Republic Of Congo: After the Blasts, Anger and Solidarity

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

One day after the March 4, 2012, blasts in the ammunition depot in Mpila, near Brazzaville, the time has come to assess the number of victims. Recent assessments vary from 150 to 200 deaths and 1,500 injured as a result of the blasts. The daze and confusion from the explosions have now given way to anger and a sense of solidarity.

On Digital Congo, a review of the press coverage of the blasts quotes the daily newspaper Le Phare, which offers a detailed account of the disaster [fr]:

D’après les responsables congolais, les explosions ont été provoquées par un incendie dans le dépôt de munitions de la caserne du régiment blindé du quartier Mpila situé au bord du fleuve Congo. Des habitants sont encore prisonniers dans leurs maisons. Ils disent que tout le quartier Mpila a été détruit, a précisé Betu Bangana [Chef du protocole de la présidence congolaise]. Il y aurait plusieurs centaines de blessés

According to Congolese officials, the explosions were caused by a fire in the ammunition depot of the barracks of the armored regiment of Mpila neighborhood, located on the banks of the river Congo. Some residents are still trapped in their homes. They say that the whole Mpila neighborhood was destroyed, adds Betu Bangana [The Congolese president’s Chief of Protocol]. Several hundred people were likely injured by the blasts.

A video posted on Youtube by Lebeization depicts the great impact of one of the explosions:

The following photo, shared on Congo Futur Espoir‘s album on Facebook shows the type of ammunition that was stored in Mpila:

A photo of the alleged type of munitions stored in Mpila depot – From Congo Espoir Futur 's Facebook page (posted with the owner's authorization)

The fact that such weaponry was kept in the center of the city has been the cause of the population’s anger.

Ghislain Nardello asks in the Facebook comments [fr]:

Pourquoi l'armement de notre force armée peut etre gardée au coeur de la Capitale (Brazaville)? Car ceci allait etre utilisé que pour la defense de notre nation contre les autres, mais aujourdh'hui cela a servi a la bataille contre nos propre frères et soeurs congolais, et aussi à la destruction des biens de l'État et des civils. Le gouvernement doit prendre en charge les morts et blessés et dédommager les familles et recontruire leurs biens.

How could the weaponry of our armed forces be kept in the heart of the capital (Brazzaville)? It was meant to defend our nation against our enemies but today it has only caused casualties among our Congolese brothers and sisters and also the destruction of public and civil property. The government must take care of the dead and the wounded, compensate families and rebuild their homes.

Chancel Moussavou continues [fr]:

voila ce qui arrive quand on ne ne pense qu'aux armes! Tout cet argent dépensé pour l'achat de ces armes aurait servit a la construction d une ecole, d'un hosto ou bien d'une quelquonque entreprise! Comment les gens pouront ils se sentir en securité apres ce genre d accident! Franchement c'est pathétique!

This is what happens when all one thinks about is weapons. All this money spent to buy arms could have been used to build schools, hospitals or to support companies. How can the people feel safe after such accident. Honestly, this is pathetic!

Hospitals are currently overwhelmed as shown in this video taken from the Congolese National Television and shared by Patrick Eric Mampouya:

Congolese are starting to organize rescue and relief missions for the affected families and friends. The Paris-based NGO Synergies and Development of Africa has launched a call [fr] to the diaspora:

dans l’urgence, nous voulons renforcer les équipes sur le terrain ; apporter du matériel d’urgence médicale ou de première nécessité. Cela va des petits accessoires, des trousses de secours, des pansements, antiseptiques, petite chirurgie, compresses, médicaments, …

Given the urgency of the situation, we want to boost the rescue teams on the ground; bring emergency and first aid supplies. These range from first aid kits, bandages, antiseptic solutions, minor surgery tools, compress, drugs, …

Congolese citizens are also mobilizing aid efforts through Facebook pages dedicated to Brazzaville.

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