Until Every Step Is Safe.

Welcome to the Landmines in Africa Blog! Okay, so that exclamation point is probably as cheery as we’re going to get about the subject, the continuing use and danger of landmines on the African continent.  According to Project Ploughshares there were, as of May 20, 2011, nine active conflicts in eight nations in Africa.  A tenth can be added with the eruption of civil war in Libya.  Therefore nearly 20% of all African states have experienced conflict in this year alone and in at least five of those conflicts, landmines have been used causing indiscriminate harm.

Let’s start with a few definitions.  It’s always good to know what one is saying whilst he is saying it. When I talk about landmines I am using the definition of an anti-personnel mine from the 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning the use, production and transfer of landmines which is “a [munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle] designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.” See also ICBL’s discussion here.

When I talk about Africa I mean the entire continent and the nations that are members of the African Union and are eligible to participate in the Confédération Africaine du Football’s Cup of Nations tournament.  Some commentators may say “Africa” when they really mean “Sub-Saharan Africa” and are excluding the North African states from Morocco to Egypt.  If I mean to say “Sub-Saharan Africa,” I will try to do so. 

When I talk about landmine victims, I am referring to all persons injured or killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance, their families and communities.  More broadly, I am also referring to those persons whose lives are constrained by landmines, “those who, either individually or collectively, have suffered physical, emotional and psychological injury, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions related to mine utilization.” I include victims of unexploded ordnance (sometimes referred to as “explosive remnants of war”) because the injuries sustained from many kinds of explosive material are similar and by the time the injuries occur, the exact weapon is immaterial.  Again, please see the ICBL’s discussion here.

I am not yet sure how this blog will play out.  I have several things I want to accomplish and I will try to touch on all of these but how I shall do so is still to be determined.  Of interest are:

Updates on mine action: For example reporting about victims, notable achievements and government actions (positive and negative).

In-depth discussions of the landmine situation in particular countries: While the annual Landmine Monitor is (and should be for everyone) the primary source of information about mine action in individual countries, I see a need for slightly more work, especially challenging claims made by governments and providing commentary rather than strict reporting. 

Descriptions of organizations doing mine action in Africa: In particular my interest is in the national and local organizations rather than the international organizations (which are able to produce their own publicity).  If you know of any organization that deserves a shout-out, please let me know and I will try to write about them here.

Lastly, who am I?  I am an organization development professional with more than a dozen years of experience working with not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations around the world.  Five of those years were spent working for Landmine Survivors Network (LSN, later Survivor Corps).  My time with LSN was the most personally rewarding period of my worklife, but also the most heart-wrenching.  Every day I would hear stories about persons affected by landmines, some inspiring but all too many tragic.  This blog is my meager way of keeping focus on the issue of landmines, particularly as they affect Africa.  Nearly every state in Africa has banned landmines but still people are being killed or injured by these weapons.  Until every step is safe, we must keep up the work.

Feel free to contact me via Twitter (@minesinafrica) or by commenting on any of my posts. 

Michael P. Moore, August 1, 2011

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