At the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, three requests for additional time to complete demining will be reviewed and decided upon. Already Sudan and Chad have submitted their extension requests and Mozambique is expected to submit its request in the near future. As we have done in past years, Landmines in Africa will review the requests and offer our opinion. We will start with Sudan’s and hope to offer our comments on Chad’s in the next couple of weeks.
Sudan became a party to the Mine Ban Treaty on April 1, 2004 and under the Mine Ban Treaty’s Article 5 demining obligations, Sudan has until April 1, 2014 to clear all anti-personnel landmines from its territory. Sudan will not be able to meet that deadline, so the Government of Sudan has submitted a formal extension request for an additional five years, until April 1, 2019 (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf), that will be reviewed and decided upon in Geneva at December’s Meeting of States Parties. Since becoming a State Party, Sudan has split into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, per the independence referendum and some of the investments that were made prior to the split in July 2011 and recorded as investments in Sudan were transferred to South Sudan.
In general the document is well-written and comprehensive. Unlike other recent extension requests, this is not written as a two part request in which the first part seeks to determine the scope of the problem and serve as the basis for drafting a workplan that will be the second part and a separate extension request. Thanks to multiple surveys of the country, the scope and scale of the problem in Sudan is well-understood and the country has the capacity to respond to the problem. The request also commits to clearing all explosive remnants of war and not just anti-personnel landmines. Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, only anti-personnel mines are required to be cleared, but Sudan is committing itself to clearing anti-tank mines and unexploded ordnance. That means that all of Darfur is also covered by this extension request, an area with extensive UXO contamination but no known anti-personnel landmine contamination.
Like all extension requests, Sudan’s declares that the proposed workplan is contingent upon receiving the necessary funding to support the activities. Sudan also adds security as a contingency noting that South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are facing active conflicts in the form of elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that are still active in Sudan after the division of the country. However, in response to this insecurity, Sudan’s workplan focuses its efforts on other mine-affected regions with the plan being to clear those in the short term and then shift assets and demining teams to South Kordofan and Blue Nile when the security situation improves.
Analysis and Comments
I would anticipate that this extension request will be approved, but I would like to highlight a major failure of the request, a few smaller issues and a few serious problems that went unmentioned in the request. First and foremost, there was no budget associated with the extension request. The workplan is very detailed with GANTT charts showing the timelines for completion of tasks and the inputs required, but no estimate of the total cost. The government of Sudan needs to put a price tag on the workplan before it can be reviewed and approved.
Second, the funding for Sudan’s mine clearance work has been declining from a high of US $90 million in 2008. In 2008, Sudan contributed almost US $17 million but for 2013, the country has pledged less than a tenth of that amount, US $1.3 million. The contributions from the international community have also declined by more than half in that period, but that decline is mostly due to the fact that funds have been split between Sudan and South Sudan when in 2008, everything went to Sudan. Since the government of Sudan is proposing a five year extension, the government should make a five-year funding pledge that would last until April 1, 2019. If Sudan could make such a pledge, that would show the country’s commitment to the donor community and, provided Sudan provides a budget for the workplan, inform the donor community of the shortfall they are being asked to make up.
Third, the extension request acknowledges the use of new anti-tank mines in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but does not report on their origin. Anti-tank mines are not banned under the Mine Ban Treaty and so were not subject to the stockpile destruction of anti-personnel mines completed in 2008 so Sudan could be responsible for some of the new use of anti-tank mines in these states and the SPLM in South Sudan reported finding anti-personnel mines in SAF camps as recently as 2012. So, as long as there are any mines – anti-personnel or anti-tank – in either Sudan or South Sudan, the possibility of new use exists so Sudan should re-confirm destruction of all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines and make efforts to destroy any anti-tank mines it still holds in its arsenal.
The last of the smaller issues I want to raise is the absence of any discussion of victim assistance or mine risk education in the extension request. The extension request is supposed to be limited to mine clearance only, but I think recognizing that mine risk education activities must continue for as long as mine contamination exists. Also, official records in Sudan show almost 2,000 landmine survivors living in Sudan and the government acknowledges that the true number is probably higher. Those survivors require assistance for rehabilitation and integration and Sudan should include a discussion of its response to those needs in its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019, especially since the number of victims increased dramatically in 2011 and 2012 as a result of renewed conflict. I also want to point out that the two national organizations, JASMAR and Friends of Peace and Development Organization (FPDO), that will certification as demining entities currently provide victim assistance and mine risk education services. As these organizations shift activities to include demining, they should continue to work in victim assistance and mine risk education to avoid a loss of national capacity in those areas.
In addition to the issues raised above, I see three major issues with the extension request, based not upon what is in the request, but on where the request is silent. First, the presence of landmines in and around the disputed territory of Abyei goes unmentioned. Part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) called for a referendum by the residents of Abyei to determine whether Abyei would become part of Sudan or South Sudan. That referendum has never taken place and Sudanese military have occupied the territory. The continuing presence of landmines has prevented Abyei residents from returning to their homes. Since Abyei is under the control and occupation of Sudan, Sudan has the responsibility for clearing any landmines in the territory. Should the referendum take place and should the people of Abyei decide to join South Sudan, then Sudan would be absolved of this responsibility. However, the likelihood of that happening is very slim because Abyei sits on top of some of the largest oil fields along the border between the two countries and Sudan’s leadership in Khartoum wants to maintain possession of those oil fields. Hence the occupation and the cancellation of the CPA-mandated referendum. The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the presence of landmines in Abyei and hold the government of Sudan accountable for their removal for as long as the future of the territory remains in dispute.
