, July 20, 1999.

41 Emman Omari, "Killings blamed on incitement," Daily Nation, May 6, 1999. A 1999 Kenyan government report on the incident put the death toll at 124 people and claimed that Ethiopian rebels may have participated in the attack. "Government confirms presence of Ethiopian Oromo rebels in northeast," KBC radio, BBC Monitoring, June 22, 1999.

42 See, for example,"Senior officer says police force in a major crisis," East African Standard, BBC Monitoring, October 3, 2000; MUHURI, Banditry and the Politics of Citizenship.

43 "Minister accuses govt over banditry,"Daily Nation, June 4, 1999.

44 "Arm Our People, Government Told," Daily Nation, January 28, 2001.

45 Churchill Otieno, "A `Kosovo' in the bowels of Kenya's Great Rift Valley," Daily Nation, November 12, 1999.

46 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Hassan Mumin, Chairman of the Peace and Development Committee, Wajir, April 4, 1999; Hussein, "The Effects of Small Arms...," p. 2.

47 "Cattle Rustling and Guns Influx in the North Rift," letter from NCCK General Secretary Mutava Musyimi to Hon. Marsden Madoka, Minister of State, September 11, 1999; "Arms claim denied," Daily Nation, October 11, 1999.

48 Aden, PPDI, "Small Arms Proliferation in Garissa District...," p. 2.

49 Muggah and Berman, Humanitarianism Under Threat, pp. 16, 40.

50 Mike Crawley, "Kenya trade-in: guns for schools," Christian Science Monitor, January 2, 2001.

51 One study reported that chiefs were instructed to conduct annual checks on "homeguards" (referring to police reservists), but this proved "virtually impossible," given migration by pastoralists. Muggah and Berman, Humanitarianism Under Threat, p. 66.

52 For example, community elders in one part of the North Rift reportedly are responsible for recruiting police reservists and in another elders reportedly distribute the government-issued guns. John Mbaria, "Sugata: Valley of Death," EastAfrican Weekly, October 9, 2000; Benson Wambugu, "Now Pokots reveal their sources of guns," People (Nairobi), April 24-30, 1998.

53 "Government to withdraw guns from police reservists in Turkana District," KBC radio, BBC Monitoring, January 28, 1999.

54 Muiruri and Mugo, "Thirty Killed in Raid."

55 See, for example, "Eleven killed in northwest as Pokot tribesmen repulse Turkana raiders," East African Standard, BBC Monitoring, April 3, 2000.

56 This perception is especially prevalent with respect to the Pokot community in northwest Kenya. For a discussion, see below.

57 For more information, see International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2001: Toward a Mine-Free World (Human Rights Watch: New York, August 2001), pp. 83-85.

58 This document, reached at the Organization of African Unity summit in Mali in December 2000, noted the deleterious impact of small arms on society, addressed both the illegal and legal trade in these weapons, focused on the coordination of national efforts into a larger action plan, and called for international assistance. As with the Nairobi document, it focused particular attention on the role of outside arms suppliers.

59 Kenya's representative was among those voicing that sentiment. Statement by Hon. Marsden H. Madoka at the United Nation Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, New York, July 11, 2001.

60 See, for example, Africa Peace Forum/International Resource Group (APFO/IRG), "Improving Human Security Through the Control and Management of Small Arms," Tackling small arms in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa: Strengthening the capacity of subregional organizations, compiled by Andrew McLean, report of a conference co-hosted by APFO/IRG and the East African Cooperation (EAC) in Conjunction with the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT), March 23-25, 2000, Arusha, Tanzania; Security Research and Information Centre (SRIC, Nairobi), United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI, Kampala), Saferworld (London), and Institute for Security Studies (ISS, Pretoria) (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2000).

61 E.M. Barine, Coordinator, Small Arms Unit, Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, "Kenya: Small Arms Secretariat-Developments and Results," presentation at the BICC conference on "Curbing the Demand Side...," p. 2. By March 2002 a few of the signatories to the Nairobi Declaration had designated authorities responsible for follow-up (known as national focal points), but the problems described by the Kenyan official a year earlier remained barriers to progress.

62 "Kenya: Government Cracks Down on Illegal Arms Imports," Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), January 3, 2001.

63 For example, an amnesty called in the North Rift area in April 2001 ultimately netted only one gun. Lucas Barasa and Marcus Barasa, "Moi's gun amnesty was ignored," Daily Nation, May 18, 2001. For a wider discussion of small arms demand see, for example, Quaker United Nations Offices (QUNO-New York and Geneva), "Curbing the Demand for Small Arms: Lessons in East Africa and the Horn of Africa," report of a conference held in Nairobi, December 12-16, 2000.

64 "Government Gets Tough on Illegal Arms," PANA, February 14, 2001. The proposed changes had not been adopted as of April 2002. Human Rights Watch email communication with J.A.N. Kamenju, Security Research and Information Centre, April 4, 2002.

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