(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Airport "powder keg" to be demined

Mine displayed for awareness of returnees in a transition center near Kabul, Afghanistan June 2008. Estimates of the number of land mines and unexploded bombs and shells littering the country after more than two decades of war range from 600,000 to 10 mil
Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

Areas around the Republic of Congo’s (ROC) main Maya-Maya Airport are to be demined for the first time since the end of the 1997 civil war.

According to the Congolese army, the area around the airport was severely affected during the June to October 1997 war that pitted President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s forces against those of deposed former president Pascal Lissouba.

Col. Frédéric Ingani, head of the defence ministry’s weaponry reserve, described the airport demining zone as a powder keg, saying many of the remnants of war had not exploded.

“The munitions pose a great risk to the surrounding population [estimated at thousands]. On the site we have found shells, rocket launchers, grenades and other unexploded devices,” he told IRIN.

The European Union-funded project aims to help consolidate peace and security in the area and will involve the clearance of explosive materials and the training of army soldiers in mine detection and the removal of explosive materials.

The ROC experienced several civil wars between 1993 and 2003 and has since engaged in a long process of disarmament, demobilization and mine clearance.

About 878,000 weapons and munitions were destroyed between June 2007 and December 2009 by the Mines Advisory Group, mainly in the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire and in five other regions.

These included 70 Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), over 125 huge aircraft bombs, 867 rockets, and 4,803 anti-personnel landmines. The group has also trained members of the ROC army to handle explosives.


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