The arrest of businessman Wycliffe Lugwili over a cache of suspected illegal firearms police stumbled on in his Lavington, Nairobi, office is a cause for worry. The find happened during a swoop by auctioneers over rent arrears. An assortment of 22 guns and more than 500 bullets were impounded that Wednesday.
What is worrying about Mr Lugwili’s case is that his firearm dealership licence was suspended three years ago. That raises three fundamental questions. First, why was an unlicensed firearm dealer still allowed to have a cache of firearms long after the permit expired? Secondly, why didn’t the authorities, who should keep proper records of who sells which gun and where, know about these details all this time? Finally, the authorities need to explain how such glaring gaps in gun dealership licensing were allowed to pass.
The proliferation of small arms into unauthorised civilian hands is a big problem not only in Kenya but also the region and globally. Many Heads of State and Government Summits have been held in a bid to eradicate the menace with little success. The lack of credible, updated data on the availability of these firearms, in whose hands they are, and whether or not they are licensed to carry them is, however, still a big problem.
Illegal arms are blamed for many incidents of crime such as banditry, robberies and insurgency globally. But as we head to the General Election, they pose a significantly graver challenge: electoral violence. Memories of the 2007/8 post-election violence are still fresh and nobody wants a repeat of it.
The investigative agencies must get to the bottom of the matter as soon as is practicable. Kenyans deserve a firm assurance of their safety and security of their property as they go about their business but, more importantly, during the electioneering period. The authorities must also swiftly fix the gaps in gun licensing and weed out those carrying or selling guns illegally. Guns are powerful, lethal weapons that should be handled with care and only by those licensed to wield them.