Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Scores dead in Congo munitions depot blasts

At least 100 people killed in explosions in the Republic of Congo capital of Brazzaville, say officials and witnesses

Aj Jazeera March 4, 2012

At least 100 people have died in a series of explosions triggered by fire at a munitions depot in the Republic of Congo capital of Brazzaville, officials and witnesses said.

There are reports that the death toll in Sunday’s incident could be twice that amount.

An official from the Republic of Congo presidency quoted by the Reuters news agency said as many as 200 people were killed.

“We count at least 150 dead in the military hospitals and around 1,500 injured, some of them seriously,” said a European diplomat when contacted by telephone from Paris.

At least three strong explosions rocked the city on Sunday, sending up a plume of smoke that could be seen miles away across the Congo River in neighbouring Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The blasts, which began around 8am local time, all occurred within an hour of one another, witnesses said.

It was not clear how the fire at the munitions depot started.

Charles Zacharie Boawo, the defence minister, appeared on national television on Sunday to urge calm in Brazzaville.

“The explosions that you have heard don’t mean there is a war or a coup d’etat,” he said.

“Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot … At this very moment our experts are there trying to extinguish this fire so this situation does not recur.”

Witnesses said the explosions came from the north of the city and that the impact of the blasts threw open doors of houses in the city centre.

The explosions triggered panic in Kinshasa, but DRC state television urged residents to remain calm.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the DRC government, said he had spoken to officials in Brazzaville, who told him there was an accident at a munitions depot near the city’s Hilton Hotel

Please see the original and read more here

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Bomb Disposal, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

CONGO: Outbreak of dengue-like viral disease

BRAZZAVILLE, 15 June 2011 (IRIN) Almost 1,000 suspected cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever and severe joint pain, have been recorded in the Republic of Congo’s capital over the past two weeks.

“More than 900 people are showing symptoms of chikungunya, which is transmitted by mosquito,” Director-General of Health Alexis Elira Dokekias told a news conference on 14 June.

The disease’s symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash, and are similar to those of dengue fever. There is no known cure; treatment consists of relieving the symptoms.

Dokekias said the first cases appeared in early June in the poor neighbourhoods of Bacongo and Makelekele in the south of Brazzaville.

Of 48 samples analysed in a laboratory in neighbouring Gabon, just over half tested positive for the virus, he said.

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Bug Watch, Health Watch | , , , | Leave a comment

The £1 billion hostage trade

How kidnapping became a global industry. Esme McAvoy and David Randall investigate.

Last week, the British aid worker Linda Norgrove was killed when US forces stormed the camp of the group holding her to ransom. In September, eight tourists died during a botched hostage rescue in Manila.

In August, three Russian airmen were kidnapped in Darfur. In July, four journalists were seized in Mexico. In June, a Russian businessman’s grand-daughter was taken hostage. In May, it was Chinese technicians in Nigeria; in April, eight Red Cross workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in March, a British film-maker in Pakistan; in February, four Pakistani employees of a US aid agency; and in January, a US contractor in Iraq.

A ship seized off Somalia was redeemed for $7m, (£4.4m) a ransom of $550,000 was paid for a German banker’s wife, and, with $300,000 for an oil worker here and $10,000 for a shopkeeper’s son there, and with governments and insurers making their secret cash drops, it all adds up. If you are a hostage-taker, 2010 is turning out to be a very profitable year.

From Mexico City to Mogadishu, from Mosul to Manila, the numbers of aid workers, Western staff, tourists and locals taken hostage is rising. In Mexico, more than 7,000 were held in 2008 alone, in Nigeria at least 1,000 were taken last year, and in Somalia, foreigners are being kidnapped at a rate of 106 a month. All told, at least 12,000 people are now taken hostage each year, and this weekend more than 2,000 – at least 400 of whom are foreigners – are enduring yet another day in a makeshift “prison”, not knowing, from hour to hour, if they will be freed or whether, once their trade-in value is no longer worth the trouble of their keep, they will be dispensed with. And these numbers do not include the many thousands of children who are abducted as part of marital disputes, or the thousands of women victims of bride kidnapping.

The ransom profits are enormous – and growing. Police in Nigeria estimate that ransoms paid there between 2006 and 2008 exceeded $100m. Al-Qa’ida in West Africa alone makes millions taking hostages. What was once an activity undertaken mainly by insurgents and guerrillas keen to make a political point, or acquire a human bargaining chip, is becoming increasingly commercialised. These days, most hostages are taken for ransom, with sums as high as $1.6m paid for their safe return.

And so has grown up a whole industry to counteract the criminals: firms offering kidnap and ransom insurance, highly paid negotiators, lawyers, and security personnel. Today, after an investigation prompted by Anthony Grey, the Reuters journalist who was held hostage in China for 27 months in the 1960s, we reveal the extraordinary extent of one of the 21st century’s least welcome success stories – the hostage industry, worth at least £1bn a year.

Please read the entire story here

October 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Pakistan, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.N. missions in some countries broke rules: watchdog

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. missions in several world troublespots neglected proper security procedures and financial controls, exposing the world body to unnecessary risks, according to an internal report made public on Tuesday.

The report by the U.N. watchdog the Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS, covering 2009, found fault with operations in a series of countries but focused especially on Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

The report “highlights deficiencies in internal controls in a range of areas, from contract management to air operations, that expose the (United Nations) to unnecessary risk,” OIOS head Inga-Britt Ahlenius said in a preface.

“Lack of compliance with standard operating procedures, poor planning and inadequate management are just a few of the types of deficiencies identified.”

Reports of U.N. mismanagement are watched closely by critics of the world body, especially in the United States — the largest contributor to the U.N. budget — who charge that the organization is rife with waste and corruption.

In the violent western Sudanese region of Darfur, the unit found that security precautions and preparations by a joint U.N. and African Union peacekeeping force that now stands at 20,000 troops and police were inadequate for the risks.

The force known as UNAMID, which has lost 22 soldiers and police since the beginning of 2008, made some improvements, the 23-page report said, after OIOS recommended that “urgent measures” be taken.

The report, commissioned by the U.N. General Assembly, also criticized UNAMID for overpaying a fuel contractor $4.7 million because of a failure to verify invoices properly.

POOR CONTROLS

Turning to the troubled peacekeeping mission in Congo, which has nearly 22,000 troops and police, the report charged there were “weak” physical controls over access to cashiers’ offices and vaults. The report did not mention if any losses resulted.

OIOS also probed allegations of sexual misconduct in Congo by U.N. soldiers from an unidentified country and found preliminary evidence some had sexually exploited and abused minors at several refugee camps between 2007 and 2009.

It gave no further details. The U.N. mission, MONUC, has been dogged by claims of sexual misbehavior, including nearly 60 last year, far more than in any other country, according to a U.N. website, http://cdu.unlb.org/. The world body refers such cases to authorities in the troop-contributing country.

The report further found that maintenance of airfields in Congo by MONUC failed to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

In Iraq, OIOS found that the U.N. mission UNAMI, which is entirely civilian, had awarded a $3 million contract for installing overhead protection in staff accommodation on the basis of a single bid. The mission refused to review why there had been no competitive bidding, the report said.

UNAMI had also violated regulations by not reviewing and updating regularly its security plan, the U.N. watchdog said.

In the Central African Republic, the report said failures in internal controls had put the U.N. mission’s resources “at risk for fraud, waste and mismanagement” and led to erroneous payroll payments and unreconciled bank statements.

Original Story at Rueters

March 23, 2010 Posted by | United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment