Angola’s Request to Extend its deadline to meet Article 5 obligations of the Mine Ban TreatyPosted: March 29, 2012 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Angola, demining, landmines, Mine Ban Treaty Leave a comment
Angola became a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty on January 1, 2003, starting the ten-year clock on its demining obligations under Article 5 of the Treaty. In interviews for the 2011 Landmine Monitor Report, Angolan officials indicated that they would not meet the original deadline of January 1, 2013 and would be submitting an extension request in 2012 (The Monitor). The National Inter-Sectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH), the national mine action authority for Angola, confirmed the extension request in a recent press release which declared that the request would be submitted on March 31, 2012 for review by the 12th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).
As one of the most mine-affected countries in the world (only Cambodia and Afghanistan rival Angola for landmine contamination) and also one of the least developed (ranked 148th out of 187 countries by the 2011 Human Development Report), Angola’s need for an extension is unsurprising, despite the significant investment in mine action by the state and the international community. Unlike other countries that have requested extensions (e.g., Uganda), Angola cannot be accused of delaying in starting the process of survey and demining and the fact that Angola has been considering the extension request for the better part of a year means the reviewers of the request should be well aware of the contents. Every province of the country has been contaminated with mines from the three-decade civil war and as refugees return to their former homes and new lands are claimed for agriculture, more minefields are discovered. Simply put, the scale of the problem, the size of the country and the lack of development means that demining Angola will be a herculean task and to have completed that task within the initial ten-year period would have been astonishing. However, the Meeting of States Parties should still be critical and careful in the review of the extension request.
Why the extension request should be approved:
First, as I’ve documented in this space previously, Angola every month and every year makes progress towards the goal of being a mine-free country. The largest demining operator in the country is the National Demining Institute (INAD) which prioritizes clearance activities based upon national development priorities. There are a dozen other national and international demining operators in the country including Mines Advisory Group, the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid, all of which have been active for many years. Angola’s need for an extension is not for lack of effort or initiative, it’s due to the scale of contamination. I’ve seen the phrase “more landmines than people” used to describe Angola which would put the total number of landmines well into the millions and one in seven Angolans lives in a community contaminated by landmines (The Monitor).
Second, Angola and its international mine action partners have been operating under the assumption that an extension request will be submitted and approved. This is a bit cart before the horse, but reflects a realization of the task at hand. Rather than scramble to try and clear all of the minefields, Angola has launched a second survey of the country to develop a complete sense of the scope of contamination. Survey Action Center had conducted a Landmine Impact Survey in 2007, but the data from that survey needs to be refined and many of the identified Suspected Hazardous Areas can be declared mine-free through technical survey. The second survey, called LIS II, will be complete in 2013 and will likely serve as the basis for all future demining activities. Again, Angola cannot be accused of a lack of effort since it went through the complete Landmine Impact Survey process, but with the development of new techniques, Angola is looking to improve its knowledge basis. In fact it is a little unfortunate LIS II was launched as late as it was because the information compiled in LIS II would have been really good to include in the extension request. Instead, the request will probably have a bit of uncertainty built into it to accommodate any findings made after submission.
Third, the scale of investment in the country for mine action has been incredible and represents long term commitments to the country. The investment is not just international either, for every $3 spent by the international community on mine action in 2010, Angola spent $2 (The Monitor). With its oil wealth, Angola can afford such investments, but because much of the country is reliant on subsistence agriculture, demining is a priority for both food security and future development (I could say something here about how Angola is the 16th largest exporter oil in the world, trailing only Nigeria and Algeria among African states, and how that wealth could be better shared or that Angola could spend even more on mine action. I could also say something about how Eduardo dos Santos has been in power more than 30 years and is seeking re-election. I’ll leave those for another time…). A short-sighted rejection of a well-considered extension request would reject those earlier investments and leave Angola to continue the demining process on its own, a situation Angola could manage, but would likely lead to slower development and more casualties as demining would take many years more without continued international support.
Issues for consideration during the review of the extension request:
At some point a Meeting of States Parties will need to reject an extension request. I fear that the opportunity for States Parties to request and receive extensions of their demining obligations will eventually lead to abuses of the system. Many countries, e.g., Uganda and the Republic of Congo, have requested and received extensions despite years of inactivity and negligence. I believe that the Meeting should take one of these countries to task and deny their request, placing the country in non-compliance with the Mine Ban Treaty. Stigmatization is the strongest tool at the disposal of the mine action community and non-compliance with the Treaty would serve as a strong rebuke and stigma for the countries that have failed to comply with their obligations. No more free passes. Angola should not be the country that an example is made of, but sometime soon the Meeting will need to act in a decisive manner. At the same time, Angola has been thinking about this request for some time and setting up the international community for its submission, so the Meeting can expect a fairly high quality presentation and plan of action. If the request is not of exceptional quality, the Meeting should demand edits and clarifications.
