GETTING MINES OUT OF THE GROUND, FOR GOOD.

In the period 2002-2011 Ivory Coast suffered two civil wars and a decade as a divided nation with separate administrations.

This period culminated in a post electoral crisis and a short lived conflict that led to the arrest of former President Gbagbo in April 2011. The following month HALO deployed a small team to conduct an emergency survey primarily to investigate rumours and allay fears regarding the use of landmines in the conflict. The team concluded that landmines had not been used, but that there were widespread problem with weapons and ammunition security.

HALO then commenced a programme of works implementing security upgrades across the country in support of the Ivorian Police, Military and Gendarmerie. This process has also incorporated training for the Ivorians in the destruction of unserviceable and unwanted weapons and ammunition.

This programme aims to bring the standards for the storage of Ivorian government weapons and ammunition into line with international regulations and provides expertise in the destruction of items that are either unsafe or unwanted.

Now that peace and good order has been established in the Ivory Coast, a process of demobilisation, disarmament and re-integration is underway.

HALO is supporting this process by providing technical assistance, including specialist cover in the event that unsafe items are surrendered, at all disarmament events. This is the point at which weapons are surrendered by former combatants to the authorities and thus is a critical phase in the stabilization process.

HALO is assisting both the United Nations and the Ivorian authorities in the destruction of unserviceable and unwanted firearms and ammunition.

Destroying the bad ammunition ensures that only safe ammunition is put into storage, while destroying small arms and other weapons promotes confidence in the general security of the country.

Of note HALO provided advice and technical support to the Force Republicain de Cote d’Ivoire in the destruction of the country’s last remaining known stocks of anti-personnel mines.

HALO has so far destroyed 1,300 firearms and 13 tonnes of ammunition.

HALO commenced its efforts in this sector with the construction of some model storage facilities and then used them as part of a training course to introduce the Ivorian police and military to the International Small Arms Control Standards and show how they could be achieved.

HALO then began a program of security upgrades and has now fitted gun safes (in guard rooms and small police stations) and refurbished armories in 45 buildings across the country. This has allowed the authorities to properly account for their weapons and therefore has contributed to overall security through enhanced gun control.

When ammunition is stored inappropriately, the chances of a catastrophic explosion, as seen recently in Brazzaville, increase significantly. Factors such as the state of the ammunition, how it is packaged and stored, and what else it is stored with are all critical to the scale of any unplanned explosion. Thus each of these factors needs to be managed to maximize safety and to minimize the consequences of an accident.

For international ammunition storage standards to be met, the ammunition must be stored away from population centers. In many cases, urban expansion has led to housing encroaching upon formerly purpose built ammunition stores and rendered them unsuitable for continued use for the storage of explosives and ammunition. HALO has therefore worked with the Ivorian authorities to select better locations, including the design layout of new storage facilities and is currently in the process of supervising their construction.

HALO has so far either refurbished or constructed 47 ammunition storage buildings.