This week, the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (11MSP) is being held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and last week, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines released the 2011 edition of the Landmine Monitor (The Monitor). These two events create an opportunity to review recent news in the mine action community.
There has been some good news. In one of the first announcements at the 11MSP Burundi declared itself to be landmine-free (Monsters and Critics). South Sudan acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty as its first major interaction with the international community (The Monitor). The Monitor reported that in 2010, the total number of persons killed or injured by landmines in Africa had declined from 629 to 615 with more than half of the mine-affected states on the continent reporting fewer casualties than the previous year. That good news has been over-shadowed by the bad news. More casualties were reported in seven mine-affected states (Angola, Eritrea, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan) in 2010 than in 2009. New landmine usage has been reported as conflicts broke out or escalated in Libya, South Sudan and Somalia meaning that landmine casualties can be expected to increase in 2011 from 2010. Despite the fact that for the first time in four years new countries (Finland, South Sudan and Tuvalu) have acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty, global landmine use is higher than it has been since 2004 (The Monitor).
Only one state in Sub-Saharan Africa, Somalia, remains outside the Mine Ban Treaty, whilst three North African states, Egypt, Libya and Morocco, have failed to accede to the Treaty; all four countries maintain stockpiles of anti-personnel mines.
Nigeria declared itself to be landmine-free, the 18th state to do so globally, joining Gambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tunisia and Zambia as landmine-free African states.
Angola and Chad have more than 100 square kilometers contaminated by landmines and the unofficial regions of Western Sahara and Somaliland are also mine-affected.
Sudan, Angola and Mozambique cleared more than 13 square-kilometers of mine-affected areas in 2010, an increase over 2009’s 12 square-kilometers.
Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea and the Republic of Congo have all submitted requests for extensions of their demining obligation deadlines. Of the African states that have already received deadline extensions for demining, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Mozambique are on-track to meet their new deadlines; Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe are all falling behind on their schedules and Chad’s progress is unclear.
Angola, Chad and DRC conducted nationwide assessments of victim assistance needs as part of the process of drafting a national victim assistance plan. Uganda, DRC, Mozambique and South Sudan have developed (with various degrees of approval and implementation) national victim assistance plans and Burundi and Chad have begun the process of drafting plans.
20 African states received more than $100,000 in international contributions in 2010 for mine action assistance. Angola was the largest African recipient, receiving $45.7 million in 2010, Sudan was next with $27 million and DRC was 3rd with $13.2 million. These three nations were the only African states in the top ten recipients globally, a chart easily topped by Afghanistan which received $102.6 million. Only 9% of all mine-action assistance globally went to funding victim assistance (The Monitor).
Michael P. Moore, November 29, 2011.
When the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (11MSP) opens in less than two weeks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the highlights will be the fact that two states – Tuvulu and South Sudan – have acceded to the treaty since the last meeting and two others – Finland and Tonga – are seriously considering accession. Since the theme or motto for the 11MSP is “Push for Progress,” these new accessions and expressions of interest will be applauded and held up as examples for others especially since the last state to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty was Palau in November 2007. Finland would be the last member of the European Union to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty; South Sudan’s accession means that only three of the 52 African Union states remain outside the Treaty; Tuvulu’s accession means that only three of the 16 Pacific Island states remain outside the Treaty, a figure that could be reduced to two if Tonga accedes. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Mine Ban Treaty’s Special Envoy on Universalization, Prince Mired of Jordan, should be congratulated for their efforts at universalization of the Treaty; but we should also contemplate the obligations these four states will face as parties to the Treaty.
There are many obligations States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty face, but I will focus on three: stockpile destruction (Article 4), demining all mined areas within the state’s territory (Article 5) and assistance for victims (Article 6.3).
Within four years of entry into force (which occurs six months after accession), each state party must “destroy or ensure the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines it owns or possesses” (Mine Ban Treaty, Article 4). Tuvalu (The Monitor) and Tonga (The Monitor) have both stated that they have never stockpiled landmines, so the stockpile destruction obligation will not pose any complications for either country.
Finland possesses more than a million anti-personnel landmines in its arsenal and, much like the United States, has sought to replace the current stockpile with newer systems at a cost of more than 200 million Euros. Finland’s defense forces will begin the stockpile destruction in 2012 and expects to complete the process within the mandated four-year period (The Monitor).
South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army may or may not have stockpiled anti-personnel landmines. In 2008 Sudan completed its stockpile destruction, a process that should have included any landmines in what is now South Sudan. Since then, Sudan has reported finding caches of landmines that had been in possession of rebel groups and more recent reports of new mine-laying along the Sudan – South Sudan border suggests that all stockpiles were not destroyed (The Monitor). With the emerging conflicts in Kordofan, Blue Nile and Unity states, South Sudan may be host to several rebel groups fighting against Sudan that possess landmines so stockpile destruction will require those rebel groups to turn over any such explosives to the South Sudanese government. Basically, the extent of the landmine stockpiles in South Sudan is unknown and may be very difficult to find out.
Within ten years of entry into force, all States Parties must “destroy of ensure the destruction of all anti-personnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control” (Mine Ban Treaty, Article 5.1). Neither Tonga (The Monitor) nor Tuvalu (The Monitor) have reported the presence of any terrestrial mine fields but I would be curious about any underwater contamination from the Pacific campaigns of World War II. Are states under any obligation to demine their territorial waters? Has anyone ever issued a legal opinion on this?
Finland has some contamination from explosive remnants of war from World War II (and probably the preceding Winter War) that may include landmines (The Monitor). These areas are known and will need to be marked and surveyed to determine what, if any, landmine contamination exists. Provided Finland begins the process in a timely manner, this should not present too great an obstacle; other EU countries have been able to meet their Article 5 obligations if they started the process far in advance of the deadline. There would be no excuse for Finland to need an extension.
According to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) in South Sudan, “each one of the country’s 10 states has recorded mine-related deaths and injuries, and at least 300 villages are known to be contaminated with mines” (All Africa). More than 2 million pieces of explosive ordnance, including anti-personnel mines, have been destroyed in South Sudan since the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. Prior to separation, Sudan completed a Landmine Impact Study that determined that three-quarters of all mine-contaminated areas were in what is now South Sudan and that demining would not be completed by the original treaty mandated deadline of 2014 (Sudan acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty in 2003). By acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty as a separate state, South Sudan has essentially re-started the clock on its mine clearance obligations, buying itself another eight years to clear mined areas. With the information from the Landmine Impact Survey, the scope of the problem is known, so long as new mines are not laid as has been happening along the Sudan-South Sudan border (The Monitor). New mines (and on-going conflict in newly-mined areas) will necessarily prolong the demining process.
“Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration of mine victims” (Mine Ban Treaty, Article 6.3, emphasis added). In my opinion, the qualifier “in a position to do so” is a moral dodge; all States are in the position to provide assistance and have the obligation to do so, but the quality of that assistance may vary. Tonga (The Monitor) and Tuvalu (The Monitor) have no reported landmine victims among their populations.
Finland has not reported any landmine victims from domestic accidents, but may have landmine victims from service in other countries, e.g. Afghanistan (Wikipedia), and some elderly victims from World War II. Finland is a donor state for victim assistance programs, providing financial aid to Cambodia, Chad and Iraq specifically for victim assistance needs, so we can assume Finland has the capacity to provide any necessary rehabilitation and reintegration services to its citizens. The story in South Sudan is a little different…
The estimated number of landmine victims in South Sudan has increased dramatically. In 2010, The Monitor reported nearly 1,200 landmine survivors for all of Sudan (including what is now South Sudan), but UNMACC staff in South Sudan have provided assistance to 2,700 landmine survivors through November 2011 (All Africa), suggesting that the victim assistance needs for South Sudan are greater than previously thought. If we assume that infant mortality is a rough estimate of the quality of health care in a country (I tried looking at the numbers of physicians and hospital beds, but the data is lacking), South Sudan has an infant mortality rate of 105 deaths per 1,000 live births (Sudan Tribune)(compare to Finland with 2, Tonga with 13 or even Sudan with 66 [World Bank]), giving it the fifth-worst health-care system in the world, better than Somalia’s but not as good as Afghanistan’s (World Bank). The South Sudanese government reports little or no health care infrastructure in the country (Sudan Tribune) and therefore the specialized services needed by landmine survivors, e.g. rehabilitation services, prosthetic and orthotic services, are also absent.
Also consider that economic reintegration is part of the victim assistance package and, except for its oil reserves, South Sudan is a desperately poor state and will be wholly dependent upon foreign aid to meet this part of its victim assistance obligations. Or perhaps put another way, there is no economy in South Sudan to reintegrate survivors into.
Tonga and Tuvalu shall have no problem fulfilling their obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. With no extant minefields, no landmine stockpiles and no reported mine victims, both countries will be able to report full compliance with the Treaty once it comes into force. The question for Tonga and Tuvalu really should be: what took you so long?