Second, the extension request identifies Technical Development Initiative (TDI) as the only international mine action operator active in Sudan. The request does not mention the fact that several operators had been active in Sudan prior to the split into Sudan and South Sudan and many of the operators who were working in what became South Sudan are still there. However, there was at least one international operator, Danish Church Aid, active in South Kordofan in 2011 whose work came under threat. With their compound across the street from the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) pay office, Danish Church Aid’s demining equipment and compound was looted. The presence of the SAF office either means that the looting was done by SAF personnel or with the awareness and at least tacit consent of SAF. Danish Church Aid (DCA) withdrew from South Kordofan, one of the most heavily landmine-contaminated states in Sudan shortly afterwards, reducing mine clearance capacity. RONCO, a for-profit demining company, was also working in Kassala and South Kordofan states as recently as January 2011 and have since withdrawn despite clearing more landmines than any of the other 17 operators active in Sudan in 2010 (The Monitor). These international operators are being replaced with the national organizations JASMAR and FPDO which, while admirable on the part of JASMAR and FPDO to take on the responsibilities, will mean diminished mine clearance capacity as there was a two year gap between when RONCO and DCA left Sudan and JASMAR and FPDO will be able to begin operations. The Government of Sudan’s role in ensuring the safety and ability of mine action organizations to operate in Sudan is paramount and the fact that so many operators left the country in 2011 shows that the government could not provide the necessary assurances. The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the security of mine action operators and hold the government accountable for their well-being as they conduct their activities.
Third, in South Kordofan (and probably in Blue Nile), the Sudanese armed forces have been fighting against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) rebellion. In the process of trying to quell the rebellion, the SAF has engaged in indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites including villages and camps for internally displaced persons. These bombing runs, by Soviet-era Antonov aircraft, will simply add to the number of UXO that Sudan will need to clear (Amnesty International, pdf). So while Sudan recognizes that insecurity in South Kordofan will prevent mine and UXO clearance in the near term, Sudan is also not doing itself any favors in terms of limiting the amount of work it will need to do once security is established.
Recommendations for Sudan to Strengthen the Request:
- A budget for this request needs to be included before the request is formally reviewed. The government of Sudan should at least be able to estimate the costs, especially considering the exceptional detail that was available in the plan.
- Sudan should make a commitment for its contribution to this workplan and budget. By doing so, Sudan will demonstrate its support for the plan and inform the donor community of the amount required to finish the job.
- Sudan should provide information about the mine risk education and victim assistance work covered by its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019. While not required under an extension request, I think this information is helpful to reviewers to show the comprehensiveness of planning.
Recommendations for the Meeting of States Parties:
- Responsibility for landmine clearance in the disputed territory of Abyei must be determined. If Sudan continues to occupy the territory and prevent the CPA-mandated referendum from taking place, then Sudan must bear the burden of mine clearance and should include plans for that clearance in its extension request. If the referendum moves forward, then responsibility for clearance will be determined by the people of Abyei; if they choose to stay with Sudan, then Sudan must account for clearance of the territory; if they choose to join South Sudan, then South Sudan will assume responsibility for clearance.
- The security of mine action operators must be ensured by the state. The looting of the Danish Church Aid compound in South Kordofan is a worrying event and Sudan should provide security assurances to all demining organizations – national and international – active in the country.
Michael P. Moore
May 24, 2013
In 2012, Dessu Sam, a trained physical therapist from Ethiopia who had been studying and living in the United States since 2001, traveled to South Sudan. In the 1990s, Sam had worked at clinic in Addis Ababa, treating child landmine survivors, an experience that inspired him to work on awareness raising in Ethiopia and direct advocacy. Through Sam’s efforts and the efforts of Landmine Survivors Network, the International Committee for the Red Cross’s Special Fund for Disability expanded its services in Ethiopia to include civilian victims of landmines and not just military victims. In the United States, Sam re-connected with Shumye Gebrehiwot who had been the Director of Landmine Survivors Network in Ethiopia and had also emigrated. Together, they founded the not-for-profit Coalition Against Landmines (CALM) to provide support to child landmine survivors in Ethiopia. As a student at George Washington University, Sam often spoke of his work with CALM and the impact of landmines on Ethiopia. Until one day, a fellow student, Makwei M. Deng from South Sudan, asked Sam, “Why don’t you do something about South Sudan?” That question led to Sam’s 2012 trip.
Sam quickly saw that the victim assistance need for landmine survivors in South Sudan was huge and the national capacity to respond to that need was minimal. In Ethiopia, the infrastructure and rehabilitation services exist to provide assistance to survivors, along with transport mechanisms to make those services accessible. In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, the services are lacking and reports and Sam’s own experience suggest that landmines continue to be laid in Unity and Jonglei states.
Working with volunteers from Juba University, Sam set out to create an entity that could provide some assistance to landmine survivors in South Sudan and provide mine risk education to prevent new injuries. Even with a focus on host-country ownership and volunteer labor, Sam has found South Sudan an expensive country to operate in and because the country is so new, NGO registration laws are complicated. However, after a “nightmare” process, Sam and a local Director, Robert Oketta, established Child Survivors of War (CSW) as a locally registered and operated NGO. Office space, because there is so little of it, is very expensive, so to save money CSW shares space with other organizations. CSW’s volunteers go to universities and public institutions throughout South Sudan to educate people about the risks of landmines and other explosive remnants of war and for child survivors who cannot access formal education, those volunteers also provide tutoring.
