NEW DELHI: The discovery by Kenyan authorities of “illegal weapons and narcotics” hidden in a consignment of Indian military trucks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) being shipped from Mumbai to Indian peacekeeping troops in Congo could be much ado about nothing.
A UN spokesperson late on Thursday said the weapons found on board the container ship Hoegh Transporter, flying the flag of Singapore, at the Mombasa port on September 17 were “part of the legitimate and declared contingent-owned equipment” for Indian soldiers deployed in the UN stabilisation mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
Whenever armoured personnel carriers are shipped, their cannons, machine guns and other weapons mounted on the outside are dismantled and kept inside the vehicles for safe-keeping during the journey. Blaming what appears to be a “misunderstanding” on a “clerical error”, the spokesperson for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said, “Information (about the weapons) on the bill of landing was correctly registered but was not transferred to the ship’s manifest by the ship’s owners.”
As for the “white powder” found around the vehicles, it probably was used for “anti-humidity” protection of tyres during the long shipment. “The Kenyan authorities are doing tests… the investigation is ongoing. We’re obviously cooperating fully,” the UN spokesperson said.
The Indian Army, on its part, on Friday said it had handed over the consignment of 205 vehicles, including 36 armoured personnel carriers with “their inherent weapons”, to the UN-contracted merchant vessel at Mumbai on September 11.
“The consignment, with a detailed list of weapons and equipment, was for end-to-end delivery to our troops in Congo. Any further addition of weapons or any other material placed within our vehicles, if it was done, is not our responsibility. The issue has been taken up with UN headquarters and MONUSCO, which are handling the matter,” an Army officer said.