Finland’s major obstacle to meeting its Treaty obligations will be the destruction of the million anti-personnel mines in its stockpile. History has shown that delays in starting the destruction process have contributed to a failure by states to meet their obligations; states that begin the process as soon as the Treaty enters into force have been able to complete the process well in advance of the four-year deadline (The Monitor). A survey of possible mine-affected areas from the first half of the 20th Century will determine what, if any demining Finland needs to do, but this should not pose a problem. As a global supporter of landmine victim assistance programming, we can assume that any mine victims living in Finland are able to access the necessary services for their rehabilitation and reintegration.
South Sudan will face innumerable challenges as it tries to meet its Treaty-mandated obligations. First and foremost, this young state must come to grips with the scale of its problem. The Sudan Landmine Impact Survey (Survey Action Center) provides a good baseline, but many potential minefields need to be confirmed or dismissed as such. Demining operators are active in the country and will be kept busy over the next decade. The number of victims needs to be determined and a system for identifying new victims established. Once this is known, the victims can be given access to what passes for South Sudan’s health care system; the specialized services required for rehabilitation and reintegration of landmine survivors may need to be provided by international organizations for many years to come.
Also, if the Sudan People’s Liberation Army holds any landmine stockpiles, they need to be declared and destroyed as soon as possible. This is especially urgent considering the potential war looming along the Sudan-South Sudan border. New usage of mines has been reported in the area and each new mine makes meeting South Sudan’s Treaty obligations that much harder. Any mines currently held in stockpiles can find their way into the ground where they pose the greatest danger. The only way to eliminate that danger is to destroy every mine.
Michael P. Moore, November 18, 2011
On November 3 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released the 2011 Human Development Report and the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking countries by their level of development. With a scoring system of 1.0 being highest and 0.0 being lowest, Norway is again the most-developed state according to the UNDP with a score of 0.943 and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the least developed at 0.286.
According to the report, mine-affected African states make up the five least-developed states: Chad, Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and the DRC (Somalia, also very much mine-affected, could not be rated using UNDP’s methodology, but almost certainly would have been among these countries). Overall, mine-affected countries had an average HDI score of 0.602 whilst non-mine-affected countries had an average score of 0.694. The difference between mine-affected and non-mine-affected countries compares to the difference between Turkey (HDI = 0.699 a member of NATO and a candidate for entry into the European Union) and Tajikistan (HDI = 0.607, and a major conduit for opium from Afghanistan). Regressions show a negative correlation (Pearson’s r = -0.255) between the presence of landmines in a country and HDI score.
One of the key elements of the Mine Ban Treaty is the principle of international cooperation, described and codified under Article 6. The article requires “State Parties in a position to do so” to provide assistance to mine-affected states, assistance that includes demining, technical knowledge and victim assistance. In this spirit of cooperation, Croatia’s president, Ivo Josipović, declared “Croatia also has vast experience in humanitarian demining and is ready to assist others with its knowledge and expertise,” at the United Nations General Assembly meetings in September (Reaching Critical Will). If Croatia, ranked 46th on the HDI can offer assistance to other mine-affected countries, how much assistance have the five most-developed countries provided to the five least developed?
The five most-developed nations, according to the 2011 Human Development Report are (in order) Norway, Australia, Netherlands, United States and New Zealand. The United States is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, but has been the greatest contributor to mine action over the years and seems to follow the spirit of the Treaty’s international cooperation clause. Using data from the United Nations Financial Tracking Service (FTS), we can review all of the 2010 mine action contributions (in US dollars) from the five most-developed countries to the five least-developed; as well as the 2010 mine action contributions in general to see if those in a position to provide assistance are actually doing so.
Aid from the Most-Developed to the Least-Developed
2010 mine action contributions from the five most-developed to the five least-developed states totaled $9.4 million and came from two countries, Norway and the Netherlands. Norway sent $1.4 million to the DRC and $600,000 to Mozambique. The Netherlands sent $7.4 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other top five countries (Australia, New Zealand and the United States) did not contribute any funds to the bottom five. In fact, according to FTS, Burundi and Niger received no mine action funding in 2010 from any countries; Chad received $254,000 from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ultimate origin of which is unknown.
More broadly, the five most-developed states gave $77 million in mine action funding globally with Norway (the most-developed nation) giving nearly half that sum, US $35 million.
