The $200,000 facility inaugurated in Misrata was built according to a template designed and constructed to international standards under Libyan and UN supervision and funded by the Swiss Government. The facility, split into two locations each capable of storing 200 tons of explosive materiel, features reinforced cement roofs and is encircled by a sand berm. Another facility is currently under construction under the supervision of the Army Chief of General Staff.
“Every garrison needs to have a safe storage facility for everything from small arms to high explosives,” said UNMAS’ Heslop. “Otherwise, you have cases like the Brazzaville (Congo) explosions where over 200 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 20,000 displaced.”
As in Congo, there have been several dangerous and uncontrolled detonations in the past two years at untended ammunition dumps in Libya. The most recent major conflagration occurred in the northern coastline city of Brega in May. The Libyan Army’s ammunition is of mostly Russian origin and is reaching the end of its shelf life, experts believe. This coincides with a globally rising trend in uncontrolled explosions as ammunition stocks age.
In The Brazzaville case, the cost of cleanup “was ten times more than to build a safe storage facility in the first place,” Heslop added.
He also drew a line on where the ammunition and weapons management support goes, belying detractors’ claims that such measures may serve only to strengthen the capacity of illegitimate armed groups to further challenge the State.
“We’ve done this work only for armed groups that have legitimacy with the Libyan Government,” Heslop said, and where public safety is assessed to be a priority.