2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Great Lakes Region

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: MAG safely disposes of abandoned ordnance from previous conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a member of the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa (RECSA).  © Photo courtesy of Department of State.

Decades of civil war and internal struggle lasting into the 21st century affected the Great Lakes Region of Africa as non-state actors and neighboring countries fought to exploit the region’s natural resources. While most major interregional conflict ended in the early 2000s, cross-border trafficking of illicit SA/LW still continues in the region. The permeable borders shared by DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda facilitate smuggling, making illicit arms proliferation a serious threat to peacebuilding and improved stability in the region. Highlighting the dangers, non-state actors in DRC’s eastern and northern provinces continue to terrorize civilians and occasionally conduct cross-border operations against neighboring countries.

In an effort to address the SA/LW challenge, the governments of the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa implemented the Nairobi Protocol, a treaty aiming to combat the illicit trafficking in SA/LW, in 2000. This agreement established the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa (RECSA) in 2005. Located in Nairobi, Kenya, the center coordinates regional activities focused on disrupting the unlawful spread of SA/LW and enforcing the Nairobi Protocol. The 15 countries that signed the Nairobi agreement make up the RECSA member states: Burundi, Central African Republic, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

From FY2006 through FY2014, the United States provided more than $2.2 million to RECSA to purchase 36 weapons-marking machines. The marking of firearms is ongoing in nine member states of RECSA: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. RECSA destroyed more than 400,000 SA/LW and over 9,854 tons of UXO. Recently, funding directly supported SA/LW destruction activities focusing on MANPADS proliferation, arms brokering, and stockpile security. All RECSA member states have agreed to adopt MANPADS-control guidelines partially as a result of these efforts. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed $500,000 for CWD in the Great Lakes Region.

The Department of State supported the deployment of weapons-marking teams in Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda; provided member states with refresher training and spare parts for equipment; and strengthened RECSA as an institution through administrative capacity building.