The top five contributors in terms of total funding for mine action in 2010 were Norway ($35 million), the United States ($29 million), Japan ($23.4 million), Germany ($23.2 million) and Canada ($17 million) for a total of $127 million. With the exception of Norway, these states are some of the largest economies of the world, all members of the G20 group of nations and so they should be able to contribute more than others. A better test of the importance of mine action funding to a country (and therefore its commitment to the international cooperation spirit of the Mine Ban Treaty) would be to look at the mine action funding per capita.
In fact, Norway contributes nearly five times more per capita for mine action ($7.18 per person), than the next highest state, Denmark ($1.51). A third Scandinavian state, Finland, is the only other country that gives more than $1.00 per person in mine action funding. The Netherlands ($0.61) and Luxembourg ($0.59) round out the top five states in terms of per capita funding. Australia and United States give $0.15 and $0.09 per capita to mine action, respectively. If the United States were to contribute to mine action funding at the per capita rate of Norway, the total contribution would be over $2.2 billion. Considering that at least one estimate of the total cost to clear all landmines globally is $33 billion (United Nations), a United States that contributes at the same level of commitment as Norway could shorten the total amount of time required from 1,100 years to 15.
So, the data shows that Norway, the country in the greatest position to provide assistance to mine-affected states, at least according to the Human Development Report, does so both in total and per capita.
A special note here: New Zealand’s mine action contributions were not reported via the Financial Tracking Service. According to the Landmine Monitor, in 2010 New Zealand contributed $3.3 million to mine action which represents a per capita giving level of $0.77, greater than the Netherlands so the FTS numbers need to be kept in their context (as do the Human Development Report numbers which exclude Somalia).
Michael P. Moore, November 10, 2011
The FY12 appropriation for the US State Department includes a line for “Non-proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs” which will fund the United States’s humanitarian demining and victim assistance programs. The exact breakdown of this line is not clear in the appropriations document (US Congress, pdf), but the overall line is reduced by 4% from the FY11 amount and reflects a decrease requested by the White House (White House, pdf). Considering the new usage of landmines by Gaddhafi’s forces in Libya, rebels in South Sudan, Al Shabab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali (see previous posts), I think this is ridiculous so I’m writing the below open letter to my representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); the chair of the House Subcommitee on Africa, Chris Smith (R-NJ); the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the State Department and Foreign Operations, Kay Granger (R-Texas); and the House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-Md). Please feel free to copy and use this letter to send to your representative and let me know if you do so.
Michael P. Moore, November 7, 2011
An Open Letter to:
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Congressman Chris Smith (Chairman, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights)
Congresswoman Kay Granger (Chairwoman, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs)
Congressman Steny Hoyer (Minority Whip)
Dear Congressman / Congresswoman…,
As a concerned citizen, I am writing to you today to urge your continued and increased support for humanitarian demining and landmine victim assistance in Africa. Since the start of summer governments and non-state actors have engaged in new use of landmines in Libya, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan. New mines have been accompanied by increased casualties, likely making 2011 the first year in which the number of landmine victims has increased from the previous year in more than a decade. The United States has been a leader in humanitarian mine action, beginning with Senator Patrick Leahy’s initiatives to ban all export of anti-personnel landmines, and continues to contribute more to mine action than any other country. However, these instances of new use and their attendant casualties, represents an urgent challenge to the United States and the international community, especially since the FY12 request for Non-proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs is 4% less than the FY11 Appropriation.
In 2011, the United States announced that it will provide additional assistance to the new government of Libya to secure and eliminate stockpiles of shoulder-fired missiles, which will make air travel more secure; but removing the landmines placed by forces loyal to Moammar Gaddhafi will provide greater freedom of travel and access to resources in Libya. I urge you to increase the appropriations for demining globally, but especially in Africa in FY12 and beyond.
Landmines kill and injure thousands of people around the world each year and only complete demining of mine-affected areas will guarantee that no future accidents can occur. The United States, through the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, supports demining in dozens of countries, and is the global leader in funding such work. But the new usage of landmines in Africa, with the specific intents to injure civilians, to protect despotic regimes, and to sow the seeds of terrorism, represents a new and emerging threat to civilians and citizens of Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Mali (I have documented all of these events on my blog, www.landminesinafrica.org). Increased support for demining will help ensure the successful democratic transitions in Libya and South Sudan, create safe areas for economic development and delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia, and prevent the creation of a safe haven for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali.
