Ethiopian legislators pass new gun laws ahead of elections

AFP , Thursday 9 Jan 2020

Lawmakers in Ethiopia on Thursday approved legislation tightening up on ownership and sale of guns in a bid to improve security ahead of elections, state-affiliated media reported.

The law cleared the 547-seat parliament with just two votes against and four abstentions, according to Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

It said lawmakers determined the change "was needed to maintain peace and security."

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, came to power in 2018 and will seek a five-year term in general elections currently scheduled for May.

His pursuit of wide-ranging political and economic reforms has been hampered by inter- community violence and widespread displacement.

Officials have been highlighting efforts to crack down on the illicit flow of weapons in a country struggling with ethnic tensions.

Police in Addis Ababa last May announced that some 10,000 guns, including around 30 Kalashnikov assault rifles, had been seized in the capital over the previous nine months.

The new rules prohibit the sale, possession, storage and transporting of firearms without a valid licence.

It also specifies places where firearms should not be carried, including hotels and museums and "places determined by electoral law or national electoral board."

The possession of firearms in "places where there is (a) peaceful demonstration or riot" is also banned.

The prohibitions do not apply to "law enforcement bodies on duty" or security guards.

Prison terms for those not complying range from one to 20 years.

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