Angola’s mine action authority has an abysmal history of data collection and analysis despite multiple efforts to build capacity and the necessary infrastructure. The Meeting should be critical of the data presented in the request and seek confirmation from some of the international operators who have been active in the country. Angola should also include some strategy to address this gap in order to ensure that data problems don’t continue to place the mine action sector.
The estimate of the total number of landmine victims in Angola is between 23,000 and 80,000 according to the Landmine Monitor (The Monitor). That figure needs to be refined. As one of the 25 most victim-affected countries, Angola was required to develop an action plan to meet its victim assistance needs and the simple fact that the number of victims is completely unknown shows how little priority has been given to victim assistance. International support for victim assistance is minimal (e.g., less than 2% of all international mine action support went to victim assistance; the domestic contribution is unclear, but the nation prioritizes demining over other mine action pillars) (The Monitor). In 2012, 2,000 mine victims in Bié Province will receive support from CNIDAH (All Africa), but data for other provinces was readily available. In addition, domestic funding mine risk education was completely cut in 2011 and UNICEF stopped supporting MRE in Angola in 2008. The funding cut was an “oversight,” but the results could be fatal, especially for returning refugees. The extension request is an opportunity for the Meeting of States Parties to review Angola’s entire mine action program, not just the demining pillar. To date, Angola’s mine action program has never been evaluated (The Monitor) so the extension request offers a chance to engage with CNIDAH on a comprehensive and holistic review.
The extension activities will come with a pretty hefty price tag. Mine action in Angola cost roughly a quarter-billion dollars between 2006 and 2010 (The Monitor) and the extension request will cover another five years, 2013-2017 and can be expected to cost as much if not more. When the Meeting approved Zimbabwe’s request a couple of years ago, it did so even though the Zimbabwe had not received any international assistance for its mine action program in almost a decade and believed that $100 million was needed to cover the proposed activities (Landmines in Africa, 23-Feb-2012 post). When the Meeting reviews Angola’s request, it must review the financing available and if there are financing gaps then it is incumbent upon the reviewers to help secure the additional financing. Otherwise, the Meeting is approving an action plan that may never be completed.
Last, to date, 27 States Parties have sought extensions of their Article 5 demining obligations. Of those, almost half, twelve, have been African countries, whereas African countries make up less than one-third of the total number of States Parties. Therefore, African states are requesting extensions more frequently than would be expected just on a statistical basis. Africa, as a continent, has near complete accession to the Mine Ban Treaty (only Somalia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco remain outside of the Treaty); only South America has a better record as a continent (ICBL). The Meeting of States Parties should take pro-active steps to review and address potential delays in Article 5 obligations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America since the possibility of these regions to become completely mine-free is very real. The Meeting should look into why African states are over-represented in the pool of countries requesting Article 5 extensions and should also work to discourage all states from submitting multiple extension requests, which African states have done.
Angola’s extension request for its Article 5 demining obligations will almost certainly be approved by the next Meeting of States Parties. The Meeting of States Parties should hold Angola to the highest standard when considering the extension request, if only because the scale of the problem in the country requires the greatest response possible. Over the last decade, Angola has demonstrated a strong commitment to mine clearance but there a significant weaknesses in its mine action program, specifically data integrity, mine risk education and victim assistance. In addition to reviewing the plan for demining, the Meeting should take the opportunity to review and comment on these other pillars of mine action.
Angola’s role in the mine ban movement is legendary; Princess Diana’s walk through an Angolan minefield in early 1997 brought worldwide attention to the issue at a time when the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and allied governments were working furiously on a final treaty text. Alongside Afghanistan and Cambodia, Angola is synonymous with landmines, but if continued efforts are made, that link can be broken.
Michael P. Moore, March 29, 2012
Off-Topic: What the response to Invisible Children’s video says about the Responsibility to Protect DoctrinePosted: March 18, 2012 Filed under: Off-Topic | Tags: Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, Kony 2012, Lord's Resistance Army, R2P, Responsibility to Protect, Uganda Leave a comment
Apologies for the absence of citations and sources in this post, am traveling and have limited connectivity – MPM, 3/18/12.
