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BURUNDI: Securing arms stockpiles

Registration of weapons

Registration of weapons in Bujumbura before their transport to the Weapons Destruction Workshop, at the Central Logistics Base of the Army, for demolition.

MAG is contributing to a decrease in armed violence and arms depot accidents in Burundi

The management and storage of arms stockpiles in post-conflict societies is a significant undertaking. States that lack the capacity to properly control their stockpiles are vulnerable on several fronts.

Large quantities of un-catalogued weapons, amassed haphazardly in poorly-guarded depots, for example, are susceptible to theft and misuse. These pilfered weapons, in turn, feed black markets and increase the likelihood of armed violence in a society.

Armoury - before

A Police Nationale du Burundi armoury in Police Region East before the MAG-PNB project.

Armoury - after

The same armoury after the implementation of the Physical Security and Stockpile Management activities. 

[All photos: MAG Burundi]

Furthermore, when ageing munitions are stored in sub-standard conditions, such as extreme temperatures, the risk of an accidental explosion is higher.

And when depots are located near densely populated urban centres, as many are in Africa, even the smallest accident can lead to massive loss-of-life.

Sadly, in the last ten years, explosions in ammunition depots throughout the continent resulted in over 1,700 fatalities and 850 injuries.

In a country awash with small arms and light weapons (SALW), the problem of stockpile leakage in Burundi is particularly acute. This has been confirmed by officials in the national army and police.

Weapons are even stolen and sold by members of the police force, on occasion, as a supplement to their salaries.

An initial survey of 206 police stations conducted by MAG and the Police Nationale du Burundi (PNB) found that security in these facilities was inadequate and unauthorised access to arms stocks was probable. A large percentage of the SALW kept in these facilities were unfit for storage or unsuitable for the day-to-day functions of the PNB.

In response to this challenge, MAG implemented a Physical Stockpile Security Management project with the PNB from June 2009 to December 2010. This innovative project received funding from the Belgian, Dutch and Swiss governments.

The project aimed to reduce the vulnerability of the PNB’s SALW stockpiles by securing them against theft, trafficking and unintended explosions.

First, a MAG trained team of policemen visited arms depots throughout the country in order to collect obsolete and surplus SALW and destroy them.

A second team secured the remaining weapons on gun racks and improved the security of PNB storage sites by installing stronger doors and windows and a hatch.

In fact, during an 18-month period, MAG collected a total of 3,614 weapons, 13,094 hand-grenades and 1,019,590 small arms ammunition.

Moreover, MAG upgraded the physical security of 136 police stations and 32 SALW storage sites in Burundi. During this process, the MAG team taught PNB armourers how to properly store and maintain their weapons stocks.

By improving the security of PNB stockpiles this project sealed-up a major source of illicit arms. MAG is confident that a reduction in the availability of arms will contribute to a decrease in armed violence and create a safer environment supportive of socio-economic development.

Furthermore, the risk of costly accidents in arms depots is now lower thanks to a more professional and better equipped group of PNB armourers.

By working directly with the national police, the project contributed to Security Sector Reform and supported the Burundian government in its implementation of articles 6, 7 and 8 of 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 is currently seeking funding to replicate this project with the Burundian national army, the Forces de Defense Nationale. 

31 May 2011

Eli Groener  

• Reporting by Eli Groener, Grants and Communications Intern, MAG Burundi


See also: 

Why does MAG work in Burundi? 

Latest news and case studies from Burundi 

Download MAG Burundi publications

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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