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BURUNDI: Living amongst ammunition

Ammunition store in Mudubugu

Reducing the risk of accidental explosion: obselete weapons and ammunition are collected at Mudubugu Base in Bubanza Province.
[Photo: MAG Burundi]

A joint MAG-Burundian Army team is helping to reduce the risks of deadly explosions posed to those who have little choice but to live close to ammunition depots.

One of the numerous harmful legacies of Burundi’s lengthy civil war is the weak management of state-owned ammunition.


One wrong move from the storekeepers – a carelessly discarded cigarette, a cooking accident – could have caused an enormous blast killing or injuring more than 100 people.


Ammunition depots are often unsecure, overfilled with incompatible dangerous items, jeopardising the safety of the buildings and of people in the surrounding area.

The Burundian Army (Force de Défense Nationale - FDN) has recognised that its own ammunition and weapons stocks have been at risk of deadly explosion, as well as having fed the active black market in the Great Lakes Region.

To tackle this, MAG is implementing a Physical Security and Stockpile Management project aimed at sustainably improving the security of the FDN’s stocks.

Over the past several months, MAG’s technicians have regularly found storage situations that need improvement, and some that have been of particular concern.

In February, while inspecting an ammunition store in Bubanza Province, MAG found a room that had been turned into a living quarter for at least five storekeepers – and that could have been the centre of a lethal explosion.

Brazzaville explosion survivor

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Blast leaves Brazzaville scattered with unexploded ordnance

Marina was singing in the church choir when the nearby arms depot exploded. She was knocked unconscious.

[Photo: Simon G Conway]

Lying less than a metre from the beds, and close to two generators and a small plastic fuel container, were two rifle grenades resting on ammunition boxes.

These boxes were obstructing the windows and ventilation, and the ammunition was being stored with flammables such as candles, lighters and charcoal.

With an estimated 200kg of active explosive material present, one wrong move from the storekeepers – a carelessly discarded cigarette, a cooking accident – or an electrical fault could have caused an enormous blast with a damage area of up to 300 metres and in excess of 100 people killed or injured.

In total, the MAG-FDN team removed 206 items of ammunition in a dangerous state from the depot, as well as 23,000 pieces of small arms ammunition stored with fuses and propellants.

The team also helped rearrange the remaining stocks in a more secure way and spelt out the dangers involved to the storekeepers of their previous living arrangements.

By collecting and destroying obsolete weapons and ammunition, and by advising the FDN on appropriate and secure storage practices, the team is helping to reduce the risks posed by these depots for those who have little choice but to live close to them.

The Physical Security and Stockpile Management project is funded by the US Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

Ammunition store in Mudubugu, Bubanza Province.

The estimated damage area of an accidental explosion inside the ammunition store (marked as 1). Another ammunition store (2) and the temporary storage for the destruction site (3) are in the range, which could lead to serial detonations. Debris from such a blast could easily be projected more than 700 metres, putting the nearby village at risk.

16 April 2012

Related articles:

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: More lives at risk as blast leaves Brazzaville scattered with unexploded ordnance

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: MAG responds as tragic explosion claims more than 200 lives

See also: 

Why does MAG work in Burundi?

More news and case studies from MAG Burundi 

Download MAG Burundi publications

Publications - en français

Other resources:

Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor 2011 - Burundi profile

Donor websites:

US Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement

Fonderie 47

Burundi's lethal leftover weapons

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MAG (Mines Advisory Group) saves and improves lives by reducing the devastating effects armed violence and remnants of conflict have on people around the world.
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