Experts from six eastern African countries are meeting in the Ugandan town of Entebbe to discuss the gravity of the increasing pastoralist conflicts and devise modalities for a harmonized regional approach to handle the conflicts.
Ruth Nankabirwa, Uganda's Minister of State for Defense, who opened the three day workshop at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, 40 km south of the capital Kampala, said small arms and light weapons still pose a great challenge in the resolution of pastoralist conflicts in the horn of Africa.
She said there is a need to devise realistic measures to address the conflicts that pose a significant obstacle to sustainable peace and security in the region.
"There is a need to carry out an in-depth discussion on the issue of disarmament, with a view of assessing the gravity of arms circulation in affected areas as well as looking at the national policies that have been put in place to address this problem," she said.
The workshop, which is mainly focusing on disarmament of pastoralist communities, is organized under the auspices of Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body that brings together Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
The workshop is the first of its kind organized by IGAD as part of its efforts to address the various peace and security challenges in the region that has been characterized by endemic violent cross-border pastoral conflicts and the continued threat of inter-state wars arising from cross-border inter and intra- communal conflicts.
Abdelrahim Khalil, director of Conflict and Early Warning and Response Mechanism pf IGAD, said the meeting will take stock of the effort by governments of the region to protect their people and in particular pastoralists from the small arms menace.
"We are very much conscious of the fact that our region is one of the most affected regions of the world in terms of the huge number of illicit small arms and its harmful economic, social and security implications," said Khalil.
"We wish to ascertain whether the disarmament efforts deployed by governments have met the objective."
Minister Nankabirwa said whereas disarmament of the pastoralist communities is fundamental, it is necessary to provide the communities with infrastructure like roads, medical facilities, schools, veterinary services, water dams and maintenance of law and order.
She noted lack of such necessities is one of the reasons as to why the pastoralist communities acquire the guns to protect themselves as well as invade neighboring communities.