BY MARTIN MWITA
MORE than 7,000 small arms used in escorting marine vessels into the country are still under police custody, Inspector general of police David Kimaiyo has said.
The assorted arms were surrendered to the police for safe custody upon arrival of vessels at the port of Mombasa. According to Kimaiyo, vessels with private escort have their security team surrender their arms before going into the main land.
Most specialized private security companies providing armed maritime security escorts for vessels usually have their men alight upon arrival in Mombasa. This is to allow the offloading of cargo.
They are required by the law to surrender their arms for safety and security reasons and collect them when the vessel is leaving the country.
According to Mombasa County Police boss Njoroge Mbugu, the security men cannot be allowed to move around with the firearms since they go into the city where they mingle with the public.
‚ÄúThis is a security measure since some of them even go to relax at entertainment spots. They cannot be allowed into the main land armed so they keep the firearms with us,‚Äù said Mbugu.
However, IG has said most of the arms remain uncollected with some dating years back. Kimaiyo was speaking in Mombasa during the recent forum on port efficiency and trade facilitation.
He called on all those who have deposited their fire arms under the police for safe custody to collect them when leaving the country.
‚ÄúWe have more than 7,000 firearms that cannot be accounted for as a result of armed guards escorting ships to Mombasa. They deposit their ammo with the police but fail to collect them. We want all firearms collected upon departure of vessels at the port,‚Äù said Kimaiyo.
The arms were being carried along in readiness for piracy and other attacks while at sea. However, piracy has over the last few years gone down, due to various interventions.
This comes as the country remains a hub of specialized private security companies that offer armed defense services to the private sector and governments.
The country has been identified as the base of specialized security companies due the growing security needs by governments, humanitarian groups and business organizations with interests in conflict zones like South Sudan, northern Uganda, and parts of southern and eastern Ethiopia, Somali and the Indian Ocean.
The country hosts dozens of private security companies most of which are run by Special Forces veterans from the United States and the British.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the Somali civic war in the early 21st century.
Since 2005, many international organizations, including the international Maritime Organization and the world food programme have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy which has impeded the delivery of shipments.
These forced shipping companies to seek services of private escorts for their vessels through the pirate infested Somali waters into the country.
According to Kimaiyo, the arms can only be kept under safe custody for a period of between 4 to 30 days, a period which a vessel is expected to have left the port.
Currently, average turnaround for vessels at the port has improved to three days compared to the previous four days. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt expect these firearms to over stay in police custody,‚Äù said Kimaiyo. He said the uncollected weapons will be confiscated and taken to Nairobi where they will be destroyed.