The hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms in Kenya pose a serious national security threat. Already, security chiefs are worried that these unregistered guns could be playing a major role in fuelling the violence in the North Rift.
Some local leaders have blamed the latest upsurge of violence on the reported recent disarming of some members of the National Police Reserve (NPR). This has always proved to be a Catch-22 situation for the security organs. Withdrawing the weapons exposes some communities to attacks, yet the misuse of the same guns remains a big security challenge.
It is estimated that 9,000 people operate under the NPR or as homeguards. However, the stark reality is that there are many more holding illegal firearms. Senior security officials have conceded that they have no registers of the holders and do not even know how many guns have been issued to these civilians since Independence more than 50 years ago.
As the government grapples with the problem of insecurity over a large area of its territory in the remote northern region, the focus must now shift to how to recover these guns in the wrong hands without compromising the safety of the locals. The gravity of the issue was captured in the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, which established that there were about 750,000 firearms in civilian hands last year, up from 680,000 in 2016. However, only less than 10,000 of them are registered.
This is the largest cache of guns in private hands in the region, surpassing even countries such as Uganda that have experienced armed conflicts in the past.
This country is sitting on a time bomb that can only be defused by a presidential directive to get rid of the illegal guns menace.