March 4, 2020 marks the eight anniversary of the blasts of arms and ammunition in Mpila, an eastern district of Brazzaville. Officially, the disaster claimed at least 282 deaths, more than 2,300 wounded and more than 17,000 homeless people living in difficult conditions. Survivors characterized the incident as “a tsunami” or an earthquake.
Arms dump explosions began around 8 a.m. Local time (07:00 UTC) on 4th March 2012in the densely populated city of Ouenzé, north of Brazzaville. The weapons dump is located in Mpila, between Ouenzé and Talangaï. The explosions started with five large blasts and many smaller ones. After the explosions, metal and other debris filled Brazzaville’s streets. Fires spread through town, destroying homes and businesses.
Cause of Blast of Arms and Ammunition in Mpila
According to state officials, the blasts occurred at the Regiment Blinde weapons depot and were triggered by an explosion. The fire, caused by a short circuit, ignited a tank shell store. The location of military camps was cited as a factor contributing to the death toll. Brazzaville has at least five barracks or weapons depots and, after the explosion, the government promised to move the depots outside the city. The same promise was made three years earlier after another fire, but then the depots were not transferred.
Twenty-three soldiers were prosecuted at a 2012 weapons factory blast in Congo-Brazzaville, killing at least 240 civilians. The soldiers were charged for harming State security. The misery and damage caused by these incidents not only have a social but economic impact on the community. The Brazzaville explosion is unlikely to be an exception in Africa, as many more arms and ammunition supplies are handled poorly in most African regions. Such stockpiles will continue to present major risks to civilian populations if they are not tackled urgently.