Thank you for your time and your consideration,
Michael P. Moore
October’s African mine action stories featured ongoing discussions at the United Nations, the continuing conflicts in South Sudan and Libya, Kenya’s invasion of Somalia among other items of interest. Senegal, Western Sahara, Angola, Mauritania and Zimbabwe also appeared in news outlets. There were positive developments and some setbacks as the mine action community gears up for the 11th Meeting of States Parties in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the end of November.
The Good News:
United Nations General Assembly
Each year, during the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee (a committee of the whole that addresses issues of peace and international security) meetings, a resolution is debated and passed encouraging adherence to the Mine Ban Treaty and international cooperation on mine action, especially demining and victim assistance (Reaching Critical Will, pdf). This year was no different with the resolution passing unopposed with 155 states voting in favor of the resolution on October 28th. Seventeen countries abstained; all of the abstaining votes come from non-Parties to the Treaty, including two mine-affected African states, Libya and Egypt. (Personal aside: I’m a bit surprised that the new regimes in Libya and Egypt abstained from this vote; this was an opportunity to demonstrate a clean break with the former regimes.) Thirteen African states were absent from the vote including four mine-affected states: Chad, the Gambia, Somalia and South Sudan (Reaching Critical Will, pdf).
During the debates of the First Committee, statements related to the continuing threat of landmines were made during the thematic debate on conventional arms by Senegal (Reaching Critical Will, pdf) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Reaching Critical Will, pdf). The thematic debate focused on the 2012 negotiations of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate the international trade of small arm and light weapons and the references to landmines tied in issues of victim assistance and international cooperation, elements so important to the Mine Ban Treaty, which should illuminate the debates around the ATT. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines also made a brief presentation, providing a global view of the continuing threat of landmines (Reaching Critical Will, pdf).
The United Nations Fourth Committee (United Nations) which is responsible for addressing a variety of issues, including landmines, took a much more aggressive stance towards landmines. Labelling them as “perverse,” the committee passed a resolution calling on states to fulfill their “ethical and moral imperative” and take action to demine all mine-affected areas by identifying minefields and providing technical and financial assistance to clear those minefields. Sudan, Senegal, Libya and Mozambique all made statements in support of the resolution and identified ways that they and the international community could advance the actions required by the resolution (United Nations). (Another Personal Aside: read this press release. After the anodyne and bland comments made in the First Committee, the statements by representatives to the Fourth Committee will re-affirm your faith in the international system and show you how much these representatives care about the issue of landmines. I love the Fourth Committee.)
In Senegal, Handicap International and the City of Geneva provided the funding for a new demining bulldozer. The bulldozer will operate in the mine-affected Casamance region and greatly speed up the demining process, especially since plastic mines have been used in this area which cannot be detected by standard metal detectors (All Africa).
The Marshall Legacy Institute and the Angola National Institute for Demining have signed an agreement to introduce mine-detection dogs to the country. The initiative, funded by the US government, will speed up the demining process in the country by further diversifying the techniques available to deminers (All Africa). This news follows announcements of minefield clearances by the HALO Trust (All Africa) as well as reports of new injuries (All Africa).
Pambazuka News published a special issue on Western Sahara, calling it the last colony in Africa. With articles on the history of the Polisario Front and the annexation of Western Sahara by Morocco, Pambazuka also reminded readers of the staggering number of landmines along the berm built by Morocco to separate areas controlled by Morocco from those controlled by Polisario (Pambazuka).
If you would like to get involved in mine action advocacy, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is recruiting a Coordinator who will be responsible for putting together next year’s Monitor. The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is widely considered the authoritative annual report on mine action and is released annual in conjunction with the Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. The announcement can be found here: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3471.
The Bad News:
With the death of Moammar Gaddhafi, the National Transitional Council in Libya declared the end of the revolution as the new leadership of the country was recognized at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. The lingering effects of the war and the Gaddhafi regime will likely be felt for many years as tens of thousands of landmines litter the Libya landscape and stockpiles of weapons of the old regime have been looted or seized by various militias. The United States, concerned most about the threat of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADs) to international airlines, has increased its commitment to destroying stockpiles of weapons in Libya to $30 million. Two demining organizations, Mines Advisory Group and the Swiss Demining Foundation, have received the lion’s share of this funding and have been using the funds to conduct demining activities in addition to stockpile destruction (Washington Post). A former US ambassador to Morocco stated that one of the priorities for development in Libya will be the elimination of minefields in the country to allow free transport within the country (Huffington Post). At the United Nations, Libyan representatives confirmed that demining was a priority for the new government, especially removal of the new landmines laid by Gaddhafi’s forces during recent combat. The Libyan representative declared the countries intention to seek assistance from the United Nations and the international community for mine clearance (United Nations).
