Security consultant and former Kenya Air Force officer Mwenda Mbijiwe says Kenya’s small arms factory at Ruiru places the country in a better position to tap into the arms business.
Mbijiwe, who defines small arms as “short and medium-range weapons that are easily concealable” says Africa has suffered as a result of the proliferation of illegal small arms.
He says Kenya will, therefore, play a key role in ensuring that these weapons are known where they are.
“This is a good move in terms of accountability. We have had mushrooming conflicts across the region and this will therefore place the government in a better position to protect its citizens from conflict profiteers,” Mbijiwe opines.
According to him, a properly armed government is a great deterrent to violence.
He says though Kenya has been relying on the Kenya Ordnance Factory Corporation factory in Eldoret, it has been like a scenario where a vendor is selling tea without cups.
“Weapon business is big and it is only fair that the government takes advantage to tap into the potential,” he says.
Mbijiwe says currently, there is no East African state that manufactures weapons apart from Uganda which tried the assembling of armoured vehicles.
President Uhuru said despite the fact that the factory offers an opportunity to design and produce high-calibre weapons customised for Kenyan needs and operating environments, it creates an avenue for self-reliance and domestic innovation while creating job opportunities for the youth.
The head of state said the factory will further see the country balance its trade position in the region while creating linkages that will spur economic growth.
This is the second factory after the Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation (KOFC) located in Eldoret.
The Eldoret factory under the Ministry of Defence was commissioned by late president Daniel arap Moi in 1997 and was mandated to manufacture hardware, machinery and equipment.
The Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation, which is ISO 9001:2008 certified, manufactures small arms ammunition and fabricates high precision tools and parts using the latest technology.
KOFC was Kenya’s only ammunition firm with the ammunition production and engineering divisions.
The firm manufactures small arms ammunition, tools and parts [gears, shafts, dies, punches], office and domestic furniture and farm produce.
Uhuru said the Sh4 billion factory will focus on the manufacture of small arms, with plans to expand to medium and heavy weapons in the next five years.
According to Uhuru, the factory has already manufactured 12,000 assault rifles based on a single shift with 60 per cent of the components having been locally manufactured.
“The factory is self-sustaining in the next year we shall diversify to manufacture the 9mm pistol and the 7.62 assault rifles,” he said.