Sam’s focus on child survivors is based on his belief that adult survivors are “conscious” of what has happened to them. Adults possess the self-awareness and understanding to understand their injuries and actively participate in their own rehabilitation and recovery. Children lack this awareness and may not fully comprehend their new reality. Child survivors as they grow, frequently grow out of their prostheses and require a new one every year in order to be able to more fully participate in life.
The establishment of Child Survivors of War and political realities in Ethiopia have led to a re-thinking about the future of the Coalition Against Landmines. With the support of CALM’s board of directors, CALM has become a fund-raising mechanism for CSW while continuing to provide direct support to two landmine survivors in Ethiopia, Genet and Tekle. The new NGO registration laws in Ethiopia limit the amount of support an organization in Ethiopia can receive from international sources, like CALM, so CALM has not been able to expand its efforts there, however, CALM has made a commitment to Genet and Tekle and will continue to support them until they are adults and able to live independently. Genet is currently in the 10th grade and has plans to attend a technical school to study business, after which she would be able to get a job and support herself. A one-year program at the technical school costs US $1,000 and CALM is actively raising funds to cover the tuition and associated expenses. Tekle is in the 6th grade and CALM expects to support his schooling for another six or seven years.
Sam and CALM’s board are contemplating changing CALM’s name to Child Survivors of War – International to formalize the relationship between the organizations in the United States and South Sudan. Sam’s immediate plans are to travel to South Sudan and spend a year, developing the structure of CSW to build the capacity of the local director and take advantage of the energy and passion of the volunteers. He wants to build CSW’s network to include local informants in the mine-affected states through churches and other formal and informal associations. These expansion plans would likely require additional fund-raising, beyond the US $300 per month that is currently needed to support CSW’s activities in South Sudan, but Sam is confident that the opportunity is there.
More information about the Coalition Against Landmines is available on their website, www.calmint.org, and for more details about either CALM or Child Survivors of War, please contact Dessu Sam at email@example.com. In Juba, CSW can be contacted via the national Director, Robert Oketta, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael P. Moore
May 20, 2013
Annually, the world observes April 4th as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Action. As a result, the month of April, along with the month of the Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and the accompanying release of the annual Landmine Monitor, sees many articles and news stories about landmines, their impacts upon communities and efforts to clear them. This year was no different and there were re-affirmations of landmine policies, calls to action and general reports in addition to specific stories about landmine accidents and activities. During months like this, one does get a sense of how widespread the threat of landmines continues to be and the importance of continued mine action. From West Africa to East Africa, from North to South, the threat remains and in some places appears to be growing. Also be forewarned, this will be a long report; there is an awful lot of news to cover…
Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, declared April 4th to be a national working holiday in honor of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Action. The country called upon others to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty and warned about maintaining vigilance for landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). The African Union Ambassador to Liberia, with support of representatives from the European Union, the government of Liberia and the International Committee of the Red Cross, declared Liberia and the West African sub-region to be free of anti-personnel landmines (All Africa), although he did not say which countries he included in the region since landmine continue to be an issue in Senegal and have emerged as an issue in Mali.
In the western region of Darfur, officials took advantage of the April 4th observances to highlight the continuing threat of landmines and ERW in the conflict-affected region despite efforts by the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping forces to demine affected areas (All Africa). Unfortunately, their warnings were sadly prescient as one child was killed and another injured three weeks later when a landmine detonated near where they were playing (All Africa).
Violence in South Sudan, especially in Unity and Jonglei States have interrupted efforts at mine clearance, while also adding to the existing problem through new use of mines. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the United Nations and national and international mine action operators have been working to clear landmines and many South Sudanese states are now free of mines, but mine risk education and victim assistance programs must remain a priority (All Africa). For those states where the mines have been cleared, refugees have been able to return to their homes, although the clashes in states along the border with Sudan have kept some away (All Africa).
Morocco and Western Sahara
The release of a video describing conditions in the Sahrawi refugee camps on the Guardian’s website served as a reminder of “Africa’s Last Colony.” Coincidentally released on April 4th, the video shows footage of the 2,700 kilometer-long berm that splits Western Sahara between the western region controlled by Morocco and the eastern region governed by the internationally-recognized Polisario Front. The berm is composed of a dirt wall and is protected by millions of landmines, preventing any crossing from one side to the other (All Africa).
According to one report, the Egyptian navy seized a vessel in the Red Sea that was carrying 45 tons of military hardware including landmines. The potential destination of the arms was not mentioned, but American and British crewmen were taken into custody to try and determine the origin and purpose of the shipment (All Africa).
On the subject of getting landmines out of Egypt, rather than into the country, Egyptian authorities announced the purchase of a second demining vehicle to help with the clearance of some 20 million (yes, million) landmines from the western deserts around the World War II battlefields of El Alamein. With a 2016 target for completion, the mine clearance will open up an area equivalent to a fifth of Egypt’s total territory. The vehicle, an Armtrack 400 was bought from a British firm with the support of grants from a number of sources. Egypt estimates that another US $23 million dollars in assistance is needed to complete the demining and there are plans to purchase two more Armtrack 400 machines bringing the total number to four. In addition to the development opportunities that demining will allow – including agriculture, city planning, natural gas and oil exploration – there is the humanitarian imperative to clear the mines. Over the last thirty years, 800 people have been killed by landmines in Egypt and another 7,500 have been injured (Xinhua; Ahram; All Africa; Cambridge News).
“Zimbabwe is one of the most mine-impacted countries in the world in terms of area affected and density of mines” (Nehanda Radio). Says it all really.