One area that was not mentioned in great depth is the immediate need for victim assistance in Libya. During the final assaults on Sirte, the local hospitals were overwhelmed by casualties (Digital Journal), and the medical infrastructure necessary for long-term rehabilitation simply does not exist. Some of the most severely wounded Libyans have been evacuated to the United States for emergency treatment, but they are only a handful of the thousands who need assistance now and will continue to need assistance in the future (AFP). In addition to the demining assistance provided by the international community, victim assistance should be a priority for Libya.
Mali and Mauritania
Reports indicate that arms from Gaddhafi’s arsenals, including landmines, have leaked into neighboring states. In Mauritania, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb has taken up residence in Mali’s Wagadou Forest – where they had previously been based until being driven out by Mauritanian forces – and has laid landmines around the area to prevent entry by Malian and Mauritanian security forces. One person has been killed and two other wounded by these new mines (Maghrebia).
Three employees of the Danish Demining Group, an American, a Dane and a Somalian, were abducted in central Somalia by members of Al Shabab on October 25th. The Danish Demining Group (DDG) has been working in mine action in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for many years and the employees were seized after providing a mine-risk education workshop. The kidnappings followed other abductions of Westerners in Somalia and Kenya (The Telegraph). Traditional elders in Mogadishu have condemned the abductions and called for their immediate release (All Africa).
The abductions also followed the October 16th invasion of Somalia by the Kenyan army. Kenya, feeling its tourist industry threatened by the abductions of Westerners from resorts and the continuing refugee flights of Somalis fleeing the twin scourges of violence and famine, responded with its first military action against a neighbor in its history. At the behest of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and with the logistical and military support of Western states (including France who had already been involved in military actions in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya), Kenya’s army and air forces attacked Al Shabab territory in southern Somalia, especially around Kismayo (IRIN News). Already Kenyan soldiers have been subject to harassment attacks including the use of landmines by Al Shabab on the roads to and from Somalia (All Africa), and these incidents are likely to increase.
Kenya’s invasion represents the third force to try and provide some security and stability to Somalia in recent years. For many years, a peacekeeping force consisting of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers has been present in the country serving as the de facto security force for the UN-accepted TFG in Mogadishu. A couple of years back, the Ethiopian army (with support from the United States) invaded Somalia and took down the Islamic Courts Union, which has since transformed into Al Shabab who is the target of Kenya’s military actions. Another military force in this starving, landmine-littered country is the last thing Somalia needs. Just as the rains are beginning to fall and the drought might be lifting, this new round of violence is creating additional displacement, just at the time when refugees and the displaced need to be returning to their homes.
Violence continues in South Sudan’s Unity State as rebel forces there have also placed many anti-tank mines in the roads. Anti-tank mines are not banned by the Mine Ban Treaty and so rebels may be able to access them from any number of sponsors. In October, a bus struck such a mine, killing 20 people, on a road that had previously been considered free of mines. Demining agencies, including Norwegian Peoples Aid and the local Mine Action Center expect more mines to be laid in the coming weeks as the dry season arrives (AFP).
The Ugly News:
As the United States continues to develop the Spider Networked-Munition system, an “alternative to anti-personnel landmines” (US Army, pdf), a couple of incidents reminded Americans of how dangerous these items are. First, four landmines were found in a passenger’s luggage at Salt Lake City Airport. The passenger in question had taken the mines as souvenirs following military training. Never one to miss an opportunity to inform the public, “TSA officials wanted to remind passengers that land mines are among the prohibited items that aren’t allowed on airplanes.” The mines had apparently been defused and were removed from the baggage. The idiot who tried to bring them on the airplane was not arrested (Salt Lake Tribune).
In New York City, a Yonkers man found a World War II-era “bouncing betty” landmine in his grandfather’s attic. He brought the item first to an antiques dealer trying to sell the item, but the dealer, deciding that a landmine was not something he wanted in the store, directed the man to a nearby police station. However, the man with the mine was not familiar with the area and, missing the police station, walked half a mile until he reached a firehouse which was promptly evacuated along with the surrounding block. No word on whether or not the mine was live or defused (LoHud.com).
Coming up on November 28th is the 11th meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Information about the meeting, including the draft agenda can be found here: http://www.apminebanconvention.org/?id=3618.
Michael P. Moore, November 3, 2011