Lost within all the kerfuffle about the veracity of the claims made in the “Kony 2012” video produced by the NGO Invisible Children and the subsequent hospitalization of Invisible Children’s co-founder and the video’s director, Jason Russell, for “exhaustion” is a discussion of the responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine. In the video, Invisible Children urges the United States to take action to capture Joseph Kony and the other leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army and deliver them to the International Criminal Court to face the charges they have been indicted for. I’m not going to wade into the discussions of the veracity of Invisible Children’s claims; those have been handled elsewhere by luminaries such as Alex de Waal and Rosebell Kagire. Instead, I want to address the R2P context in which Invisible Children is acting and how the uproar against Invisible Children’s actions demonstrate the flaws in the R2P doctrine and the weakness of legitimacy for the International Criminal Court.
The Responsibility to Protect doctrine was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005. R2P is an outgrowth of previous civil-society driven international initiatives such as the Mine Ban Treaty and international justice precedents like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the special courts set up by the international community in the wake of crimes against humanity in Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Bosnia-Herzegovina. R2P is to security what the ICC was to justice: when a nation’s judicial system is inadequate or unable to fairly try cases of crimes against humanity, the ICC will step in; when a nation’s military and police force is unable or unwilling to provide security to the citizens of that nation, the international community will step in. Both the ICC and R2P represent fundamental challenges to a nation’s sovereignty, essentially saying the in order for a nation to maintain its sovereignty, that nation must provide security and justice for its citizens. The ICC has been criticized in many corners as a paternalistic and “Western” entity, imposing “Western” concepts of justice on the developing world. The ICC has also been criticized for only bringing indictments against Africans and not against any criminals from other continents.
First, I think it’s important to point out that Invisible Children and the related organization Resolve (formerly Resolve Uganda) have managed to spark a global conversation about the LRA and Joseph Kony. I am writing this from India and saw editorials in the newspapers here on the #Kony2012 campaign. Invisible Children produced a widely seen internet video, dominated Twitter and got Africans and Africanists around the world to write article, editorials and blog posts on the subject. In a matter of days, Invisible Children demonstrated to power of social media to raise awareness and communicate a specific message to a worldwide audience. Activists should study how Invisible Children was able to do this and take from them the lessons learned. Simply put, Invisible Children have figured out how to make a social media campaign effective and established a model for future campaigns. I can’t help but think part of the criticism of Invisible Children is born of jealousy and frustration on the part of activists and Africanists who for decades were trying to bring greater attention and action to Northern Uganda in response to the LRA with measured and well-argued campaigns and then saw the ease with which Invisible Children was able to almost instantly seize the world’s attention.
Second, this is not the first time an innovative campaign has been centered on the Lord’s Resistance Army. In 2010, Resolve drafted the Lord’s Resistance Army >Capture and Assistance Act< and then targeted the members of the Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Representatives. Staging what they called the “Hometown Shakedown,” Resolve volunteers camped out at the district offices of the members of the committee to shame them into passing the bill which, because it dictated foreign policy to the President, fundamentally violated the role of the House of Representatives as described in the Constitution. Let me say that again because it’s so important: Resolve got the US Congress to pass a bill dictating US foreign policy in contravention of the separation of powers in the Constitution. What’s more, the bill was passed by the full House once the Committee had approved it and then President Obama signed it into law. Resolve re-wrote the Constitution to get the US government to address its issue, the continued existence of the Lord’s Resistance Army. I have been stunned that other organizations have not realized the full measure of what Resolve was able to accomplish and used similar methods to get Congressional committees and the Congress as a whole to draft and send bills to the President for signature.
When he signed the LRA act into law, Obama committed the US to developing and implementing a strategy to capture Joseph Kony and bring to an end the LRA rebellion. This is the US military intervention discussed in the Invisible Children video that has raised so much attention and concern. Currently 100 US Special Forces soldiers are embedded with the Ugandan army providing intelligence and logistical support for the pursuit of Kony and the LRA.
Now, let’s get into the tricky part. This intervention and the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 both fall under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, even though the US and NATO did not specifically invoke the doctrine. The R2P doctrine states that when nations are unable or unwilling to provide security for their citizens, then the international community has the moral obligation and the legal authority to step in and provide the necessary security. In this formulation, Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic were unable to prevent the predations of the LRA; Libya was unwilling to protect its citizens and even seemed on the verge of massacring tens of thousands of Libyans in Benghazi. As a result, the United States and the international community had the responsibility to intervene in these conflicts.