335 kilometers of Zimbabwe’s borders with Mozambique and Zambia are contaminated with landmines which are present in a density of 5,500 mines per square kilometer for a total of some 2 million mines. $100 million in support is required for Zimbabwe to clear all of the minefields, but at present, the area and depth of contamination is only estimated. Over the next two years, Zimbabwe and mine action operators will conduct surveys to determine the actual scope of the problem. The presence of landmines has effectively sealed the borders to trade and prevented the development of many fertile fields (The Africa Report). In addition to organized demining, residents of the mine-affected regions engage in community demining, described as “daredevil landmine-clearing.” The process starts by setting controlled fires and then sifting through the ashes for mines. Several people detonated landmines during these actions, the result of which they describe as follows: “In the event that one steps and denotes a landmine, that person is shredded to pieces. We do not bury those that would have been blown by landmines since there will be no bones or skeletons to bury” (The Sunday Mail).
In other news of landmine tampering, the victims of the Chitungwiza landmine blast that resulted from the attempts to extract mythical red mercury from a landmine continue to be homeless. The blast killed six people and destroyed a dozen houses. The residents of those houses have been living in temporary tents but with winter approaching, they need more permanent accommodations (All Africa). One person who has received support since his landmine injury is Blessing Makwera, a young Zimbabwean man who suffered severe facial injuries from tampering with a landmine six years ago. Operation of Hope, a not-for-profit organization in Portland, Oregon that donates surgical expertise, has sponsored Blessing to come to the United States and undergo several surgeries to reconstruct his jaw and face and enable him to return to normal life. At present, Blessing is working as a teaching assistant at a Portland-area school whose students had raised some of the funds necessary to pay for his surgeries and travel as he awaits the final round of operations (ABC News).
On April 15th, Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, condemned the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15th, making specific reference to the 8 year-old victim (RBC Radio). He made those comments barely 24 hours after bombings in Mogadishu killed 29 people and injured 58 others (Voice of America). On a day when his focus should have been on his own people, Somalia’s President took some time to recognize the shared threat of terrorism that people around the world face. I wonder how many Americans recognized the same. Back to the landmines…
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been active in Mogadishu clearing landmines at former government military bases that were abandoned when the Siad Barre regime collapsed (All Africa). In addition to old mines, Al Shabaab appears to have launched a new offensive, beginning with the large blast in Mogadishu and used landmines to attack vehicles and individuals. In Mogadishu, a district commissioner’s car was targeted by a landmine as he left an anti-Al Shabaab demonstration (RBC Radio). In the Shabelle and Hiraan regions of the country, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) vehicles were targeted in separate attacks (All Africa; All Africa). After the attack in Shabelle region, AMISOM troops “opened fire” to disperse crowds that gathered. Kenyan forces battled Al Shabaab militias after landmines were used to ambush convoys in the Juba region (All Africa) and in Garissa (Sabahi). The battle in Juba was accompanied by airstrikes while the actions in Garissa led to a security crackdown and the arrest of over 100 individuals.
The news out of Somalia is not all bad, though. The Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, the largest emergency facility in a city that has seen decades of continuous fighting, reports a drop in the number of battle injuries. “Medina you can use as a thermometer. It has the temperature of the security of the city. Every person that gets injured by bullet, shelling, hand bomb or land mine, usually they transport them to this hospital,” but in recent months, only 70 to 80 percent of the hospital’s 300 beds have been taken up by war injuries; down from 95%. The high figure still shows the level of violence in Mogadishu, but the fact that the doctors are noticing a drop is a positive sign and hopefully, that percentage will continue to decline (Voice of America).
At the beginning of the month, the United Nations Secretary General described the security and humanitarian issues facing Mali, including usage of landmines by Islamist forces, as a means of lobbying for a United Nations led mission to replace the African Union mission that had been launched last September (All Africa). Later in the month, under a Chapter VII peace-making, not peace-keeping, mandate, the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) was re-hatted and augmented with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) which will take effect on July 1, 2013. Part of the rationale for the MINUSMA mission was the continuing threat of landmines and so part of the MINUSMA Charter is “To assist the transitional authorities of Mali, through training and other support, in mine action and weapons and ammunition management” (All Africa).
Tunisia declared itself free of anti-personnel landmines as of March 2009 (The Monitor) so the reports of several landmine blasts at the end of the month came as a bit of a surprise. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolts, some terrorist groups have taken refuge in the area of Jebel Chaambi in the mountainous region of Kasserine along the border with Algeria. It is possible that terrorist cells have long operated in this region, but under the Ben-Ali dictatorship that was overthrown in 2011, information about these groups was limited. At least three landmines were triggered by Tunisian National Guardsmen who were pursuing members of the terrorist group, a group that had been prepared for an assault and established perimeter defenses using landmines. The event has received extensive coverage in African and Arabic media outlets suggesting that any restrictions on journalism under the old regime have been well and truly lifted, a positive sign from the cradle of the Arab Spring (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa; All Africa; World Bulletin; Maghrebia). The acting Prime Minister of Tunisia declared “the state will fulfill its national duty towards security units who face risks in the accomplishment of their tasks of maintaining order in the country” and promised social security coverage for the injured men to assist in their recovery (All Africa).
