State recovers 350 illegal firearms in Marsabit in last three months

An assortment of illegal firearms during a past recovery exercise in Turkana South.

Photo credit: Peter Warutumo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Arms were recovered from across the county with the government maintaining that the numbers recovered are still low.
  • Arms trafficking has been highlighted as a major driver of the perpetual conflicts in the county.

At least 350 illegal firearms have been recovered in Marsabit over the last three months following an amnesty by the government.

Eastern Regional Police Commander Noah Mwivandah on Wednesday commended Marsabit residents who heeded the call of the State to surrender their firearms.

“We have strategies in place to ensure that all the illegal firearm holders return them and I am happy at least 350 firearms have already been surrendered in the last three months,”Mr Mwivandah said.

He appealed to the residents still holding onto illegal firearms to take advantage of the extended amnesty and willingly surrender them.

The said arms were recovered from across the county with the government maintaining that the numbers recovered are still low.

Mr Mwivandah spoke to journalists at Marsabit Central police station during his tour of the county.

He wanted the residents to heed the State’s call of submitting the arms before the amnesty period elapses.

The regional police commander said the amnesty to the civilians holding guns is one way of reducing the burden of firearm injury and ending the prolonged ethnic animosities in the region.

He called on politicians and the residents to find a permanent solution to the endemic insecurity in the county.

Further, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is working to ensure that lasting peace is restored among the feuding communities in the county.

 Illegal arms proliferation has continued to be one of the worst headaches for security agencies in ending the decade-long ethnic conflicts in Marsabit.

Arms trafficking has been highlighted as a major driver of the perpetual conflicts in the county.

In July 2020 NCIC blamed arms trafficking for fanning the perennial conflicts in the region.

Mr Mwivandah told journalists that more than 700,000 illegal firearms are in the hands of civilians in Northern Kenya.

He said Marsabit could be having the highest numbers of these illegal arms.

Death and displacement

NCIC Commissioner Dr Danvas Makori said more than 200 people have been killed, over 300 families displaced and at least four schools closed down in the past three years alone due to the conflicts.

However, Dr Makori said that in order to resolve the ethnic animosity in the county, the government shouldn't adopt a heavy-handed approach.

Dr Makori said that due to ancestral links with the communities in Ethiopia, the two communities enjoy support from the well-trained and well-armed militia groups.

After the State disarmed police reservists in May 2019, the two major communities were reported to have bought more guns, including some that were more sophisticated than those used by security officers, in a bid to secure themselves.

The NCIC commissioner recommended a fair approach in completely disarming all the communities and, in return, beefing up security to make the locals have a sense of security.

All communities are alleged to have undercover militia groups which are used in launching attacks.

The race among the feuding communities for small arms, fed by weapons trafficking from neighbouring countries, is likely to worsen as Kenya’s 2022 General Election approaches.

 Mr Mwivandah also reiterated his commitment to ending cattle rustling, human and drug trafficking in the region.

 A security operation to mop up illegal weapons in Marsabit County, lastly executed in November 2019, saw the recovery of three guns stolen from police officers killed in the Jaldesa area the same month.

The operation was carried out across the county aimed at mopping up all illegal weapons and bringing to book criminals who were causing mayhem in the region.

Eastern Regional Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru revealed during a press conference at the county commissioner’s office that three G3 rifles were found abandoned along the Badasa Shurr road.

Mr Nakoru blamed the porous Ethiopia-Kenya border for the illegal firearms acquisition by the residents.

Mr Nakoru said that firearms that will be recovered during the mop-up drive will be examined by  ballistics experts to ascertain if they had been used in committing crimes within the county and elsewhere.