Kenya burned thousands of guns Tuesday in an effort to curb the use of illegal firearms plaguing the country. Deputy President William Ruto oversaw the destruction of 5,250 guns that had been confiscated over the past nine years.
“All of the ills in our society, from terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, are promoted in a big way by firearms in the wrong hands,” said Ruto. The burned guns were collected from criminals or voluntary surrendered by Kenyans and assembled in three 15 foot piles.
Firearms in the hands of violent extremists and criminals pose a significant threat to Kenya. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security ranks Kenya’s crime rating as “critical,” urging American tourists to be aware of street crime, political violence, terrorism and religious and ethnic violence while traveling in the country.
Between 2012 and 2014, Kenyan police recorded 312 deaths and 779 people wounded as a result of extremist attacks, with Somalia-based Islamist group al-Shabab responsible for 173 deaths in 2014 alone. Al-Shabab perpetrated its second largest attack in Kenya in September 2013, killing 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. In its largest attack, the group killed 148 people at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya in April 2015. Members of the separatist group Mombasa Republican Council, which urges the city of Mombasa’s succession from the rest of Kenya, have been arrested for plotting violent attacks throughout the country.
Kenya’s gun laws are restrictive. Any citizen who wants to purchase a gun must submit an ample reason for needing a gun. Once a gun license is issued, a person must reapply and requalify every year to maintain it. Anyone found with an illegal firearm faces up to 15 years in prison. Despite such stringent laws, illicit guns are often smuggled through the country’s borders.
“Firearms in the hands of the wrong people continue to violate our peace and stability and became a threat to the security of our country,” said Ruto. “Armed violence, community conflict, cattle rustling, poaching violent crime is what makes this illicit firearm dangerous for our country.”