With two new demining firms, South Africa’s Mechem and Norwegian People’s Aid, on the ground in Senegal, the prospects for meeting the country’s 2016 mine clearance deadline are looking up. Half of the known mined land in the Casamance region has already been cleared, with almost half of that area cleared in the last year. There are lingering fears that the separatist movement in Casamance is still using landmines and until a permanent peace is in place, the areas controlled by the separatists cannot be cleared of mines, but the general movement appears positive. New injuries were reported in March, but whether those were due to new or old mines is not known. In addition to the demining progress, the US State Department is making positive noises about the potential for a peace settlement which would ensure that the long term threat of landmines in Senegal is eliminated (IRIN News).
Have you heard of the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony? Of course you have; they were the subject of a viral internet video made by Invisible Children whose director had a complete mental breakdown after the backlash against his simplistic and self-indulgent description of the conflict. But have you heard of the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) or any of the other 20, yes twenty, rebel movements that have tried to overthrow the Museveni regime in Uganda? No? Well, the ADF was one of the better resourced and more successful of these insurgencies, launched in 1996 they attacked several army outposts along the Ugandan border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing and capturing hundreds of people. Supported by the government of Sudan in Khartoum, the ADF used landmines throughout western Uganda and in recent months appears to have been resurrected by one of its founders and is now training rebels in DRC, taking advantage of the chaos there. Armed with landmines and heavy weapons, the ADF has almost 1,000 fighters ready to attack Uganda – that’s triple the number Joseph Kony had at last count (All Africa).
The US Ambassador to Angola, Christopher McMullen, used a speech at the Agostinho Neto University to lay out the US’s strategic interests in Angola. While acknowledging the primacy of petroleum in those strategic interests, Ambassador McMullen tried to make the case for why the US would be interested in Angola beyond just oil. The US has provides millions of dollars annually in support of mine action in Angola to clear minefields for agricultural use as part of the strategic objective to “promote opportunity and development” (All Africa). Part of the result of that investment has been the clearance of over 100,000 kilometers of roads, 1.1 billion square meters of land and thousands of kilometers of rights of way for railroads and fiber optic lines (All Africa).
Ethiopia Satellite News, a diaspora-based news organization that does not have friendly feelings for the current regime, accused officers of the Ethiopian military of looting the Ethiopian Demining Organization (EDO). Supported by the United States and Europe, the EDO was shut down suddenly and its 700 employees were terminated. Ethiopian officers then took possession of EDO’s heavy vehicles used for transport. Investigations into the matter by the anti-corruption agency were “stopped due to undisclosed reasons” (Ethiopia Satellite News). As a country, Ethiopia has made good progress towards becoming mine-free and if this story is true, it would represent a true shame.
Observance of the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
(hold on friends, we’re almost there)
The International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action offered the opportunity for many in the international community to re-affirm their vision of a mine-free world. Ms. Agnès Marcaillou, the new director of UNMAS, said simply “[anti-personnel landmines] have no place in the 21st Century” while the International Campaign to Ban Landmines stated “This weapon does not distinguish the foot of a child from the foot of a soldier” and the representative of the Mine Ban Treaty’s Implementation Support Unit said “Communities continue to suffer because the socio-economic impact is enormous” (United Nations). UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the United Nations’s new mine action strategy saying that mine action “that advances peace, enables development, supports nations in transition and saves lives” (All Africa). The Vatican’s spokesman described the “moral imperative to stop the use or production of these banned weapons” (Vatican Radio), while in the US, the international Lend Your Leg campaign tried to pressure the Obama Administration to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty (Huffington Post).
Two pieces especially stood out for me among the Mine Awareness Day stories. Ken Rutherford, himself a landmine survivor and the Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University said:
This must not be another day marked by another spate of press releases — this day calls for action. The global community has the opportunity and responsibility to assist all victims of conflict. The United States, along with Burma and Syria, is not yet a State Party to the Ottawa Convention. Although the current US policy is being actively reviewed, we cannot wait for policy to drive progress. As Burma and Syria evolve, we must anticipate a day when the idea of a just and prosperous future is available not only to the abled but also the differently abled (Huffington Post).
With this call for action over statements, Rutherford pushes us all to realize that mine action is first and foremost, action and needs to be more than words and demonstration, subtly rebuking most of the other Mine Awareness Day events.
The second piece was an announcement by South Africa’s Denel Mechem which makes mine-resistant vehicles for militaries. In the report, Mechem announced that they wanted to sell their vehicles to civilian clients who “transported life-saving medicines, food, tents and fuel but were ‘vulnerable to the scourge of land mines and roadside bombs’” in Africa (Business Day Live). This worries me that at least one company recognizes that the threat of landmines and improvised explosive devices is so great these days that humanitarian workers, who were not targets in the past, need mine-resistant vehicles to do their job. We are either militarizing the humanitarian sphere by accepting this vehicle or late in recognizing that humanitarian workers have become legitimate targets in some groups’ eyes.
Michael P. Moore
May 4, 2013
There is a lot of hand-wringing in the international community about the Chinese involvement in Africa. To be sure, China’s investments often appear to be very self-serving, especially the oil and mineral extraction activities. But China has also learned the important lesson of soft power and has made investments that, unlike the oil wells, roads and gifts to leaders, don’t have an immediate return. China has paid for the building of many hospitals in Africa, sent its doctors to treat malaria patients across the continent and offered Chinese language instruction to Africans. From a glamor perspective, the Chinese have also built or re-furbished a spectacular number of football stadiums and not just those used for international tournaments, along with opera houses and other cultural venues. But even more important from my particular point of view: the Chinese have provided a lot of assistance for mine clearance.