The problem is that intervention under R2P eliminates the possibility of “African solutions for African problems” which is half of the critique of Invisible Children’s position; the other half of the critique is the simplicity of Invisible Children’s position. The simplicity of Invisible Children’s presentation belies the fact that Invisible Children is advocating for the exact same response to the LRA that the International Crisis Group (ICG) has advocated for; Invisible Children’s argument was cruder and more visceral, but underneath, they are the same plans and no one has critiqued ICG, therefore the intervention proposed by Invisible Children may have some validity. The other side of the critique, the question of R2P versus “African solutions to African problems,” is an important argument that needs to be had. “African solutions to African problems” and R2P would seem to be mutually exclusive and that is the problem: either R2P is a valid doctrine and the international community has the responsibility to intervene or R2P is an invalid doctrine and conflicts, no matter how violent and how terrible, should be resolved by the participants or their neighbors.
The African Union has, in recent years, become more active in peacekeeping missions, but does not have a peace-making ability. In theory, the African Union has a Peace and Security Committee which could take on a peace-making role, but no military or security forces have been pledged for that purpose. One place where the African Union and other countries have made interventions that could be considered an application of the R2P doctrine is Somalia.
Beginning in 2006 with the US-backed invasion of Somalia by the Ethiopian Army, Somalia has been the site of African interventions under an R2P-like mandate. In 2006, the Ethiopian army entered and occupied large sections of southern Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Ethiopia justified its actions by saying the ICU was not providing security to Somalis and was violating the human rights of Somalis, especially women. Ethiopia was initially successful in removing the ICU from power, restoring nominal control of the country to the UN-sponsored Transitional Federal Government (TFG) (and by control I mean that the TFG controlled only those parts of the capitol of Mogadishu where African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi were stationed, an extremely limited geography). However, Ethiopian forces soon became the target of an insurgency campaign from Islamist forces reconstituted under the title “Al Shabaab,” or “The Youth.” Al Shabaab was successful in harassing Ethiopian soldiers and supply lines, eventually forcing Ethiopia to withdraw.
In 2011, Kenya invaded Somalia in response to a spate of kidnappings along the Indian Ocean coast at hotels near the Kenya – Somalia border. Because the TFG in Somalia was unable to exert any pressure against Al Shabaab outside of Mogadishu (or frankly even within Mogadishu), Kenya was forced to act to protect its tourism industry. Shortly after Kenya’s invasion, the African Union peacekeepers launched an offensive against Al Shabaab forces in Mogadishu and then Ethiopia once again invaded. A three-pronged assault seems to be having the desired effect of weakening Al Shabaab and driving it from Mogadishu and from Al Shabaab stronghold of Baidoa. While neither Kenya nor Ethiopia have specifically invoked R2P as the justification for their interventions, they have used language consistent with the R2P doctrine, just as the US and NATO did with Uganda and Libya.
In theory, African states could invoke R2P and intervene in their neighboring states as was done in Somalia by Kenya and Ethiopia. However, in the case of the LRA, the only forces that ever pursued Kony and the LRA are Uganda’s army and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement in Sudan that has emerged as the governing party of South Sudan. Since these forces were also the immediate targets of the LRA, they could not be accused of acting in an altruistic manner. In Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are also acting out of their own self-interests and not on the basis of R2P doctrine although they use R2P language to support their invasions. R2P is not about protecting one’s own security (that’s the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive action), instead R2P is about protecting the security of the citizens of the nation in which the intervention takes place. So, the example of Somalia is an example of an “African solution to African problems,” but it is not R2P; Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s interventions have also been highly criticized because the two countries are acting in their own self-interest and not in the interest of Somalis.
This I think is the real fear with R2P as a doctrine for militarized peace-making: countries could invoke R2P when they are serving their own self-interests. For example, in Libya NATO could be accused of acting to protect oil supplies instead of Libyans. Or, as was done in Iraq after the invasion by the US, the US changed the rhetoric on the reasons for invasion from the threat of weapons of mass destruction to a desire to bring democracy to Iraq. LRA watchers are afraid that the US’s intervention is the first of many such interventions through the US Army’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), interventions that will supersede African nations’ sovereignty and serve only the US’s interests in the region. Then R2P would be invoked to provide international cover for the US’s actions.
