Security and firearms proliferation in Kenya: progress and challenges

Small arms availability and misuse have been a problem in Kenya for many years, but the post-2007 election violence increased the urgency of small arms reduction efforts. While significant progress has been made, law enforcement efforts to control the proliferation of small arms still face considerable challenges, according to a new study.

The study—conducted jointly by the Government of Kenya and the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey—assesses small arms proliferation in Kenya, and considers the capacity of those involved in small arms control and peace-building efforts.

Launching the report Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment in Nairobi today, Mr E. Mutea Iringo, EBS, Ag. Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security, said that the study “represents an important undertaking and complements other initiatives by the Government and other stakeholders in peace and security.”

One of these initiatives has been the creation of the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons (KNFP) as an interagency directorate within the Office of the President, which was instrumental in formulating the Kenya National Action Plan for Arms Control and Management in 2006.

“The availability and use of illicit small arms and light weapons continue to pose threat to peace in the country. In order to implement meaningful security-related initiatives, there is need for accurate data and relevant programming to counter this threat in a bid to reduce armed violence and foster development.” Mr Irinigo said.

The study gathered data through approximately 2,500 interviews with households, representatives of civil society organizations, law enforcement agents, and other key informants across Kenya.

The study revealed that:

  • Respondents indicated that civilians may hold between 530,000 and 680,000 firearms.
  • Most respondents feel that the number of firearms in circulation has decreased.
  • Gun possession in certain areas, such as Mt Elgon and Rift Valley, has increased, despite disarmament programmes.
  • The violence around the December 2007 elections has left its mark on the population: most household respondents said they feel the most insecure during election periods.
  • Approximately 20 per cent of household respondents were victims of a crime or an act of violence over the year preceding the interviews; forty per cent thought it likely that they would be a victim of violence or crime in the next year.
  • More than one-third of those who were victims of crimes were confronted with a firearm.
  • Law enforcement agencies are more optimistic than civil society organizations about the success of current efforts to reduce firearm proliferation and increase security.

Mr Irinigo said that the Government intends to use the recommendations made in the report to plan further interventions in the area of peace and security in Kenya.

Small Arms Survey Managing Director Eric Berman said that “a national arms mapping survey of this kind provides policy-makers and practitioners with evidence-based data upon which to establish agendas, develop policies and programs, and evaluate interventions.”

“The government of Kenya has demonstrated its sincerity in addressing the problems of small arms proliferation, not only by actively supporting this study and welcoming other research initiatives, but also in creating the KNFP and enabling it to coordinate small arms control efforts across all branches of government,” Mr Berman said.

Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment has been published in English and Swahili.