The United States and Japan have agreed to fund Kenya to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for border patrol duties as the country steps up efforts to crack down on small arms trafficking.
Patrick Ochieng, director of the Kenya Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, said that the two countries would help fund the purchase of UAVs, which would cut down on crime in Kenya.
The move followed shortly after the government announced plans to acquire firearms detectors to be deployed at border posts to search for firearms and other ordnance in cars, luggage and bulk haulage vehicles.
According to a recent survey conduct by the Kenya Action Network on Small Arms, the country is awash with more than 600 000 illegal firearms while the capital Nairobi is one of the biggest open markets for illegal small arms after Mogadishu.
Addressing journalists during a tour of the restive northern town of Garissa late last week, Ochieng said Kenya urgently needed the UAVs to monitor porous borders and track the movement of illegal weapons which are flowing freely from the wars in neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya and Tanzania.
“We need a concerted effort internationally, regionally and nationally in order to gain ground in this fight against small arms and that is why our development partners have decided to come in and assist us,” Ochieng said.
Kenya says the free flow of small arms has contributed to widespread insecurity, especially among pastoralist communities where firearms have replaced traditional weapons in wars over pasture, water and cattle rustling.
Due to high demand, illegal arms dealing has become a highly profitable business in Kenya with illegal weapons dealers in Nairobi believed to be selling low-calibre pistols for as much as US$140 while AK-47 and other automatic assault rifles sell for up to $500.
Garissa County commissioner Mohamed Maalim said that weapons are being concealed in bags of sugar and imported into the country.
As part of the crackdown on small arms, Kenya and Tanzania have also launched the first in a series of planned security operations along their common borders with the aim of seizing all illegally held firearms.