Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) has launched an eight-day disposal and destruction operation for more than 130 tonnes of ordinance and waste ammunition in Gabiro, Gatsibo district in Eastern Province.
The exercise is part of the Government’s continued efforts to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Speaking before the first detonation near the RDF combat training centre in Gabiro, yesterday, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, the executive secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), said the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons is ranked as one of the most pressing security threats in the world today.
It is estimated that only a quarter of the millions of small arms in circulation worldwide are held by states, according to Mutsindashyaka, leaving the rest to the discretion of civilians and non-state actors.
With most of the weapons being diverted from state to non-state actors, Mutsindashyaka explained that it is crucial that governments take adequate measures to enhance the security and management of their weapons and ammunition to prevent their spill into wrong hands.
Measures, he noted, include controlling civilian ownership, regulating arms flows, in addition to enhancing infrastructure and systems management of state-owned weapons – which include arms marking, electronic record keeping and destruction of obsolete and unserviceable weapons.
Mutsindashyaka said the interventions are provided for in various international and regional instruments under which states agree to cooperate and coordinate efforts in arms control.
Key among these instruments is the Nairobi protocol for the prevention, control and reduction of small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and bordering states.
The Nairobi protocol mandates RECSA to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the protocol in 15 member states, including Rwanda.
Mutsindashyaka commended the government of Rwanda for its continued efforts to meet its obligations under the Nairobi protocol and other instruments on small arms and light weapons.
“Notably, Rwanda has championed arms marking and electronic record keeping in the region for both the police and military, harmonised legislation on small arms and light weapons with international and regional instruments, created lower level arms control committees, conducted awareness raising campaigns on the dangers of arms proliferation, and developed a national action plan on the management and control of small arms and light weapons,” he said.
Rwanda has been consistent in arms destruction activities and RECSA supported six of them in the recent past – including the destruction of 55 tonnes of similar waste weapons and faulty explosives in Gabiro in July 2016.
Mutsindashyaka called on the Government to institute stringent measures to manage the use of explosives by private companies and individuals as these are extremely dangerous in case of explosions.
RDF Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Jacques Musemakweli, said the latest demolition of harzadous explosives portrays Rwanda’s commitment to implementing the Nairobi protocol and safeguarding the safety of Rwandans.
“The country has dedicated to make the security of its people a priority. This demolition follows other several demolitions in the past that begun in 1994,” he said.
Musemakweli said, in the 1990s, the country went through the liberation struggle and the tragic period of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that infused with the armed insurgency by the genocidal force, a situation which – coupled with similar security challenges in some neighbouring countries – resulted into scattering and proliferation of small arms and weapons in hands of illegal possessors.