Searching for arms caches is a risky business (MOZAMBIQUE)


Arms caches are often protected with booby traps, and Captain Engelbert Kiondo's team had to disarm a few landmines. "You have to be careful. Sometimes it is just a piece of wire that looks like a piece of grass, which is connected to a landmine," Kiondo said.


(27.10.2005)

For weeks, Captain Engelbert Kiondo risked his life deep in the Mozambican bush as he searched for illegal arms caches.

And last Wednesday, Kiondo had the satisfaction of watching his hard work go up in smoke.

He was among the police officers, foreign dignitaries and media who watched 3 390 firearms, millions of rounds of ammunition and bombs be obliterated by 1,5 tons of commercial explosives.

For the first time this year, Operation Rachel drafted 25 police officers from other South African Democratic Community countries for training in finding and destroying illegal firearms.

Kiondo, a member of the Tanzanian police force, completed his training and was then sent into the bush for his "practical".

His mission: to find illegal arms caches hidden across Mozambique.

Kiondo was sent to a remote mountainous area close to the town of Tete.

"We were following up on intelligence reports about where we could find arms caches," said Kiondo.

But he was soon to discover that finding guns in Mozambique is a risky business, requiring nerves of steel and a sharp eye.

Arms caches are often protected with booby traps, and his team had to disarm a few landmines.

"You have to be careful. Sometimes it is just a piece of wire that looks like a piece of grass, which is connected to a landmine," he said.

Kiondo successfully evaded the booby traps and was able to add to the stockpile of heavy weaponry already collected during this particular chapter of Operation Rachel.

Kiondo's Mozambican experience is likely to help him when he returns to Tanzania.

South Africa is not the only country directly affected by the Mozambican illegal gun trade.

"We do get guns coming into Tanzania from northern Mozambique," he said.

Another growing concern Kiondo highlighted was that of refugees, who, fleeing from the wartorn Great Lakes region, were settling in Tanzania and bringing guns with them.

It is increasingly up to the Tanzanian police to locate these weapons.

"With a problem like this, you cannot work in isolation from your neighbours," he said.

Von: 25 October 2005, http://www.int.iol.co.za (The Star)

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