RWANDA: 30,000 small arms destroyed in soldiers 'success story'

On 11 January, MAG's small team in Rwanda reached a milestone.

It seemed a day like any other at the National Weapons Destruction Workshop on the outskirts of Kigali. Corporal Jean Zibera from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) picked up an MISR assault rifle and fed it through the hydraulic cutting shears, systematically putting it beyond any future use.

In Rwanda destroying guns is the daily routine. But this one was gun number 30,000.

Corporal Zibera [pictured above] is one of three RDF personnel trained by MAG to cut small arms using the specialist shears imported from the UK.

Over the past 12 months Corporal Zibera, along with Corporals Obedi Perioza and Gilbert Kazenga, has destroyed thousands of weapons - often more than 250 in a day.

Each one of these guns destroyed represents a real achievement in the fight against violence and small arms proliferation.

"I don't know any other country in Africa that's destroyed this many guns in the last 12 months, but the real success story here are the soldiers who man the workshop," said MAG's Technical Field Manager in Rwanda, Roly Evans.

"Their dedication and professionalism is impressive. These guys were affected by the events of 1994 [more on the Rwandan genocide on]. It's great for them to make such a tangible contribution to peace and security within Rwanda and the wider Great Lakes Region."

MAG's aim in Rwanda is to train staff and provide equipment so that, ultimately, a permanent facility for destroying dangerous small arms can be established. Small arms have in the past been a root cause of increased tensions and violence in the region.

"That means not only equipping and training, but also mentoring the soldiers so that they are the ones insisting on the high standards," Roly said.

"Nothing makes me happier than when one of the corporals insists on high standards to the other soldiers, or when one of them surprises a visiting dignitary with their level of knowledge.

"Before we arrived, weapons were unfortunately burnt and this left many still functioning. We are pleased how the guys have adapted to the techniques we have taught them."

But it isn't just the quantity of weapons destroyed that matters. The quality of weapons given up by the Rwandan Government for destruction is also significant, illustrating genuine efforts towards security.

"There is no doubting that many of the weapons we are allowed to destroy are in very good working order," said Roly.

"We have destroyed over a hundred different small arms models. We have cut pretty much every type of Kalashnikov, alongside sub machine guns such as Micro Uzis, machine guns such as Minimis and sniper rifles such as Dragunovs. These are the kind of weapons given up by a government that is serious about its commitment to peace and security in the region."

MAG's activities in Rwanda are not limited to the destruction of small arms. More than 70 tonnes of surplus munitions have also been destroyed in conjunction with the RDF in the last year, and 14 members of the RDF have successfully been trained to the international standard of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Level 1. MAG is also advising the RDF on proper and safe storage of explosive items.

MAG would like to express its thanks to the following donor to its Rwanda operations: Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, United States Department of State. Click on Tags below for related articles.