Throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo there are large numbers of poorly maintained arms and ammunitions stockpiles resulting from the country’s long history of conflict and strife.
"MAG has brought a new dimension that we weren’t used to"
- Captain Louis Kalamba Tshiampe
[Photo: JB Russell/MAG]
The stocks, frequently found in areas heavily populated by civilians, are insecurely and ineffectively managed.
This poses significant risks 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.
In the later part of 2007 and throughout 2008, with funding provided by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Department of State, MAG conducted reviews of the Congolese Armed Forces’ (FARDC) stockpiles in the first seven of 10 Military Regions and began destroying selected stocks.
While ammunition stocks are destroyed on site by the three mobile MAG teams dealing with small arms and light weapons (SALW), stocks of weapons are sent to the FARDC’s central logistics base in Kinshasa for registration, separation and destruction.
Captain Louis Kalamba Tshiampe of the Congolese Army supervises the FADRC-MAG activities to destroy surplus weapons stocks at the central logistics base.
Fifty-eight year-old Captain Tshiampe joined the Congolese Armed Forces in December 1967.
“Military life was a calling," he says. "Like for many young men who want to serve under the flag of his country, the military is an attractive adventure.”
Captain Tshiampe was passionate about everything mechanical, so in 1968 he followed a military training course for mechanics. Over the following years he continued his training, little by little increasing in grade and competence. The central logistics base in Kinshasa services the FARDC bases across the entire country with supplies of equipment, weapons and munitions.
"Surplus arms create danger. Destroying them brings a guarantee of security for everyone"
“Cleaning [stockpiles] in Congo helps the population, it gives life to the population and gives them hope. It helps the military clean their bases and put things in order. MAG brought that. Everyone wins”
As Captain Tshiampe continued his career, he worked at the base maintaining and repairing the military’s weapons and machinery.
In 1983, he participated in exams to become an officer. Two years later, in 1985, he spent a year in the provinces and followed a specialisation course in logistics. At that point, he returned to Kinshasa and began to manage munitions and ordnance for the FADRC.
According to Captain Tshiampe, “Since 1967, all non-serviceable weapons and munitions were just stored. No decision was ever made about them. It was a problem. It creates burdensome stocks at our bases: as they decay it is dangerous for the environment and hygiene, and for security because we can’t control all these arms.”
In 2007, MAG came with a project to review, secure and destroy the surplus stockpiles. When the programme was authorised by the FARDC command, Captain Tshiampe took charge of the joint FARDC-MAG activities.
“MAG has brought a new dimension that we weren’t used to. One man, one arm, one number is a principle that we must practice. Surplus arms create danger. Destroying them brings a guarantee of security for everyone. Working with MAG brings us more recognition and satisfaction.
“It shows that the FARDC can work well too. There are many positive aspects of working with MAG, the human relationships and many things that I can’t express in words.” Captain Tshiampe sees the SALW destruction collaboration as extremely important for the country.
“Cleaning our vital spaces in Congo helps the population, it gives life to the population and gives them hope. It helps the military clean their bases and put things in order. MAG brought that. Everyone wins.”
Up to March 2009, MAG had destroyed more than 83,000 weapons and 335 tons of ammunition in the country.
In addition to destroying surplus arms and munitions, MAG is building the capacity of the FARDC in terms of Physical Safety and Stockpile Management (PSSM) – that is, the technical competence and capacity to safely store, manage and account for weapons and ammunition stocks.
Captain Tshiampe believes the future is promising: “MAG began with demining activities, then they expanded to destruction of arms and ammunition and now they are helping with infrastructure and training. The more we work together, the more doors are opening, and the more there are possibilities.”
Continuing the success of the work with the FARDC, MAG was awarded an agreement by the Police Nationale du Congo in September 2008 to assess all their stockpiles of arms and ammunition throughout the country.
11 March 2009