African governments can’t control gun crime
The spiralling rise in shooting crimes in African cities suburbs requires strong and sustained political, community and police action to make suburbs safe for families.I happened to live in a suburb that was ringed by shooting incidents and the one month i lived there in 2009, was the most danger24ous I’ve ever lived in.I remember how I was just around the corner from my hood when i saw a bloke being shot dead and when the gangs came my way, i never ran and when they came to me, they said whats your name, and my accent was what saved me as one of the gun trotting criminal said, he’s a foreigner, no robbing him.I even started chatting with them about where I come from and what i was doing there, but the few minutes we talked, i almost peed on myself.Coming close to a G3 rifle, AK 47 and Colts isn’t anything i’d experienced before.Gun criminals are unpredictable and i was prepared for my sudden exit as i couldn’t tell whether they’ll shoot me or not. Like many of my neighbours, for the one month i lived there, i could see that politicians were seeking, but were not really offering, new strategies or solutions to fight the gun crime that was plaguing there.It’s not just well organised gangs like the one who stopped me to blame, but a range of criminals and business rivals, all with access to guns. They are escalating, rather than settling, all manner of disputes by targeted shootings.The crime statistics and research released figures show the offence of discharge firearm into premises rose by 31% from 12 incidents in 2014 to 65 incidents in 2015 in the two years to December 2015. Approximately half of the recorded incidents of discharge firearm into premises was recorded in major cities.There were at least 22,000 shootings in South Africa in 2015 alone with more than 18,000 fatalities. It will probably be more by the time this article is published.It is just a matter of time before hand guns become more widely used in disputes by traditionally law abiding members of the public, as a result of normalisation, and before shootings follow the US trend and occur in places such as South Africa high schools.
Contador Harrison is not talking about rifles here, but concealed weapons like pistols. African countries need new and tighter controls on pistols and ammunition. This should include a new buy-back scheme for pistols, a national register and should include strengthened border control strategies because all hand guns come from overseas suppliers.There also needs to be a greater high-profile police presence in the suburbs most affected by these shootings, and the police response to shooting incidents needs to be immediate and unrelenting. From what I know, African communities always support strong and hard action by police against these criminals. Criminals roaming African countries are reacting to the lack of enforcement, the lack of police in key target suburbs, and what appears to be a lack of political will by governments to really take on the issue of gun crime and criminal gang activity. During the 2000s, South Africa faced a similar dilemma from smaller organised crime gangs, which resorted to shootings to settle disputes. The police response was slow as the view among most officers was that as long as it was criminals shooting criminals then it shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, concern the general public. This view drastically changed after citizens were were shot.It has now become clear that if politicians won’t take on those using guns to settle their disputes and give police the support and direction needed then it is time for local community organisations to take up the challenge.The most enduring solution will come from the combined effects of public and community groups exerting pressure, on the government and police, to break the culture of gang and criminal activity that sponsors gun use as an acceptable recourse for dispute resolution. Communities in urban areas need to start taking action to organise and reclaim street safety in their suburbs. If African politicians and the government can’t fix this escalating problem, the community must stand up and demand an end to gun violence.It was this type of community action that helped fight the devastating impact and control of the heroin trade and crime gangs in Kenya. Africans need to send a clear message to the government and the gun-wielding criminals that that they will support whatever action is needed to make streets safe.