'Drugs and ammo' found in UN contractor's vehicle in CAR


United Nations (UN) peacekeepers

BANGUI - A stash of drugs and ammunition was found hidden in a truck chartered by a private company under contract with the UN in the Central African Republic, the UN&39;s mission in the country, MINUSCA, said on Thursday.

MINUSCA has opened an investigation after Blue Helmets discovered several hundred shotgun cartridges hidden in containers, and an unspecified drug, in Ippy in central CAR, mission spokesman Vladimir Monteiro told AFP.

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All UN materials transported by private companies in CAR are in sealed containers marked "UN", but Monteiro said "these goods were not in the sealed containers", but "under" the cargo.

The truck belonged to a subcontractor of Dubai-based company Ecolog -- a provider of services, including transport -- under contract with the UN in the CAR.

Ecolog did not respond to a request from AFP to comment. MINUSCA had summoned the company&39;s bosses to Bangui, Monteiro said.

"It was our men who noticed the presence of the goods and they alerted us," Monteiro said.

However, an armed group operating in the area, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of CAR (FPRC), said in a statement on Sunday that the "fraudulent" cargo had been discovered by its members.

"Why is the government, which talks about the restoration of state authority, letting these products circulate freely? Is it not complicit in the distribution of arms in the inland region with this system?" the group said in a statement.

According to its website, Ecolog works in CAR with the UN, but also with NGOs and other private clients. Elsewhere in the world, the company has worked with the American, French and German armies.

The Central African Republic, where many armed groups continue to operate, has been under an arms embargo since 2013.

The strategic crossroads at the centre of the country, between the towns of Bakala, Ippy and Bambari, has seen several fights between armed groups that form alliances according to the circumstances and their local interests -- controlling mines, road racketeering and livestock theft.

The Central African Republic -- one of the poorest countries in the world -- has been mired in a deadly conflict since 2013.

The state has control over only a small part of the territory, while armed groups battle in the provinces for control of diamonds, gold and silver.