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Africa

No toy guns for Christmas presents in Cameroon

Cameroon children will be celebrating Christmas and New Years without replica gun toys as presents. The government of the central African nation is asking its citizens to stop buying toy guns as gifts for children.

Christmas is a time of giving and kids are excited to receive gifts. One such popular gift is a replica gun, but not in Cameroon.

Authorities have moved in to prohibit the importation, sale and use of replica guns in an initiative to improve public safety. Cameroon concluded that replica firearms for children promote a violent culture.

Most of the toys sold in Cameroon are said to be brought into the country through neighboring Nigeria, which has suffered from terrorism attacks by Boko Haram fighters.

Mani Dieudonne, an official charged with implementing the ban at Cameroon's Ministry of Territorial Administration said they took the decision because threats of gun violence have been increasing in the country.

"Armed robbers have used toy guns to rob families and have snatched very durable property," said Dieudonne .

Robbery victims often do not have time to notice if the robbers are holding genuine weapons when they attack, he added.

"Robbers attacked a family in Douala and when the police arrested them, they noticed that they had used toy guns. We now have criminals who are buying toy guns during this period [Christmas] to use them and embarrass families," said Dieudonne.

Weihnachten Kamerun

Toys on display in central Yaounde toy shop

Replica gun sales down

At Saint Anastasie, a popular park and tourist attraction in the centre of Yaounde, Cameroon's political capital, nine year old Kennedy Afubai used his electronic Kalashnikov toy gun to shoot at objects.

The toy gun sprayed little water filled bubbles when Kennedy pulled its trigger

"As you can see I am using my gun to shoot and kill enemies so that they do not continue attacking us. I will kill all of them," said Afubai.

Barely 500 meters from the park is a toy gun shop. Its owner, Yannick Fru, had just sold the 30th gun of the holiday season.

"People still come and ask for toy guns but the number is not as huge as before and those that usually ask are the boys who insist that their parents buy toy guns for them," said Fru.

At Fru's shop, Tangwa Joseph, a father of three, argued with his seven-year-old son and refuses to buy him a toy gun as a Christmas gift.

"When children get used to toy guns they may misuse and cause harm when they come across real guns," Tangwa said.

"Toy guns should not be bought for kids. You can buy other toys like Scrabble and Monopoly. Toy guns are very dangerous for kids," he added.

Cameroon's national commission on human rights and freedoms has congratulated the government for the ban but is asking for additional efforts in making sure it is effective.

Eugene Ngalim from the commission says the main concern is the increase of weapons and small arms throughout central Africa. Traffickers are said to pretend to sell toy guns and instead supply real weapons.

"You hear countries that are at war on a daily basis. Where are the weapons going after war?" asked Ngalim.

"Most of the weapons are ending up in wrong hands. Cameroon is surrounded by countries that are always at war. It is a serious security issue," added Ngalim.

Weihnachten Kamerun

Bustling roadside toy vending market in central Yaounde

Legislation yet to be enacted

No legislation has been enacted to ban the use of toy guns in Cameroon. Sociologist Anni Doriane says it is imperative to enact anti-imitation firearm laws.

"Toy manufacturers should respect security norms because dangerous toys exist. Our society has ethics so we must avoid toys that seem to encourage violence," said Doriane . "Consider ethics in your choice of toys. The choice of toys should take into consideration the objectives we set for our kids and should first of all respect security norms."

Cameroon is not the first country to ban such toys. Earlier this month, US entertainment theme parks Disney and Universal Studios boosted security measures and banned toy guns. The theme parks installed metal detectors and discontinued the sale of toy guns at its stores following the attacks in San Bernardino and Paris.