ADDIS ABEBA – Lawmakers have ratified Ethiopia’s first gun law that would help authorities administrate and control firearms. It was approved on Thursday with a majority vote, two against and four abstentions.
Government officials claim massive firearms have been accumulated in the hands of individuals in the country since the collapse of the Dreg regime three decades ago.
But there was no legal instrument to regulate the illegal flow and application of weapons in the country, said Tesfaye Daba, chairperson of foreign relations and peace affairs standing committee of the parliament.
The law, among other things, incorporates the conditions under which firearms license should be given.
It also outlines requirements for firearm licensing for both traditionally armed communities as well as foreign nations representatives residing in Ethiopia.
The proclamation also strictly forbids holding a firearm and traditional tools including machete, spears and pole and similar materials in public areas and larger cities where it is visible to the public.
During the discussion on the bill in May last year, authorities said the law would support their bid to control illicit firearm traffic in the country, which has become a source of immediate security concern for the federal government.
Legalizing weapons in the hands of the public would keep the safety and security of people, said Belayhun Yirga of the General Attorney office, adding the law gives a grace period of two-year.
“During that time, regions can work on creating the necessary public awareness and convince residents to legalize their weapons,” he added.
The justification of the law also says Ethiopia needs to have proper laws that can help the country to collaborate with the rest of the world in the fight against illicit arms traffic.
‘Tradition or not’
Labeling some materials which are seen as part of traditional attire in some cultures as a firearm created discontent among some members of parliament.
MP Adhana Haile (Ph.D.), instruments which are could be considered as agricultural instruments and tools with a strong cultural value such as Spear and Pole should not be identified as firearms in the law.
“It is not necessary and won’t be practical for law enforcers,” said Adhana.
Another MP from the Benishangul-Gumuz region has expressed a similar stance saying these traditional tools are used by the community to protect their properties and have a direct impact in their day-to-day life.
“It opposes the public tradition and I don’t think we should approve this,” he said adding the topic needs “more on the subject”.
However, chairperson of the committee Tesfaye explained to MPs how significant the inclusion of the provision in the law to maintain peace and security a nation is by giving historical evidences such as the use of these firearms in Rwanda’s Genocide.
“Our intention is curbing illegal firearms. It could be both traditional and modern materials,” he said.
By Sisay Sahlu