The port of Dakar is home to 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for Mali. The Senegalese are worried about this substance which, in almost equal quantities, is the cause of the tragedy in Beirut. As the authorities seek to get rid of it, President Macky Sall has instructed members of the government to implement a "National Plan to identify, audit and secure hazardous chemical depots".
This is one of the issues that has been of concern in Senegal in recent days: eliminating at all costs the risk of explosion or any other similar incident involving chemicals. At the Council of Ministers on Wednesday 19 August, President Macky Sall went further:
"The President of the Republic, on the social climate, management and monitoring of internal affairs, has asked the Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Minister of the Environment, to implement a National Plan for the identification, auditing and securing of hazardous chemical depots," says the communiqué published on the government website.
Dakar seeks to get rid of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for Mali
Although the General Secretariat of the Government does not explicitly say so in its note, Macky Sall's instruction is particularly related to the current storage in a warehouse in the port of Dakar of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the chemical substance which, in almost equal quantities, was responsible for the explosion in Beirut on 4 August, killing 171 people, injuring more than 6,000 and displacing some 250,000.
Wednesday's confirmation, by the general management of the autonomous port of Dakar, of the storage of 3050 tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for Mali, of which 350 tonnes have already been transported, has aroused great concern. Used in fertilisers and in industry, ammonium nitrate is a powerful explosive agent.
It is considered relatively safe if handled correctly, but can be very dangerous. Before Lebanon, China, the United States, France, Belgium and Germany have experienced explosions caused by the handling of ammonium nitrate.
Senegal is actively seeking to dispose of the stock located in the port of Dakar. According to Reuters, the Ministry of Environment is currently working with the owner of the stockpile - whose identity has not been revealed - "to obtain authorization to urgently remove this cargo".
It is unclear whether the stock can be transported to Mali as originally planned. For, after having ordered to all countries of sub-regions the strict closure of all their borders with the Malian neighbour, ECOWAS finally authorized on Thursday the circulation of "basic necessities, medicines and products and equipment for the fight against Covid-19, petroleum products and electricity".
This exemption was in response to a plea by President Macky Sall. However, ammonium nitrate does not fall into any of the categories of products subject to the ECOWAS exemption.