MACC - After the Kinshasa Conflict, We Have Found Over 20 Items of Unexploded Ordnance (Democratic Republic of Congo)


United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) - INTERVIEW


(30.03.2007)

After the two day Kinshasa conflict of March 22 to 24 2007, there are some unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the city. The Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC) appeals to the people of Kinshasa not to 'touch any object they find'. We spoke to MACC director Harouna Ouedrago who explained the risks of UXO, as well as the objectives of their work.

How do you evaluate the situation concerning unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Kinshasa?

The information that we have concerns the district of Gombe in the centre of Kinshasa.
We are in the process of continuing evaluations, and we have found over 24 unexploded ordnance, some were lost in the air, others were found in houses.
We have already destroyed three UXO's on site in the last few days, and we will do the same with the rest. But it is evident that not all unexploded ordnance are to be found in Gombe or its surrounding areas.
Essentially we are working with MONUC military to evaluate the situation regarding unexploded ordnance. We are looking at where these might be located, especially those found outside, that would not need special techniques to be disposed of.
In relation to those found in residential areas, special techniques and equipment are needed for their disposal, and we will be calling on specialists in mine disposal, who will be contracted by MONUC.

What are the achievements of MACC so far?

Following a UN Security Council Resolution, MACC was put in place to begin the fight against anti personnel mines in the DRC. We have also put in place a mechanism for coordinating this fight with national and international partners, who have been working here since 2005.
We have succeeded in clearing three million square metres of territory in different zones, and we have destroyed close to three million anti personnel mines. These are essentially mines found in the ground, but also mines recovered from combatants.
In relation to abandoned stocks left by different factions, we have destroyed thousands of UXO's. But one of the successes that needs to be underlined is the national training undertaken with national NGO's.
This has allowed us to practically double the numbers of people that have been sensitised, and since the start of our work with national NGO's, 180,000 people have been sensitized.

What is the difference between unexploded ordnance and anti personnel mines?

Technically speaking there is a big difference. Unexploded ordnance are munitions that were fired, such as grenades and mortars, but which did not explode on impact. In contrast anti-personnel mines are not fired, but are put in place manually by troops, which are then detonated by people who walk on them.
In relation to the destruction that both can cause, there is not much difference because all can cause great harm to individuals.
Mines explode when a person walks on them, and they could lose a foot, a leg or an arm. In contrast, the mortar and grenade shells can be even more dangerous, as when detonated they could kill an entire family.
There are people who have collected shells and who have returned home to show them to their family, and the result has been that the whole family has been killed, adults and children.

How does MONUC contribute to the realisation of the objectives of MACC?

There is a United Nations resolution that demands of the installation of a centre for the fight against mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this centre has been installed with the help of MONUC logistics.
As well as equipment for the centre, MONUC contributes to the budget for the contracting of companies that are working to rid the country of mines. MONUC also helps NGO's to transport the workers to the sites on the ground where mines are located.
Equally MONUC works through it's Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), where it finances the fight against mines. For example, MONUC financed the Kambe Lembe Lembe Orthopedic centre, which was close to shutting down because of lack of funds.

What zones are most affected by mines in the DRC?

When speaking of the zones where the RCD and the government troops were mainly opposed during the war, I think of Katanga, Maniema and the two Kivu provinces.
Equally, when speaking of the foreign troops who were opposing each other, I look at the region of Kisangani in Orientale province, where there were Rwandese troops opposing Ugandans.
Finally when speaking of the MLC troops who were opposing the government troops, I think especially of Equateur province.

What are the challenges facing MACC?

The challenges are enormous. Over the whole territory, there is a lack of infrastructure with no roads, and little affordable air transport. These factors make mine clearing operations very complex and expensive.
Another challenge is how can we encourage the new Congolese government to take charge of the fight against anti personnel mines because in all the international accords, it is stipulated that the affected countries are primarily responsible for this.
Taking into account the political situation in the DRC, and that the transitional government did not really have the power to make these decisions, it was not possible to put in place the structures to confront this problem.
Therefore, MACC must assist in the forming of a national capacity which will take the lead. MACC needs to take the initiatives that will permit us to transfer the management of the 'fight against mines' programme to the Congolese government.
I must also speak about the budgetary challenges that we have. As the DRC is not as badly affected by the mine problem as Angola or Mozambique, it is left to us to convince the donor countries of the importance of this problem.
For the moment, we have lots of difficulties in finding the necessary financing, moreover as the fight against anti personnel mines is very expensive.

Von: 29.03.2007 by Nina Yacoubian, allafrica.com

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