An Open Letter to My CongresspersonPosted: November 7, 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