Democratic Republic of Congo
Landmines and other unexploded devices litter the Democratic Republic of Congo, threatening lives and limbs. Communities are also at risk of accidental explosions at poorly managed ammunition depots.
Landmines are generally divided into two main groups - anti-personnel and anti-tank - and have four main component parts: an outer structure made of either plastic, wood, metal, Bakelite, rubber or even glass; a fuse or firing mechanism; a detonator; and high explosives.
Some contain thousands of pieces of shrapnel, designed to fire out to great distances, while others have been made with a minimum amount of metal and are therefore difficult to detect using metal detectors.
Photos: Sean Sutton/MAG
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Between 1996 and 2003, the Democratic Republic of Congo was the site of the most deadly conflict since World War Two, which led to as many as 5.4 million deaths¹ and left the country contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (such as bombs, shells, mortars and grenades).
Mines and unexploded bombs limit access to resources such as firewood and arable land, hinders local and cross-border trade and communications, and prevents access to essential health and education services.
On top of this, huge numbers of arms and ammunition are stored in unsecured stockpiles and depots across the country. 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 the country.
Communities are also at risk from the accidental detonation of stockpiles, with most munitions sites located in highly populated areas. According to Small Arms Survey, there have been eight recorded incidents of stockpiles exploding since 2000, killing at least 110 people and injuring hundreds.
After a metal signal is detected, the area is investigated carefully using a prodder. The signal turned out to be a 'PRB M3' anti-tank mine. After uncovering the mine, dirt is carefully brushed off so that it can be safely disarmed. Even though this mine was laid in 1974, due to its plastic construction it is in pristine condition.
[Lindu, Bas-Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo; Sean Sutton/MAG 2012]
MAG is removing and destroying landmines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as carrying out risk education work with communities, to raise awareness of the problems and promote safe behaviour.
We are also the only non-governmental organisation accredited to carry out arms management and destruction initiatives in the country, which began in 2006. These are aimed at (i) preventing weapons finding their way into the wrong hands and (ii) reducing the likelihood of accidental explosions in storage sites, which can cause widespread death and destruction.
[Source: United Nations, www.unrol.org]
"These are practical solutions that will improve security for the population"
We want to develop DRC's ability to deal with its landmine and arms management problems.
For example, we established a Weapons Cutting Base in the capital, Kinshasa, to ensure that weapons found and unaccounted for are destroyed. Now a blueprint for other projects, this unique facility is successfully self-run and self-maintained by national authorities, managed and operated by local people trained by MAG.
We also collaborate closely with the Red Cross, helping. In the immediate aftermath of the arms depot explosion in Mbuji Mayi in January 2014, for instance, which killed at least 20 people, Red Cross teams previously trained by MAG spread safety messages to the public on the risks posed by scattered munitions.
MAG's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo is supported by:
Page updated: 8 December 2014