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A Petition to the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda on the Firearms Law presented by Uganda Joint Christian Council, People with Disabilities -Uganda and Centre for Conflict Resolution on 25th May 2016

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A  Petition to the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda on the Firearms Law presented by Uganda Joint Christian Council, People with Disabilities -Uganda  and Centre for Conflict Resolution on 25th May 2016

 

Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga

Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda:

 

Madam Speaker,

First of all, permit me, on behalf of our team which comprises representatives of People with Disabilities-Uganda, Centre for Conflict Resolution and Uganda Joint Christian Council who are working together under the umbrella of Uganda Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UANSA), to congratulate you upon your recent election as Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda. We would like to assure you of our support and will pray for you so that you can discharge your duties as Speaker of Parliament with integrity and in the knowledge and fear of the Lord who is the source of wisdom.  Secondly, we would like to present this petition to you. The petition highlights our position on the dangers of proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and steps that should be taken by the government and other actors to address the challenge.

As you might be aware, Madam Speaker, the availability and wide mis­use of small arms and light weapons presents a serious threat to safety, security and development all over the world including in Uganda. Small arms and light weapons are primarily intended to be used for lawful purposes defined under the law including national defence and maintenance of law and order, but experience shows that these weapons are increasingly falling into the hands of criminals and other people who use them for illicit purposes including perpetration of acts of murder, robbery, kidnapping, cattle rustling and prosecution of armed rebellion, all of which pose a threat to personal safety and national security.

 

It is against this background that member States of the United Nations met in New York in July, 2001 in a conference that focused on the Illicit Trade in small Arms and Light weapons in All its Aspects[1].  During the above Conference, the participating member States of the United Nations including Uganda adopted a Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. The Conference noted that the illicit manufacture, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world have a wide range of socio-economic consequences and pose serious threat to peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable development. It therefore called for a comprehensive approach to promote at the global, regional,  national and local levels the prevention, reduction and eradication of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects as a contribution to international peace and security. In that regard, the conference adopted a five-point resolution to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons which entail taking the following measures:

(a)  Strengthening or developing agreed norm and measures at the global regional, sub-regional and national levels that would reinforce and further coordinate efforts to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects;

(b) Developing and implementing agreed international measures to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in small arms and light weapons;

(c)  Placing particular emphasis on the regions of the world where conflicts come to an end and where serious problem with the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons have to be dealt with urgently.

(d) Mobilizing the political will throughout the international community to prevent and combat illicit transfers and manufacturing of small arms and light weapons in all their aspects, to cooperate towards these ends and to raise awareness of the character and seriousness of the interrelated problems associated with the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in these weapons;

(e)  Promoting responsible action by the State with a view to preventing the illicit export, import, transit, and transfer of small arms and light weapons.

The Conference urged UN member States take various steps to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, including:

·        Putting in place, where they do not exist, adequate laws, regulations and administrative procedures to exercise effective control over the production of small arms and light weapons within there are of jurisdiction and over the export, import, transit or retransfer of such weapons.

·        Adopting and implementing, in the states that have not yet done so, the necessary legislative and other measures to establish as criminal offences under the domestic law the illicit manufacture, possession, stockpiling and trade of small arms and light weapons within their area of jurisdiction.

·         Establishing or designating as appropriate, national coordination agencies or bodies and institutional infrastructure responsible for policy guidance, research and monitoring of efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small and light weapons in all its aspects.

·        Establishing or designating, as appropriate, a national point of contact to act as liaison between States on matters relating to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

·        Ensuring that comprehensive and accurate records are kept as long as possible on the manufacture, holding and transfer of small arms and light weapons under their jurisdiction.

·        Ensuring responsibility for all small arms and light weapons held and issued by the State and effective measures for tracing them.

·        Promoting dialogue and a culture of peace by encouraging, as appropriate, education and public awareness programmes on the problems of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, involving all sectors of society.

