“Dude, Where’s My Pandur?”
On February 3, 2006, it was reported that 15 of Belgium’s Pandur armored personnel carriers were stolen, together with radio equipment and field kitchens. The equipment was meant for a Beninese battalion that is part of the UN force in the Congo. Thanks to some help from DID’s Benelux reader David Vandenberghe, DID can bring you the details.
In December a ship under the flag of Saint Kitts & Nevis (VRT’s report was incorrect) left the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for Congo, chartered by Geodis under the auspices of the UN. The cargo ship never made it to its destination. Four weeks ago the ship was seized in a port in Equatorial Guinea…
The MV Eurocarrier ship had apparently made an unplanned stop without permission from Geodis in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in West Africa. VRT reports that the four Beninese soldiers that were guarding the material were imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea, while the expensive freight was taken off the ship. This apparently happened about 6 weeks ago; meanwhile GvA (Newspaper from Antwerp) reports that the Beninese guards were released almost in late January 2006; the 23 ship crew are reported to be “under house arrest.”
I suppose it’s worth mentioning at this point that 15 Pandur APCs actually represent fully one-quarter of Belgium’s total inventory. Or a third of its remaining inventory, take your pick.
Meanwhile, It’s hard to decide which response to all this has more dark humour value – the UN’s, or Belgium’s.
VRT News reports that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has already contacted the president of Equatorial Guinea, but reports noted that “these talks did not yield much result.” Imagine. The report adds that: “A United Nations team is to set out to the area to inspect the convoy. It is feared however that the expensive material is stolen.”
Good idea to send a UN team to confirm that one.
The Belgian army, meanwhile, says that the responsibility for the incident lies entirely with the UN and the freight carrier:
“Army spokesman Nick Van Haver confirms that the ship is still kept under embargo and that the UN is looking for a diplomatic solution. He added that Belgium is only lending the material to the UN and that it is the UN that has to deal with the matter now.”
Nothing like calling on the UN’s expertise with stolen property. Yeah, that ought to get their 15 APCs back…
UPDATE: StrategyPage just added a quick note covering the incident:
“Sometimes, governments carry out acts of piracy. A case occurred last month… Equatorial Guinea has been ruled, since 1979, by dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (who inherited the job from his uncle, via a coup.) Obiang has grown increasingly paranoid and unstable of late. That’s because oil was discovered in the 1990s, and that produced more money than has ever been seen before in the tiny country of only 600,000 people. Obiang has stolen most of the $700 million in annual oil income, handing out enough of it to cronies to keep himself in power. But, in a situation like that, who can you really trust? So when a ship comes by, with a hundred UN peacekeeper vehicles on deck (worth some $20 million), what do you do? After all, the army of Equatorial Guinea consists of only three battalions, and the stuff on the ship would equip one of those battalions with better gear then they have now…”
Once upon a time, such escapades were considered acts of war. StrategyPage also note that the ship carried over 100 vehicles, so the 15 Belgian Pandurs may well have had company. There’s no detailed report at this time to substantiate the exact figures, however, or clarify whether the remaining vehicles were ordinary Jeeps et. al. (most likely) or something more.