Rwanda: Soldiers learn the skills to help sustain peace

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- 5,000th weapon destroyed since December

- Many had been confiscated during the aftermath of the '94 genocide

- "This project is all about enabling the Rwandans to help themselves"

Since December the soldiers have been learning how to destroy excess stockpiles of small arms and light weapons.

The weapons - many of which were confiscated during the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 - are often of a high quality and their destruction means that they are never able to inflict harm again.

On Friday the 5,000th weapon was cut up, with a target of 10,000 to be destroyed by the end of March.

"We are very happy to destroy things that have done so much harm," says Lieutenant John Musafiri, the Weapons Destruction Team Leader.

"We are lucky, every day we can see the real difference we make. On average we are destroying over 250 small arms each day. It's great to be a part of, and we are learning new skills as well."

The team is supported by MAG, which has deployed a technical manager to advise on the best methods of destruction. MAG hopes that within months sufficient capacity will have been built for the weapons destruction programme to run on its own.

MAG will also train an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team which will safely destroy over 160 tonnes of assorted surplus munitions, including artillery projectiles, mortars, rockets and small arms ammunition. MAG Technical Field Manager Roly Evans adds:

"This project is all about enabling the Rwandans to help themselves. Progress has been good and I am very impressed with the dedication of the team. It is genuinely satisfying to be a part of something so positive. We really hope this programme can continue to make a significant contribution to peace and stability in the region."

MAG, in conjunction with its partners at the Rwandan National Focal Point for Small Arms, the Rwandan Defence Force and the Rwandan National Police, is looking for funding to destroy a further 20,000 surplus weapons held by the military and 50,000 surplus weapons held by the police, alongside the 160 tonnes of excess munitions.

MAG's operations in Rwanda are currently funded by the Conflict Prevention Pool (CPP). The CPP is run jointly by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development (DFID).