Kenya's deputy president on Tuesday set ablaze more than 5,250 firearms seized by authorities to discourage the circulation of illegal weapons in a country battling extremist violence.
Deputy President William Ruto presided over the burning of rifles and pistols in three stacks about 15 feet high. They were recovered in this East African country over the past nine years, Ruto said.
Most of the firearms were collected through voluntary surrender, others from violent criminals that were recovered by security personnel and some from the government's disarmament efforts, he said.
“Firearms in the hands of wrong people continue to violate our peace and stability and become a threat to the security of our country,” Ruto said. “Armed violence, community conflict, cattle rustling, poaching violent crime is what makes this illicit firearm dangerous for our country.
“All the ills in our society, from terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, are promoted in a big way by illicit firearms in the wrong hands,'' he said.
Kenya has stringent gun laws and obtaining a license is difficult. Applicants must go through several interviews and background checks. Despite the precautions, hundreds of illegal guns are smuggled into Kenya through porous borders, especially from Somalia, Kenya's war-torn neighbor to the north.
Authorities estimate that at least 500,000 guns are illegally held by civilians.
Kenya has been attacked more than 100 times by Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, who have recruited hundreds of Kenyans. Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending its troops into Somalia to fight the militants in 2011. The extremists' deadliest attacks were carried out by gunmen wielding rifles, including the assault on Westgate Mall in which 67 people died in 2013 and the April 2015 attack by four gunmen on Garissa University which killed 148 people, mostly students.