The Dutch Minister of Defense, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, resigned yesterday after the discussion in Parliament of a recent safety report into a deadly accident involving Dutch soldiers. During a live-fire exercise in Mali, where Dutch troops served as part of the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (Minusma) on 6 July 2016, a mortar shell exploded. Two soldiers were killed and a third was severely wounded.

The Dutch Research Council for Safety (OVV) investigation found that the accident was caused by faulty munitions, purchased by the government, despite (PDF):

the lack of guarantees for quality and safety and despite the lack of asked-for background information.

Purchased under great time constraints in 2006 for the Mission in Afghanistan, the shells were not investigated after that mission was finished. The remainder was then taken to Mali, seven years after the hurried purchase. They were not stored properly, but exposed to temperatures in excess of what the manufacturer recommends. This made them unstable and led to the premature detonation.

In the aftermath of the explosion, the medical care provided for the wounded soldier was inadequate. The OVV writes that first aid was good. But afterwards, the wounded soldier was brought to a hospital in Togo, where medical care did not meet standards. The report concludes that:

During the medical planning for the military operations (…) not the own principles for medical care have been leading, but the political wish] to let the military operations in the area continue. The result is an improvised medical planning that left the medical care in life-threatening situations in the hands of a hospital not equipped for it.

According to the Dutch state broadcaster NOS, the mother of one of the killed soldiers, Henny Hoving said in a reaction that:

This was anything but a work related accident. The mortar shell exploded in safe mode, it turns out. In January it was said the shell was armed. We find it unbelievable that the Ministry of Defence risks the lives of its own military personnel. They have simply been murdered.

Hennis was also criticised after a deadly accident on a military range in Ossendrecht, in March 2016 and for the fact that, in 2015, stores of ammunition were so low, that:

soldiers report mock exercises. Because of a shortage of ammunition soldiers say ‘bang bang bang’ during the exercises. Hennis calls the news ‘not funny’, and the picture it paints ‘devastating’.

During the debate, Dutch MP Thierry Baudet noted a great number of deficiencies in the equipment of Dutch soldiers, in a speech that has gone viral on Dutch social media, and has been widely praised by Dutch military personnel. Below we’ll translate the most important highlights.

On 6 July 2016, sergeant Henry Hoving and corporal Kevin Roggeveld were killed in the Mali desert by a faulty mortar shell which exploded during an exercise. A third soldier sustained severy injuries to his stomach and upper legs. This horrific accident could have been prevented and is entirely due to an accumulation of errors during the tenure of VVD-minister Jeanine Hennis.

In short, Defense bought old Bulgarian junk off of the Americans, neglected to check it and stored it unsoundly in Mali. Our soldiers, it turns out, could not expect adequate medical help in case of calamities. Unacceptable! But the worst: this is not an incident, but the result of structural inadequacies in organisation at the Ministry of Defense.

This summer, the Korps Commandotroepen wrote a warning letter, and not the first, which indicated: ‘we have gotten to a point that the material and means with which we have to work is in such a bad condition that we no longer think it is safe to work with, without life threatening situations occurring.’ According to the soldiers this includes rifles exploding in your hands, silencers detaching from firearms and communication radios malfunctioning in combat. The situation has become bad enough, that 90% of marines has decided to buy, at their own expense, material that is up to the task.

The vest that I’m wearing now, is an OPS-vest. This is what Defense makes available to our marines. This vest, which can be purchased for a few dozen Euro’s, is made of elastic and plastic clasps, without room for a bulletproof plate. For that, you need to wear an extra vest, but if you wear two vests on top of each other, you can hardly move your arms, let alone fire a rifle or duck for cover. That’s why many soldiers now use their own money to buy vests like this, the Warrior Plate Carrier. They pay €265 for it, but that’s worth it to them, because they risk their lives every day for the protection of our country.