Chinese foreign aid is conditioned on eight principles, two of which (“China provides quality equipment and materials manufactured in China at international market prices” and “China will help recipient countries master the techniques of any technical assistance”) apply to demining (The Guardian). The result has been gifts of demining equipment and training sessions for deminers to landmine-affected countries in Africa. From 2000 to 2011, according to the AidData project, China provided some US $2 million in demining equipment to Angola (AidData), Eritrea (AidData), Ethiopia (AidData) and Mozambique (AidData). On its own and through the United Nations Mine Action Service, China has provided demining training to over 100 deminers from Eritrea (AidData), Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda (AidData), Chad, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau (AidData), Sudan and South Sudan (AidData). Not included in the AidData figures were donations of mine detectors and equipment to Egypt and a demining team from China that participated in the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (The Monitor).
The amount of mine action assistance that China provides is far below that of the United States, Norway and many others, but it is not insignificant either. In many ways, China’s demining assistance mirrors the mine action assistance of another entity whose presence in Africa raises eyebrows: the United States’s Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Michael P. Moore
May 2, 2013
In the last few months, some very positive news has emerged from Senegal suggesting that the thirty-year long conflict between separatist rebels in the southern Casamance region and the central government in Dakar may be near an end. The Casamance region separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia which rests along the southern and northern banks of the Gambia River. This physical separation is part of the reason for the conflict, but there are other issues at play including political and economic isolation (which probably weren’t helped by the geography). Since his election in 2012, Senegalese President Macky Sall has emphasized efforts to bring peace to the region with the assistance of international and national mediators between his government and the separatist factions known collectively as the Movement of the Democratic Forces of the Casamance.
The heightened prospects of peace have brought a new focus on mine action in the Casamance region, from demining to risk education to victim assistance. But in addition to the immediate benefits of mine action activities, work around landmines has aided in the cause of peace and provided indirect benefits that may secure a permanent peace in this troubled region.
Direct Benefits of Mine Action in the Casamance
Mine action provides direct benefits in terms of increasing physical security of persons living in mine-affected regions, increased economic activity in mine-affected areas and provision of rehabilitation and reintegration services to victims. Over the three decades of conflict, roughly 1,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines, but this number has been declining since 1997 when over 200 landmine accidents were reported. In 2008, only one accident was reported, but in 2011 32 people were killed or injured by mines and in in 2013, 3 people have been killed in two separate incidents (IRIN News; The Monitor). But the general trend has been positive due to heightened awareness through mine risk education and extensive clearance efforts.
Those clearance efforts were started by Handicap International (HI) which surveyed the portions of the Casamance under the control of the Senegalese government. HI also engaged in clearance activities, but in recent months, demining activities have been led by Denel Mechem, a private South African firm, and Norwegian People’s Aid, an international non-governmental organization. Between the three groups, over 600,000 square meters of land have been cleared representing half of the known contamination. This has led some to suggest that Senegal will definitely meet its Mine Ban Treaty deadline of March 1, 2016 for clearance of all anti-personnel mines (IRIN News).
In addition to reducing the number of landmine injuries, the clearance of former minefields is allowing refugees who fled the Casamance for safety and peace in the Gambia to return to their homelands. Senegalese refugees poured into the Gambia 10, 15, 20 years ago and have been living in Gambian villages and communities ever since, putting strains on local agricultural resources. But, with the clearance of mines from the Casamance and the increased prospects for peace, many of these refugees are returning to their home villages in Senegal. These returns are accompanied by increased agricultural outputs from southern Senegal and therefore increased economic activity overall (All Africa).
Senegal, through the national mine action center (CNAMS) and a variety of national and international NGOs strives to provide victim assistance services to those injured by landmines. Since 2011, the availability of services has increased, but many barriers to access remain. The complete range of victim assistance services, from emergency medicine to psycho-social counseling, is available in the Casamance region, but services are provided by different organizations and many are centralized in the regional capitol, Ziguinchor, making them inaccessible for survivors elsewhere. This is an area in which the government could improve its response, but the fact that services are available at all is notable (The Monitor).
The Indirect Benefits of Mine Action in the Casamance
While harder to quantify, the indirect benefits of mine action are sometimes more important than the direct benefits described above because they can impact the entire country, not just the persons living in mine-affected regions. In Senegal, landmines are being used as an entry point into peace negotiations; mine action is building confidence and goodwill in the residents of Casamance towards the central government in Senegal; and it provides the basis for long-term economic development.
There are two international organizations actively engaged in the negotiating process between the government of Senegal and the MFDC. Under official auspices, the Sant Egidio community, a Catholic lay community based in Rome has been mediating negotiations between the political wing of the MFDC and Macky Sall’s government. Sant Egidio has been involved in a number of peace negotiations, including the one that concluded the twenty-year civil war in Mozambique, and have a strong reputation within the international community. Their involvement is supported by the US State Department and has been welcomed by both parties to the conflict.
However, long before the entry of Sant Egidio, the NGO Geneva Call entered into negotiations starting in 2006 with the MFDC with the hope of getting the MFDC to sign a deed of commitment to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines. Geneva Call’s deed of commitment is modeled on the Mine Ban Treaty and has served as an opportunity to engage with non-state actors to reduce the humanitarian impact of conflict. But, it also provides the opportunity to build rapport with rebel groups, identify leaders and put Geneva Call in the position to facilitate and mediate peace negotiations between parties to a conflict. Thus, using landmines as the entry point, Geneva Call has been able to facilitate humanitarian demining in Casamance while also engaging with the military wing of MFDC (Geneva Call; IRIN News). This relationship feeds into the negotiations mediated by Sant Egidio.