So, where does that leave us? I think that much of the response and critique to Invisible Children is a rejection of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. The simplicity of Invisible Children’s presentation didn’t help their argument, but that’s not the origin of the problem. I think R2P and the ICC do not have broad support within the countries they are supposed to be protecting. Instead they are viewed as Western institutions that serve Western interests. Invisible Children and the “Kony 2012” video are merely the NGO equivalents; serving their own interests while denying agency and sovereignty to those affected. The “Kony 2012” video has sparked international interest, but the discussion needs to be about the concept of international intervention, such as those proposed under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine; if those interventions are valid then Invisible Children is just guilty of being crass. If interventions under R2P are not valid, then the “Kony 2012” video should spark a broader conversation about R2P and perhaps create a structure under which militarized peace-making interventions might be acceptable, if ever.
Michael P. Moore, March 18, 2012
February 2012: The Month in Mines by Landmines in AfricaPosted: March 6, 2012 Filed under: Month in Mines | Tags: Africa, Angola, demining, landmines, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe Leave a comment
Despite the extra day afforded the month by the leap year, February exhibited a refreshingly small number of articles about landmines in Africa and several of the stories that were published had positive news. Unfortunately, every silver lining has a touch of gray so some of the positive stories have worrying elements that need to be addressed.
The ongoing conflict in Somalia between Al Shabaab and the loosely allied forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the armies of Ethiopia and Kenya continues to be fought with landmines and improvised explosive devices. Other conflicts in Sudan and Senegal have also resulted in landmine casualties.
On the positive side, new agreements have been signed to expedite mine clearance in Zimbabwe and Uganda with the assistance of international mine action organizations. Innovations in mine clearance and victim assistance have helped to raise the profile of the landmine issue and the US government continued its commitment to funding humanitarian demining.
The month opened on the most positive of notes, confirmation from the Implementation Support Unit of the Mine Ban Treaty that Guinea-Bissau had completed its demining obligations. Guinea-Bissau had received a short extension through January 1, 2012 to complete the final efforts, and now only 23 African countries are contaminated with anti-personnel landmines (Implementation Support Unit, pdf).
In Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) planted landmines in the border areas with what is now South Sudan. The Danish Demining Group, with Mine Wolf mechanical clearance machines on loan from Norwegian People’s Aid, is working in Northern Uganda to clear these mines. The minefields in Northern Uganda represent the last known minefields in the country and the only obstacle to Uganda’s meeting its demining obligations, the deadline for which is August 1, 2012. Unfortunately, the clearance activities may not be completed until November or December due to the delays in starting the process, so the mine action community will need to monitor the situation closely to ensure that Uganda does not fall into non-compliance with the Mine Ban Treaty, especially since Uganda has already received an extension to its clearance deadline (All Africa).
Zimbabwe is also facing an imminent deadline for its demining activities, a deadline that has been extended twice already. In its second extension request, Zimbabwe noted that it had not received any international assistance for its mine action activities since 2000 (when the “war veterans” started seizing farms from white farmers and Zimbabwe’s status as a pariah state began). In that request, Zimbabwe declared that it would need $100 million to complete the necessary demining activities, funding that could only be obtained if international sanctions were lifted. Recently, the European Union lifted some of its sanctions allowing more aid to flow to Zimbabwe, including significant assistance from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) which will provide equipment and training to Zimbabwe’s Corps of Engineers who are responsible for demining in the country.
ICRC’s assistance is absolutely essential if Zimbabwe is to have any chance of meeting its demining deadline of January 1, 2013, but even with this assistance much work needs to be done. In the decade since Zimbabwe has been forced to conduct demining on its own, it has only cleared 250 square kilometers and there are another 600 to be cleared in less than a year; a heroic if not impossible task. Like Uganda, the mine action community will need to monitor the progress of demining in Zimbabwe, especially if early elections are called for which are expected to be accompanied by violence (All Africa).
Senegal held presidential elections this month which have resulted in a run-off between current president, Abdoulaye Wade (in power since 2000 and running for re-election at the youthful age or 85), and the leading challenger, former prime minister Macky Sall. During Wade’s campaign for a controversial third term – Senegal has a two-term limit for the presidency, but Wade was first elected before the term limits came into effect in 2001 – Wade offered a disarmament and demining plan for the long-running Casamance conflict which has flared up in recent months. The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has rejected the plan as “cynical politicking.”
In a review of the Casamance conflict, IRIN News reported that 800 people have been killed or injured by landmines since 1988 and the government has virtually ceased demining activities, leaving them to NGOs, specifically mentioning Handicap International. As such, the Wade demining plan seems insincere; if Wade’s administration was serious about demining the Casamance, the government would have been more active instead of absent. In February the Senegalese army launched a new offensive to try and defeat the MFDC which has been steadily losing local support. The offensive has been met with ambushes and the MFDC is known to use landmines as a tool in those ambushes so casualties are likely to rise during the period of the offensive (All Africa).