 

2. National Context

Uganda is facing many challenges in relation to the proliferation and illicit trade and use of small arms. Small arms and light weapons have been used by communities in Karamoja and the neighbouring communities across the border with Kenya and Sudan to carry out cattle rustling within their own country and also across the border.  Small arms and light weapons have also been used to launch and perpetuate armed conflicts in various parts of the country, including the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency and other insurgencies in northern and north-eastern Uganda and the Allied Democratic Army (ADF) insurgency in western Uganda. Small arms and light weapons have also been used to commit acts of murder. In 2012, 115 incidents of deaths by shooting were registered by the Uganda Police Force. The number rose to 131 in 2013. Small arms and light weapons have also been used to commit robbery. In 2012, 1,053 cases of robbery involving the use of lethal weapons were registered by the Police. In 2013, there were 1,035 incidents. These incidents were registered by the police in various regions including Mbarara (163)  Kira Road (128), Jinja (125), Iganga (120) and Mbale (111) of which 207 cases involved robbery of cash amounting to UGX 4,292,801,500/=. This is a worrying development. Some weapons that have been used in murder and robbery are linked to security organisations.[2] The Uganda Human Rights Commission attributes increased incidents of murder in the country to various factors including misuse of firearms, guns in the wrong hands, poverty and hard economic conditions, traumatized, disgruntled and unprofessional security personnel, low policing capacity (1:1863 as opposed to the International Standard of 1:500) and inadequate funding to the Uganda Police Force[3].

The Government of Uganda has demonstrated commitment towards the implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons by developing a National Action Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons (NAP). The implementation of the NAP commenced in July, 2004. The updated version of the Plan covers the period 2012-2017. NAP is being implemented under the co-ordination of Uganda’s National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Ministry of Internal affairs. It  brings together Ministries and Departments with a role in tackling small arms problem and representatives of civil society including the organisations that are submitting this humble petition to you.

 

One of the Key achievements of the NAP is the development of a Firearms Policy. Besides, NAP has undertaken awareness-raising programmes aimed at sensitizing stakeholders on the Policy. Thousands of illicit arms have also been destroyed.

Way Forward

Since the adoption of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Small Arms and Light Weapons in 2001, there have been a number of developments at various levels. These include the adoption of the Nairobi Protocol (..) which urges member States in the Great Lakes Region to collaborate in ensuring effective implementation of the UN Programme of Action. Another significant development is the adoption of the Arms Trade Treat (ATT), a multilateral instrument that regulates the international transfer of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons adopted on 2 April 2013 by the General Assembly under Resolution 67/234 B. The treaty entered into force on 24 December, 2014 following ratification by the required number of States. It has so far been ratified by 80 countries. Two countries have also acceded to the treaty.

Uganda has neither signed nor ratified the above treaty.

The combating, eradication and elimination of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is a collective responsibility. With the adoption of the National Action Plan, Uganda has made an important stride in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, but  there is yet much to be accomplished. A law on firearms to operationalize the Resolutions of the UN Conference is yet to be enacted. This will constitute an important step in strengthening measures aimed at combating and eliminating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.    

The State is expected to lead the way but civil society organisations too have a role to play. This includes awareness-raising on the dangers associated with small arms and light weapons and advocacy aimed at holding duty bearers accountable.

Parliament has the power to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda.  We have therefore come to knock on your door to urge you to join hands with us in pushing for full and effective implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. We are calling for-

(a)  Enactment of a comprehensive law on firearms to address the concerns highlighted in the UN Programme of Action and National Action Plan.

(b) Signing, ratification and domestication of the Arms Trade Treaty.

(c)   Enhancement of collaboration between the State and non-state actors.

In conclusion, we would like to request you, Madam Speaker, to bring this Petition to the attention of the relevant Committee of Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity so that we can meet the Committee in the near future for  deeper discussion and exchange of views on the way forward.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to present this petition to you.

Respectfully submitted by:



[1] The Conference was held at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York from 20 July 2001

[2] On 18th July 2013, thugs robbed 6,000,000/= and mobile phones from a Mbarara based Asian business man. The robbers were caught by the public who recovered a gun and 26 rounds of ammunition. A pistol was also recovered.

[3] Uganda Human Rights Commission, 16th Annual Report 2013 at page70-71