Rose Achiego – Nairobi, Kenya
In a press statement issued to the media this week, Kenya’s Bishop of Maralal Diocese, Virgilio Pante, who is also the Chairperson for the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)-Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers announced that that the process of peaceful disarmament would soon begin. The initiative would be an effort to wean-off pastoralist communities of their small arms that have caused so much havoc and suffering in the border areas of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Church committed to disarmament
“We will no longer remain silent. We will no longer remain indecisive, and we will no longer be fearful. We are committed to highlighting the suffering caused by small arms in the daily lives of our people,” said Bishop Pante. He was flanked by the Bishop of Lodwar, Dominic Kimeng’ich, who is the Vice Chairperson of the KCCB-Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers.
According to the Bishops, peaceful disarmament can only be done in an environment of trust, collaboration and commitment for the respect and protection of human life.
Governments need to provide alternative livelihoods
While acknowledging the efforts of the governments of Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia in their continuous peacebuilding initiatives both at the national level and across the borders, the Bishops of Maralal and Lodwar called on governments in the region to do more in sensitising pastoral communities on the need to embrace peaceful co-existence and peaceful disarmament.
“The governments should ultimately provide alternative or complementary livelihoods for the citizens living in the conflict-affected areas,” Bishop Pante and Kimengi’ch said
Religious leaders and civil society should address the root causes
The Bishops further other invited religious leaders and members of Civil Society Organisations in the region to identify and address the root causes of what has been ailing communities of the border areas over the years.
They also called upon grassroots communities to collectively reject the attraction of armed violence as a solution to their problems.
“We encourage you to work with all stakeholders to reaffirm the value of human life and work together to counter the pervasive culture of violence. It will be for the benefit of all of us to commit to peaceful disarmament,” the prelates said.
Small arms in the hands of communities have caused destruction
As reported by Regional Centre for Small Arms (RECSA) the region hosts 8 million out of an estimated 36 million small arms and light weapons. The weapons are in the hands of civilians.
As a result of the endemic conflicts, the border regions host the highest number of refugees and displaced persons on the African continent.
The proliferation of small arms heighten insecurity
According to the statement, demand for Small Arms and Light Weapons is driven by the ineffective provision of security by governments, commercialisation and politicisation of livestock raiding, marginalisation by governments, a need for the disarmed to rearm; and, cultural practices.
The proliferation of these small arms has caused thousands of deaths and injuries, displacement and forced migration of people, hampered development, loss of hundreds of livestock among pastoralist communities, heightened insecurity, loss of productivity, reduced economic output and insurgencies.