Pic of the Day: Weapons destruction in Burundi
Working with the country’s Force de Defense National, MAG destroyed 1,281 weapons and 14 tons of ammunition in Burundi during December.
This work was able to be carried out thanks to funding from the German Government and the foundation Fonderie 47.
MAG continues to look for funding to implement other activities with the FDN - mainly, the rehabilitation or construction of armouries and ammunition depots, and the training of armourers and ammunition technicians.
One of the numerous harmful legacies of Burundi’s lengthy civil war is the weak management of state-owned ammunition.
Large quantities of un-catalogued weapons, amassed haphazardly in poorly-guarded depots, are susceptible to theft and misuse. These pilfered weapons in turn feed black markets and increase the likelihood of armed violence.
Furthermore, when ageing munitions are stored in sub-standard conditions, such as extreme temperatures, the risk of an accidental explosion is higher.
And when depots are located near densely populated urban centres, as many are in Africa, even the smallest accident can lead to massive loss-of-life.
Pic of the Day: A police armoury in Burundi before and after MAG’s involvement
When ageing munitions are stored in sub-standard conditions, such as extreme temperatures, there is a very real risk of accidental explosion.
And when depots are located near densely populated urban centres, as many are in Africa, such an accident can lead to massive loss of life.
Large quantities of uncatalogued weapons, amassed haphazardly in poorly guarded depots for example, are also susceptible to theft and misuse. These pilfered weapons feed black markets and increase the likelihood of armed violence in a society.
MAG provides training to security and police forces in weapons management and storage, to reduce the risk of theft, trafficking and unintended explosions.
For more information on MAG’s Physical Security and Stockpile Management project in Burundi, please go to this page: www.maginternational.org/MAG/en/news/burundi-securing-arm…
Pic of the Day: Preparing ammunition destruction in Burundi
Four such demolitions took place at this destruction site in Bubanza province during November 2012, with around 23 tons of ammunition destroyed.
Celebrations and Milestones
by Julie Claveau
On July 1, Burundi will celebrate 50 years of independence. And a few weeks later it will be MAG Burundi’s milestone of five years in country.
What started as a six-month project in 2007 rapidly expanded to a full programme with a wide-range of activities once MAG realised the sheer size of the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) problem. Burundi is one of the poorest and least developed countries located within one of the most unstable regions of the world. The post conflict situation not only resulted in the illicit proliferation of SALW, but also a weak management of legal state-owned weapons and ammunition stocks. And many studies recognise that the main source of illegal weapons in Africa is unsecure state stocks.
Having managed the programme for the last three and a half years, I have seen the evolution of our operations, from the Police to the Army, as well as supporting civilian disarmament and humanitarian mine action. We are trying to target every sector that can feed the illegal proliferation of SALW, and this way hope to contribute to a reduction in armed violence. And if we have been able to do this, it is thanks to the full support of the Burundian authorities. Few countries in the world allow NGOs and foreigners to enter their national weapons and ammunition stocks to survey them, collect items for destruction and rehabilitate them. Burundi should be congratulated for its tackling of the SALW issues. And I feel proud to have contributed to this.
If everything goes according to plan, MAG should be leaving Burundi at the end of 2013, once we have helped the Police and the Army to improve their stocks to a satisfying level, and build a capacity so that the work can continue once we are gone. A crucial activity that remains is the training of armourers and inspectors. As the programme marks five years in the country, I hope we can secure the funding that will ensure the sustainability of our actions.
An amazing experience
by Karen Hatungimana
From right to left: Julie (Country Director) - Didier (Technical Operations Manager) - Lydie (Data Officer) - Cynthia (Logistics Officer) - Vincent (Technical Field Manager) - Me! - Peggy (Finance & HR Officer) - Jean-Marie (Driver) - Christian (Logistics Assistant)
It was very unlikely that when finishing my studies I would have ended up working so closely with weapons without the set of circumstances that allowed me to cross paths with MAG Burundi. During these last few months working as an intern with MAG, I discovered the reality of a problem nobody is sufficiently aware of: the danger of unsecured weapons and ammunition stocks. I realised how necessary and urgent it is to secure the national depots, and even more so after the explosion that happened in Congo-Brazzaville. A similar one here in Bujumbura could easily cost the lives of thousands.
MAG is currently pursuing these essential activities in Burundi. How frustrating would it be, to have to leave the country with half of the army armouries and ammunition depots not yet secured? MAG has gained the confidence of the national authorities; they trust the organisation, and keep requesting its support. Yet funding is required to complete the project and so fundraising with institutional donors has been one of my main tasks over the last few months to prevent the programme from closing down this summer.
Weapon leakages are reported, feeding the black market and armed criminality; and the risk of deadly explosions cannot be ignored in a country where depots are situated in the middle of densely populated areas. Burundi is recovering from a terrible and lengthy civil war, and doesn’t need more armed violence or traumatic events such as an ammunition blast. I have learnt a lot, professionally and personally, from the determination the whole team has to secure the safety of the Burundian people and the best possible future for The Great Lakes Region.
Soon to hand-over my laptop and office, I wish to thank the whole MAG team in Burundi for its hard work and commitment to its tasks; never lacking in smiles and good moods!
I wish all the best to MAG in the future, hoping it continues its actions worldwide, which are essential and definitely prevent disasters and save lives, allowing people to plan and build their futures in a safer environment!