September is the amnesty month, when the African Union expects member states to allow the voluntary surrender of weapons.
But the disarmament of civilians in countries in the region, whether coercive or voluntary, has often fallen short of target. There are 39 million illegal arms in the hands of civilians in Africa, of which 7.8 million are in East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes.
Irene Ndung’u, the principal communication officer at the Regional Centre for small arms (RECSA) blames this on the fact that communities living in border areas where there is high concentration of illegal arms in the hands of civilians do not trust their governments to protect them against communities across the borders.
While governments have been relatively successful in disarming rural populations, it has been difficult to mop up arms in urban areas, especially slums where they are rented out as a source of income.
“The challenge is that the person who owns the weapon is not the sole decision maker whether to surrender it. Questions always arise about if they surrender the guns, what will they use as a source of income, and more so, the owner is not the sole user,” said Ms Ndungu.
According to George Odongo, a Ugandan member of the East African Legislative Assembly, disarmament succeeded in Karamoja region because of the integrated approach, where the government combined development projects with disarmament.