Responding to a growing national need in DR Congo, MAG is the first organisation to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for undertaking small arms and light weapons (SALW) destruction in the country. Since December last year the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo (MONUC) has ceased all involvement in weapons destruction and Congolese authorities are currently establishing a new government and do not have any standardised procedures for weapons identification and destruction.
By setting a precedent now, MAG SOPs will serve several purposes, including:
- sustainability and consistency of of SALW destruction in DR Congo by MAG or future operators;
- awareness and importance of proper safety, medical and emergency procedures;
- efficient logistical management suitable to face operational challenges in DR Congo; and
- the necessity of management tools, which ensure the quality and control of the project.
Simultaneously, MAG has worked to recruit, equip and train two seven-member destruction teams. Each team includes a technical field manager, a field assistant, a medic, a driver and three explosive ordnance disposal (EOD)/weapons destruction technicians. While the drivers, medics and field assistants are all new to MAG, the technicians joined the SALW programme from previous MAG projects. Two new technicians and one former technician were lieutenants in the Congolese army. One team medic is a woman.
The female medic, Thyna Mwandwe Mwelwa, is 28 and was selected from six applicants. She has three brothers and five sisters and is currently the sole breadwinner for the family. Her income has allowed her to finish the house her father started more than ten years ago, keeping her family together under one roof. Furthermore, her sisters and brothers also now have the opportunity to continue their education.
In order to ensure the highest safety standards, MAG developed a detailed training programme for both teams, held over a three week period in Lubumbashi. By training the teams together, not only could MAG ensure standardise operational procedures, but the members were able to build a cooperative team spirit.
The training took place from 8 to 25 January 2007. Classroom style instruction was held in MAG Lubumbashi field office and operations training was conducted at the Lukuni mining site. All team members received training in EOD, weapons destruction, health and safety, medical and security and communication assets. Both oral and written progress tests were given as well as practical EOD tests in the field throughout the duration of the training. All team members passed. They will now be monitored over the next six months to ensure quality performance. After a six month probationary period, team members will be reassessed and awarded an EOD level 1 certificate. The skills they have learned and will develop as SALW destruction technicians will afford many of them future employment opportunities, they may not have otherwise had, as well as contributing towards the national capacity of MAG programmes.
Nationwide weapons destruction is an unprecendented process in DR Congo and training Congolese technicians is just one example of how MAG will contribute to weapons destruction and overall security sector reform in the country in the coming years.