Why MAG is needed in DRC
Between 1996 and 2003, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was the site of the most deadly conflict since World War Two, which led to the deaths of over 5.4 million people and left large concentrations of unexploded ordnance (UXO) scattered across the country, and huge amounts of arms and ammunition stored in unsecured conditions.
The precise extent of UXO contamination is unknown, although as of June 2011 UNMACC (United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre) had recorded 1,470 areas affected by explosive remnants of war (ERW). Eighty-six mined areas had also been identified.
According to the DRC National Mine Action strategy, the presence of ERW/mines “impacts negatively on stabilisation efforts and represents an obstacle to the reconstruction and development of the country, notably in the rehabilitation of public infrastructure, as well as in the education and health sectors. In this way, these ERW constitute an immediate obstacle to efforts undertaken by the country in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals” .
Not only does the presence of these remnants of conflict restrict access to vital productive land, but even land suspected to be contaminated is avoided by local communities and left unused. People are sometimes forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to access resources such as firewood and arable land as a result.
The problem is compounded in areas with route contamination, which hinders local and cross-border trade and communications, and prevents access to essential health and education services.
On top of this, large numbers of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and ammunition are stored in insecure stockpiles and depots countrywide. Inadequately-stored SALW continue to threaten the country’s long-term security and fragile democracy, as well as posing a significant risk to the human security of local populations.
In the absence of adequate stockpile management procedures, arms and ammunition are regularly diverted from official stockpiles to non-state armed groups, fuelling ongoing violence in DRC and across its borders.
Communities are also at risk from accidental detonation of ammunition stockpiles. Since 2000, there have been seven recorded incidents of stockpiles exploding in DRC, killing or injuring large numbers of people1.
The munitions depot explosion across the border in Brazzaville in March 2012 demonstrated the devastating impact an explosion of this kind can have, with at least 280 fatalities, 1,500 injured and 14,000 made homeless. The potential for accidents in DRC remains high, and is compounded by the fact that most depots are located in highly populated civilian areas
1 In May 2012, UNMACC reported the following incidents in DRC (casualty figures are given where known): at N’djilli Airport, Kinshasa in 2000 (101 fatalities); Walikale, North Kivu in 2005 (six fatalities); Mbandaka in 2007 (three fatalities); Goma and Kananga in 2009; Mbandaka in 2010; Kibomanga, 28km from Kinshasa, in 2011.
Your donation to MAG helps us to move into current and former conflict zones to clear the remnants of conflict, enabling recovery and assisting the development of affected populations.
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How MAG is helping in DRC
MAG has been working in DRC since 2004. Our clearance operations decrease the risks posed by mines and UXO and enable communities to protect themselves, while opening up access to fertile land and essential facilities, services and trading opportunities.
In 2011, MAG destroyed 33,505 hazardous items, identified 535 dangerous areas, and delivered 4,485 Mine Risk Education sessions benefiting 237,399 people.
MAG is also supporting the Congolese Government and Armed Forces (FARDC – Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo) to meet their obligations under the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction Of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn Of Africa.
MAG receives from the FARDC and police – and destroys – any weapons or ammunition judged to be dangerous, obsolete, surplus or prohibited by the international conventions that DRC has signed up to (such as under the Ottawa Convention for landmines, or under the Oslo process for cluster munitions), making the country a considerably safer place.
MAG is the only non-governmental organisation in DRC accredited to undertake this sensitive work, thanks in large part to the strong working relationship which has been steadily built up with all national and military authorities over the past few years.
From 2006 to July 2012, MAG destroyed more than 123,000 weapons and 850 tonnes of ammunition in cooperation with Congolese authorities.
MAG has further extended its activities into the Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) field, through the implementation of Weapons Securitisation projects to assess and rehabilitate armouries in Kinshasa, Bas Congo and the East of the country. MAG also collaborates with a national working group to develop official national PSSM standards, providing training in these standards and undertaking the evaluation and refurbishment of ammunition stockpiles.
MAG is also working to steadily build a national Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) capacity by partnering with the National Red Cross for all Community Liaison work in the DRC. This partnership, in accordance with the National Mine Action Strategy, aims to build a sustainable, long-term HMA infrastructure in the DRC, through training local partner staff in Community Liaison delivery and developing a national reporting network for Dangerous Areas.
Similarly, since 2011 MAG has been working closely with the Congolese authorities to build a core national clearance capacity. MAG has trained and deployed three clearance teams composed of seconded FARDC personnel, who receive ongoing mentoring and on-the-job training from a dedicated international expert. These activities support a key objective of the DRC National Mine Action strategy: to promote national ownership of HMA and develop a residual local and national clearance capacity.
MAG DRC also continues to work with the international NGO Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP – The International Committee for the Development of Peoples) to turn cleared land into productive development projects following land release.
With more than 100 staff and nine teams operating in the field, MAG is the largest operator in DRC in the Humanitarian Mine Action and Small Arms and Light Weapons / Physical Security and Stockpile Management fields.
MAG's focus is on bringing assistance to those most in need. We create safe access to agricultural land, water sources, medical care and education facilities – particularly in areas of high population return, or where humanitarian non-governmental organisations need to safely carry out their assistance activities.
Insecure weapons stocks are frequently found in areas heavily populated by civilians, posing significant risks to the population in terms of accidental explosion, leakage of weapons or the targeting of the depots by armed groups in the event of a deterioration in the security situation.
Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) / Physical Security and Stockpile Management: Two mobile SALW teams; one weapons securitisation (armoury assessment) team; one weapons destruction team, based at the Central Logistics Base in Kinshasa.
Page last updated: July 2012