The illicit proliferation of weapons and ammunition is a serious security threat across the countries of Africa’s Great Lakes region. The Government of Rwanda and the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA) work tirelessly to improve management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles in Rwanda. These efforts help secure vulnerable weapons that could be leaked to armed groups.
The United States is proud to have provided more than $6.8 million since 2006 to support RECSA’s efforts in the Great Lakes region. In 2004, Rwanda joined with other Great Lakes countries to establish the Nairobi Protocol to reduce illicit small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) proliferation. Soon afterwards, they created RECSA to help implement the protocol. Their invaluable contributions to prevent weapons and ammunition from falling into the hands of armed groups, terrorists, and criminals is a key condition for stabilization efforts to succeed and development initiatives to take root. It also creates safer conditions for peacekeepers – including Rwandans – deployed to conflict-affected areas.
In addition to Rwanda, the U.S.-funded Great Lakes program with RECSA has also benefitted Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, enabling construction of new armories, provision of 1,500 weapons lockers, and the destruction of hundreds of tons of excess ammunition, among other achievements. Moreover, the United States has invested over $37 million to help stabilize the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through parallel efforts.
In April 2021, the United States partnered with RECSA to provide a one-week weapons and ammunition management (WAM) course for the Rwanda National Police at the Gishari Police Training School. Both U.S. and Rwandan officials hailed the importance of the course to improving regional security.
This was the fourth WAM course funded by the United States in Rwanda since 2016, with nearly 100 Rwandan security force personnel trained to date.
The courses provide basic training in proper munitions storage safety measures, facility security, stockpile accountability, and destruction of excess and obsolete munitions. This training imparts international best practices for securely and safely managing munitions stockpiles, and helps local authorities apply those principles to the Great Lakes region’s current security environment, making it harder for illicit arms traffickers to obtain weapons and ammunition from government facilities.
Besides WAM training, the United States also has helped Rwanda destroy 185 tons of excess ammunition to reduce the risk of accidental depot explosions, helped security forces mark their weapons with unique serial numbers to strengthen stockpile accountability, provided 250 steel lockers to better secure weapons in remote locations (such as local police stations), and provided equipment such as hydraulic shears to help security forces destroy old and obsolete weapons that could otherwise fall into the wrong hands.
The United States is proud of its partnership with the Government of Rwanda and RECSA to help Rwandan security forces address the threats posed by insecure and unstable munitions, helping them to better serve their citizens. When taken together with other U.S.-funded RECSA projects throughout the Great Lakes region, these programs are helping our partners to build more stable, secure, and peaceful communities.
These activities support broader U.S. national security objectives, including the reduction of regional security threats stemming from extremism and transnational crime, and the strengthened capacity of Rwandan security forces, which play a leading role in peacekeeping missions worldwide.
The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction programs. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $4 billion to more than 100 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly-proliferated, and indiscriminately-used conventional weapons of war.
To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptPM .
About the Author: Caitlin Bonner is a Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellow in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. Department of State.