bo GUINEA: Plan to remove toxic chemicals on hold
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Author Topic: GUINEA: Plan to remove toxic chemicals on hold  (Read 1477 times)

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Offline Perfect

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DAKAR, 5 November 2010 (IRIN) - More than a year after their discovery, toxic and flammable chemicals stored throughout the Guinea capital Conakry remain in place - a UN plan to remove them repeatedly held up by political instability.

A UN official said the substances (see box) - many of which can be used to make or refine illicit drugs - are safely stored and under police guard so they are not likely to pose a threat if there is unrest during the presidential run-off election set for 7 November. Since the 27 June first-round presidential election, Guinea has seen widespread unrest as ethnic strife has marred a transition to democratic civilian government after decades of repressive military rule.

“These products are under the authority of the Security [and Civil Protection] Ministry and guarded by police, and most of these sites are not in public areas where people might hold political demonstrations,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) West Africa deputy representative Cyriaque Sobtafo told IRIN.

During an apparent crackdown on the illicit drug trade Guinea armed forces in July 2009 seized large quantities of chemicals at a number of sites throughout Conakry. The authorities later asked the international community for assistance in handling the substances and eventually destroying or removing them, saying Guinea did not have the means.

UNODC has been working on a plan to remove the chemicals, but instability following the 28 September 2009 military attack on civilians forced delays, according to Sobtafo.

UNODC recently contracted a French company to remove the substances but is waiting until after the election to proceed. Sobtafo noted that the authorities also have yet to sign the necessary papers.

“We think that once the elections are over we’ll be able to re-launch the process; for now the atmosphere is such that perhaps it’s not the best time for the authorities to focus on the necessary steps to proceed with this,” Sobtafo told IRIN.

“All the papers were submitted to the Guinea government in August 2010… The government must sign these to permit the company to come in and operate in a transparent and official manner. Perhaps due to the fact that everyone is focused on the elections, the Guinean authorities have not yet signed the documents.”

Safe storage

After an August 2009 mission UNODC said it is critical the substances are properly stored to avoid detonation. IRIN visited two of the sites in August 2009; the substances were in air-conditioned buildings sealed off and guarded by security forces.

Sobtafo said he last saw the substances in place in May 2010. “Since then the authorities assure us that the chemicals remain stored as they were.”

While the substances are commonly used in industrial processes, the quantities discovered surpassed Guinea’s legitimate demands, according to UNODC.

Guinean authorities could not be reached for comment.


Offline elijahnelson

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Proper storage of these chemicals is crucial to prevent accidental detonation.


Offline noahbrown123

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UN officials have reported that substances that can be used to make or refine illicit drugs are safely stored under police guard in Guinea, and are not likely to pose a threat during the presidential run-off election scheduled for 7 November.


 

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