The thirty years of conflict and repeated promises by Senegalese leaders have left the people of the Casamance politically apathetic and generally feeling forgotten by Dakar. In 2000, the newly elected Abdoulaye Wade promised to resolve the conflict in 100 days and the fact that he failed to do so (by some 4000 days), led to very low turnout in the 2012 election by people in the Casamance. After years of unmet promises and thousands of victims, “forgotten Casamance… has been dying a slow death” (African Arguments). But the renewed engagement by Macky Sall’s government, which has established a de facto cease fire and, and the continued demining has allowed refugees to return to the region as described above. Those returns, and the demonstration of belief that those returns represent on behalf of the people of Casamance, shows that Dakar has not abandoned the region.
And the conflict is not just receiving attention locally. Macky Sall met with US President Barack Obama in March 2013 to discuss the Casamance conflict, a meeting well publicized in Senegal, which reflects the high level of interest concluding this conflict has in both Senegal and internationally. And it starts with landmines. By supporting demining, the US and Senegalese governments have shown to the people of the Casamance their interest in the region and their desire for peace. Through this strategic investment, the US has been able to buy trust among Casamance civil society to be able to send a high level delegation to the region to put pressure on the Senegalese government and the MFDC to negotiate (State Department).
Last, poverty has become endemic in the Casamance. Between people fleeing the violence and agricultural lands abandoned due to landmine contamination, what was once the breadbasket of Senegal had been allowed to run fallow. “For us the demining represents a return to normal life. This will allow people to escape from the poverty into which the landmines plunged them” (All Africa). But in addition to alleviating poverty through cultivation, trade across the borders with the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau can resume. Roads that had been closed due to fears of landmine contamination will now be opened allowing trade within the Casamance. The World Bank estimates that 0.1% of contamination by landmines results in a 0.5% decrease in GDP. For every field freed of landmines, the economy of the whole will grow.
This will also improve relations between the states and within the region. While the Gambian president has pledged his support for peace (All Africa), he has been suspected of aiding the MFDC which has soured relations between the two countries. Once peace is consolidated in the Casamance and the mines are cleared, the rest of the refugees in the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau can return to their farms and enter productive cultivation and not rely on support from host governments as refugees. Once the conflict in the Casamance is resolved, the Senegalese army can join regional peacekeeping units instead of being forced to fight in their own backyards. And it starts with landmines; or rather it starts by using landmines to address the larger issues of isolation, poverty and political exclusion. That’s why mine action is important. Because it’s not just about landmines; it’s about development and the consolidation of peace.
Michael P. Moore
April 29, 2013
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action, released in March a six-year strategy for United Nations actions within the realm of mine action (UNMAS, pdf). Released with seemingly little fanfare (although UNMAS’s website, www.mineaction.org, has received a snazzy update), the strategy lays out how the United Nations will work with member states affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). I would like to highlight a few items from the strategy.
The strategy starts, as all good strategies do, with a vision:
The vision of the United Nations is a world free of the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munitions, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development and where the human rights and the needs of mine and ERW victims are met and survivors are fully integrated as equal members of their societies.
I am not sure if the phrase “free of the threat of mines” is a deliberate departure from a “mine-free world” but otherwise, I think the vision is an admirable one and, hopefully, an achievable one.
The United Nations acknowledges the tremendous progress that has been made in mine action since discussions were first held about banning anti-personnel landmines two decades ago. The strategy intends to build on that progress, while also learning the lessons of the last twenty years. In doing so, the strategy recognizes that the UN works within the context of its member states and provides for UN assistance to be delivered “in a manner that is consistent with the specific needs, requests and legal regimes of each context.” The strategy also recognizes that it must complement other global frameworks, specifically mentioning whatever replaces the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
The strategy re-affirms the fact that mine action is “an essential component of the work of the United Nations” and that “Mine action is relevant across the areas of peace and security, human rights, humanitarian and development. In each, the need for immediate post conflict and emergency responses remains as critical as longer-term capacity building support.”
To implement the strategy, the United Nations lists four strategic objectives related to 1) demining and mine risk education, 2) victim assistance, 3) capacity building of national mine action authorities and 4) policy and advocacy. Each objective is accompanied by a series of indicators and the activities that are intended to achieve the objectives. I imagine these indicators will be used during the mid-term review to assess the efficacy of the strategy and determine if any adjustments are needed.
To complete the logical framework (vision, mission, objectives, outputs and activities), the strategy lists its “Principles of Partnership in Mine Action” and the “Enabling Factors” which constitutes the assumptions that the United Nations is making. While the principles are supposed to guide how the UN will work, I can also read them as the expectations the United Nations will have for member states that it provides assistance to. The principles – clarity of objectives, information exchange, mutual accountability and transparency – are not controversial, but essential to any successful partnership.
The “Enabling Factors” are the contributions required of partners. Again, these are non-controversial, but very important to achieving the goals of the strategy. Factors include national ownership on the part of affected states of the problem and actively addressing the problem; political and financial support states and the international community; recognition of mine action’s place within broader contexts of development, human rights, post conflict reconstruction and disarmament; and participation of civil society and the private sector in supporting the strategy. Long term financial support may be the biggest stumbling block in these assumptions and the language used related to financial support – “predictable,” “necessary,” “sustainable,” “critical,” “effective” and “commitments” – suggests the level of concern that the United Nations has for the availability of funding for the strategy.
