CONGO GUNS

By Gwenn Dubourthoumieu


In DRC, years of fighting have resulted in large amount of weapons and ammunitions abandoned, hidden or stored in unsafe conditions around the country. Even in the Western or Southern provinces at peace (Bandundu, Equateur, South Katanga), weapons and explosive ordnance continue to kill, either because they are handle by civilians unaware of the danger, because they detonate fortuitously or because they inflame communities’ animosities.


According to the United Nations, since the official end of the conflict in 2003, 2,184 victims have been recorded1. Sadly, the figures represent only the tip of the iceberg considering the difficulties to gather information in DRC. Recently, several stock of ammunitions exploded : in 2000 a fire triggered a series of explosions in a hangar being used as an ammunition storage area at Kinshasa airport, killing 101 people and injuring more than 200 others, in 2007 in Mbandaka, an army munitions depot was destroyed in an explosion, which killed three people and injured about 1002. Indded, in DRC, the majority of the ammunition is kept in open dumps exposed to the elements, causing rapid decomposition owing to the harsh climate.


Moreover, the availability of weapons and ammunitions constitute a risk to the security of the territory and the current peaceful transition process in DRC. In 2008 and 2009 the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo conducted in-depth investigations into the causes of instability in the country. The final reports (published 12 December 2008 and 23 November 2009) found that within FARDC, stockpile management is almost non-existent3; the DRC Government does not know how many of its arms are stored at which depots and with which units. Moreover, poverty (a rank-and-file soldier in FARDC receives around $40 a month in salary4) and the lack of accountability allows soldiers to sell small quantities of weapons and ammunition for money5. As a consequence, arms trafficking is continuous in DRC. It contributes to armed criminality and can sometimes lead to the resurgence of conflicts, like in the Equateur province where, from October 2009 to April 2010, a simple quarrel between two rival communities over fishing rights, quickly degenerated into an open war due to the widespread availability of weapons and ammunitions. Hundreds of people died and a further 187,000 fled in the neighboring Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic6.




SEE THE PICTURES




http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=65

2 Dangerous Depots: The Growing Humanitarian Problem Posed by Aging and Poorly Maintained Munitions Storage Sites, US Department of State, May 19, 2010

3 Rapport officiel du 23 Novembre 2009, adressé Conseil de sécurité par le président du Comité du Conseil de sécurité créé par la résolution 1533(2004) concernant la république démocratique du Congo

4 Informations récoltées auprès de l’EUSEC

5 Rapport officiel du 10 Décembre 2008, adressé Conseil de sécurité par le président du Comité du Conseil de sécurité créé par la résolution 1533(2004) concernant la république démocratique du Congo

6 Ethnic Violence in Western DRC



PRIX SPÉCIAL DU JURY - FESTIVAL DU SCOOP ET DU JOURNALISME D’ANGERS 2010