Brazil and Mozambique team up on small arms reduction

12 May 2010

A common challenge, a common language and a common solution: South-South cooperation for improved firearms control in Mozambique

When Mozambique’s civil war ended in 1992, the government vowed to rid the country of small firearms. Although successful campaigns secured more than 260,500 guns from former combatants, up to 1.4 million weapons are still circulating illegally within the country.

In response to this challenge, the Government of Mozambique has committed to increasing its control over State- and individually-owned firearms. Signed in 2007, the country’s Arms and Ammunition Act provided the legal foundations to accelerate this effort. The Act brought together all of the country’s existing gun control laws, reflecting the government’s obligations with major regional and international conventions such as those of the United Nations and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

Although successful campaigns secured more than 260,500 guns from former combatants, up to 1.4 million weapons are still circulating illegally within the country.(Photo: UNDP)
The problem, however, remains that only 5,000 firearms are registered with Mozambique police authorities  and  since access to and analysis of this data are very limited, holding firearm owners accountable has been difficult. According to an interview of 12,000 Mozambicans carried out by FOMICRES, an NGO involved in peace-building, 66% of the respondents said violent crime is a fundamental threat to development. In 2009,  27, 134 crimes were reported to the Police, which does not fully represent the total number. The vast majority were crimes against property.

To address this problem and support the government’s effort, UNDP has been working with a Brazilian NGO and the Rio de Janeiro Civilian Police Force to establish a digital firearms registry. Ten years ago the NGO, Viva Rio, successfully helped the latter in designing and rolling out its own register with UNDP support, including the digitization of thousands of paper records.

“In addition to being unreliable and incomplete, the information that does exist is in paper form and processed manually.  It needs to be complemented, computerized and integrated so that the Police Force’s control over weapons held by the civil population, private companies, the police itself and other government entities can be more responsive and modern,” said Antonio Rangel Bandeira of Viva Rio.

In December 2009, Viva Rio and an official from Rio de Janeiro’s Police Force visited Mozambique to identify the technical, human and logistical requirements for Mozambique’s national firearms register.

The Brazilian team returned to Maputo in March 2010 for a three week mission, working in depth with Mozambique’s police and judicial authorities to map management processes and licensing procedures. Viva Rio are currently analyzing the data and developing the structure of the database itself in addition to outlining the funds required for the physical installation of the database at national and provincial levels.

Funding for the analysis and design phases is being provided by UNDP Mozambique. UNDP Mozambique supported the cooperation between Viva Rio and GoM since it started in 2006. As part of a wide ranging Small Arms and Light Weapons Control programme conducted with the Government of Mozambique, UNDP provided USD 200,000 towards the database project in 2009-2010.

By Lydia Good, Technical Advisor Small Arms and Light Weapons
Crisis Prevention and Recovery / Environment Unit
UNDP Mozambique