One last point I want to raise is the commitments that the United Nations makes to strengthen its own capacity. Of the seven specific initiatives, the fourth, “Update the UN Policy on victim assistance, taking into account the new and stronger normative environment for victim assistance and persons with disability and focusing on the integration of victim assistance into broader disability programs and frameworks at the country and global levels” is near and dear to my heart and I sincerely hope the revised policy provides for a robust victim assistance framework that enables survivors to become “equal members of their societies” as described in the vision.
Michael P. Moore
April 18, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRC-E), a UK-based NGO working on behalf of the human rights of Eritreans in Eritrea and the diaspora, issued this report:
76 Eritrean refugees in Libya are being used to clear land mines in Sirte, the home town of the late Gaddafi. The refugees are forced all day to clear land mines. These are not trained professionals. This is not humanitarian de-mining. This is a callous, inhuman treatment of humans as if they were disposable pieces of equipment. It amounts to nothing less than murder.
These refugees are not given access to UNHCR. It is inhuman that these refugees, who fled persecution in Eritrea, should suffer further harassment and risk being blown up while clearing the mines. The Libyans do not want to do it themselves, so they use refugees. This is barbaric and should be condemned. (Human Rights Concern – Eritrea).
The mine action community mobilized pretty rapidly after the fall of the Gaddhafi regime to provide mine risk education and demining services in Libya. On the ground are several operators and significant funding was provided at the outset by donor states (although much of that funding was specifically geared towards preventing the proliferation of shoulder-fired surface to air rockets). As such, this report seemed pretty incredible and I have not yet been able to locate any corroboration. However, it does – unfortunately – fit into a much broader pattern of behavior in North Africa towards Sub-Saharan Africans. It is also not the first report of people being forced to clear mines without proper training and support.
Prior to the revolution in Libya, as many as 2 million of Libya’s 7 million residents were foreign-born immigrants, some from Arab states, but many if not most from Sub-Saharan Africa. Gaddhafi presented himself as leader of the pan-African movement and trained separatists and rebels from many countries including the Toureg who have recently been fighting against the Malian government and the convicted war criminal Charles Taylor and his allies in Liberia. Gaddhafi also invited many black Africans to work in the Libyan oil fields where lucrative jobs were available and workers were able to earn enough to send remittances home to support families and communities. In a billboard in Tripoli, “Colonel Qaddafi appears as a savior as sun rays break over his shoulder and a crowd of black men and women reach toward him with outstretched arms.” Native Libyans were angered by these acts and resented the presence of what they believed were “illegal” immigrants in their country. In 2000 pogroms in Libya led to the deaths of many black Africans at the hands of native Libyans, attacks that were repeated in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Against that backdrop, Gaddhafi’s use of African mercenaries to try and hold onto power in 2011 was an invitation for abuse.
Reports of Africans being held by Libyan rebels in detention camps abounded. According to the US State Department African refugees in Libya faced killings, arbitrary detention, attacks on camps, and gender-based violence. The State Department also reported on the presence of a camp at al-Kufrah where migrants faced physical abuse in addition to needing humanitarian assistance; a camp that Human Rights Concern – Eritrea also mentions as holding 300 Eritrean refugees. Because Gaddhafi used African mercenaries, mostly from Chad, Niger and Mali, to protect his regime, all Africans in Libya after the 2011 revolution were subject to suspicion, detention and deportation, along with a host of abuses throughout. Since the revolution, the new government has not taken steps to protect immigrants or refugees and human trafficking routes for forced labor and forced prostitution have returned.
The divide between North Africans and Sub-Saharan Africans and the racism of North Africans towards Sub-Saharan Africans has been well documented (see Think Africa Press’s pieces here and here and UN Watch’s piece here). In the United States, the dichotomy came to the forefront in discussions about Darfur where the Arabized militias of the janjaweed would attack the black Darfurians as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign. This simplistic and reductive argument paralleled the narrative about the Sudanese civil war between Sudan and South Sudan where the Arabs of Khartoum fought the Christians and animists of the South to maintain control over the oil reserves. Again, a too-pat description, but one that was easy for Americans to understand and had a strong basis in the racism of North Africans and Arabs towards Sub-Saharan Africans.
It is very possible that Eritrean refugees are subjected to forced labor in the new Libya. Many Eritreans have suffered greatly in their attempts to flee their country (in recent months, two Eritrean pilots defected to Saudi Arabia with the Eritrean President’s official plane; a third pilot sent to retrieve the plane from Saudi Arabia defected herself [Think Africa Press]; in 2009, 2011 and 2012 members of the Eritrean national football team sought asylum during regional tournaments [Sudan Tribune]) paying huge ransoms to human smugglers to avoid the country’s mandatory military service. Traffickers take advantage of those wanting to flee Eritrea and have basically sold them into slavery in places like Libya.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea’s report would also not be the first report of people being forced to demine fields with little or no protection. In Burma, the practice of “atrocity demining” has been reported by Human Rights Watch. Atrocity demining, or “human mine sweeping,” is the “forced passage of civilians over confirmed or suspected mined areas or the forced use of civilians to clear mines without appropriate training or equipment.” It is a war crime and survivors of the practice in Burma were “forced them to dig out landmines, to strike or beat the ground with a pitchfork or pickaxe before [Burmese] soldiers walked on it, or to walk in front of Tatmadaw columns in a mined area or in an area suspected to have been mined.”
At its very root, the HRC-E report shows how marginalized persons suffer greater risks and abuses during and immediately after conflict. Those risks are magnified when combined with racism and discrimination and can constitute war crimes when in the presence of landmines.
Michael P. Moore
April 10, 2013