Will Uganda meet its Article 5 De-mining Deadline of August 1, 2012?Posted: February 15, 2012
Earlier this year, Uganda and South Sudan began a collaboration to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance from their shared border. This region was affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion which was active in this region in the 1990s and early in the 2000s. Since 2006, the LRA has been based outside of Uganda in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, so there has been no new landmine contamination from the rebels in the last five years. The Danish Demining Group will lead the clearance effort on behalf of the two governments who are represented by police and military units from Uganda and the Mine Action Programme for South Sudan. The clearance activities “will cover 54 kilometres… in Amuru District, and is expected to be complete between November and December this year” (The Daily Monitor).
I’ll start by saying, this is good news. Any landmine clearance is very good news, just as the assistance that the United States Army is providing to Uganda and other governments in central Africa to rid the world of Joseph Kony and the LRA is good news. But, these things could be better. The US could link its intelligence and logistical support to fight the LRA with mandatory reforms of the Ugandan military and electoral systems, both of which are problematic, instead of unconditionally supporting an undemocratic regime and an army with a history of corruption and human rights abuses. By the same token, the mine clearance efforts in northern Uganda’s Amuru District could have been started much sooner so that Uganda would ensure compliance with its Article 5 demining obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty.
At the 2009 Cartegena Summit on a Mine-Free World, Uganda requested and received a three-year extension of its Article 5 demining obligations until August 1, 2012. In approving the request, the Conference of States Parties “noted that Uganda found itself in a situation wherein less than two months before its deadline Uganda was still unclear whether it would be able to complete implementation of article 5.1 of the Convention by its deadline. The Conference further noted that Uganda itself had acknowledged that the late commencement of operations and establishment of a mine action programme contributed to this situation” (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf). Despite the warning, Uganda has only just started demining activities in Amuru District, more than two years after the extension had been approved, and with only seven months left in which to complete the demining.
In November 2011, the Ugandan Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Musa Ecweru, told the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Phnom Penh that Uganda was committed to meeting its demining deadline and would seek the assistance of Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) to meet that goal (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf). However, the most recent reports from Uganda suggest that NPA assistance has not been secured and Danish Demining Group has replaced NPA as Uganda’s mine clearance partner.
Based upon the reports of the Danish Demining Group, demining will not be completed until November or December 2012, three months or more after the demining deadline has passed for Uganda (The Daily Monitor). Uganda would therefore be non-compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty. Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister, Mr Hillary Onek, who launched the collaboration with South Sudan and Danish Demining Group, should be aware of the fact that Uganda faces non-compliance and rather than blaming the LRA for placing the mines, should accept responsibility for the delay in launching the demining activities. Uganda will either need to speed up the demining process by putting more resources at the disposal of the deminers or request another extension of the deadline. The Mine Ban Treaty community should also put pressure on Uganda to do everything possible to avoid non-compliance with this important obligation.
Michael P. Moore, February 15, 2012