November 11, 2010

Lugar oversees weapons destruction in Burundi

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – As part of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar’s (R-IN) Africa mission, he visited several conventional weapons destruction facilities near Burundi’s capital city today.

Having emerged from a 12-year civil war in 2005, Burundi is similar to many African nations in having larges caches of small arms and light weapons (SALW), such as rocket propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, 82mm mortars, and other dangerous weaponry. Most such weapons and accompanying stockpiles of ammunition and explosives were delivered to African nations during the Cold War. Since that time, they have been fodder for conflict, flowing across porous borders. 

Conventional arms are appealing for terrorists wishing to harm U.S. troops and facilities and for use against our allies in this region. At a storage facility in Burundi, Lugar inspected Soviet-era FAB-250 bombs, which were described by a former Marine explosive ordinance disposal expert who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an attractive weapon for terrorists to use for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against U.S. and allied troops.

Photos are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorlugar/sets/72157625186729047.  Search for Twitter updates from the trip using #NunnLugar or visit Lugar’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/senatorlugar.  

Securing and destroying these weapons are critical to eliminating regional conflicts and potential terrorist attacks in the world. Along with biological agents inspected by Lugar in Uganda, stores of conventional weapons in Africa are appealing to targets for terrorists because of their portability and because so many of these arms are held without proper inventory or security.

“Securing these weapons that are so common to conflicts in Africa and eliminating that proliferation threat is essential to security in this region,” Lugar said. “The situation is not unique to Burundi. But their willingness to work with us presents an exciting opportunity to remove this threat and show neighboring countries the U.S. wants to work with them, cooperatively, to improve the security of Africa and prevent future conflicts that will require U.S. and allied troops.”

Experts from the U.S. Department of State and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency through the Defense Department are working with the government of Burundi to destroy its substantial collection of SALW.  The weapons are being destroyed under the Lugar-Obama program, which was established as part of Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction.  In Burundi, Lugar-Obama has already destroyed 312 surface-to-air missiles, which could be used by terrorist groups against civilian or military aircraft.

Lugar and Defense Department officials also met with the President of the Republic, Pierre Nkurunziza, to discuss mutual concerns about securing and destroying the conventional weapons in Burundi. Lugar commended the Government of Burundi's commitment to cooperative threat reduction through the Lugar-Obama program.

Although Africa is subject to many deadly, natural disasters and physical security threats, these conditions can be alleviated through strategic partnerships and technical support. Burundi and the other East African countries included in Lugar’s trip remain notable U.S. partners in the areas of security, terrorism, and prevention of pandemic diseases. The United States is committed to continued cooperation with Burundi through the Lugar-Obama Program and other development initiatives led by the Department of State, Department of Defense, and United States Agency of International Development (USAID).

Facts about Burundi:

•                     Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burundi

•                     Borders Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others

•                     Experienced a 12-year civil war, 1993-2005

•         African Union Regional Center on Small Arms estimates more than 200,000 small arms/light weapons are still in circulation in Burundi. Additional weapons continue to be smuggled across the uncontrolled and porous border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Read more about Lugar’s Africa mission at http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar/africa/.

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Press Contact

Mark Hayes • mark_hayes@lugar.senate.gov • Mark Helmke • mark_helmke@lugar.senate.gov