As I’ve said before in these pages, Angola is the tortoise of mine action: slowly and steadily making progress towards becoming mine-free. In Luvo district, more than a thousand pieces of unexploded and abandoned ordnance, including anti-personnel landmines were destroyed by the National Demining Institute (INAD) (All Africa). In addition, 77 specialists from three different security services were trained in mine detection techniques by INAD increasing the mine detection capacity in 13 provinces (All Africa).
In addition to explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance, Angola’s mine action efforts included victim assistance. 1,500 landmine victims from Bié province alone received physical rehabilitation services, vocational training and material assistance in 2011. These victims represent only a small portion of the total population of landmine victims in Angola, but the range of services available in Bié is re-assuring (All Africa).
The current crisis between Sudan and South Sudan, in which South Sudan has suspended oil shipments to Sudan and Sudan is bombing suspected rebel bases in South Sudan appears to be headed towards war. While both sides are participating in talks – with their near-total dependence on oil exports for revenues, Sudan and South Sudan need the oil to flow – neither appears willing to give additional concessions to the other. South Sudan is currently building a new pipeline to Kenya (to be completed within a year) which would reduce its dependence on Sudan’s pipelines and Sudan wants to force the issue before the new pipeline is complete (Reuters). Caught in the middle are the peoples of Sudan and South Sudan.
Just south of the border lies a refugee camp for Sudanese who have fled rebel activity. The United Nations wants to move the camp because it has been subject to bombing from the Sudanese air force for allegedly providing a safe haven for rebels. However, the roads around the camp are littered with ant-tank mines laid by various groups and the site of the new camp that the UN wants to build is currently contaminated with landmines leaving the refugees exposed and threatened from all fronts, especially as the additional threat of famine looms over the border region between the two states (All Africa).
South Sudan’s victim assistance infrastructure is very weak. The ICRC is helping to develop the surgical capacity of Malakal Teaching Hospital which serves the mine-affected states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile. In the last six months of 2011, hospital staff performed trauma operations on 235 people injured by weapons of various kinds, including landmines. There are smaller, primary health-care clinics in the region, but Malakal is the only facility capable of providing surgical interventions.
In Juba, the ICRC has established the Physical Rehabilitation Reference Centre which provides prosthetic and rehabilitation services to landmine victims and other persons with disabilities. In 2011, 91 landmine victims received prosthetic limbs from the Centre. Efforts are underway to create transportation linkages between the hospitals like Malakal and the Rehabilitation Centre in Juba (African Press Organization).
Somalia remains the epicenter of landmine incidents on the continent as a result of the conflict involving Al Shabaab, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the armies of Kenya and Ethiopia. Al Shabaab uses guerrilla tactics, including landmines and improvised explosive devices to harass and injure the various forces arrayed against it. So far, Al Shabaab has been driven from strongholds of Mogadishu and most recently Baidoa, but continues to inflict damage to lines of communication and supply and this month formally merged with Al Qaeda. In an interesting and deeply ironic shift in tactics, Al Shabaab, despite claiming that the participation of women in Somalia’s parliament gave “women [an] undeserved role in the decision making process,” called on unmarried girls to fight alongside men and boys against the TFG. Girls “could form formidable fighting units” and would be expected to conduct operations including planting landmines and suicide bombings (All Africa).
In Somalia and northeastern Kenya, several landmine blasts targeted TFG, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops. Blasts occurred in Mogadishu (All Africa), Madera (in Kenya) (All Africa; All Africa), Beledweyn (All Africa), Baidoa (All Africa), Lower Jubba (All Africa), Madera again (All Africa) and a large blast at Mogadishu’s football stadium (All Africa). Despite targeting soldiers and security forces, civilians bore the brunt of the injuries in all of these incidents and in the aftermath of each, the security forces engaged in crackdowns and mass arrests to try and round up the perpetrators. Dozens of Somali citizens have been arrested, dozens have been killed and injured and the conflict appears to have no immediate end in sight.
The Obama Administration released its proposed FY13 budget and as in previous years, the budget contains significant funding for mine action. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement within the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs of the State Department has responsibility for most of the US’s mine action work and conventional weapons destruction. A recent focus for this group has been the proliferation of shoulder-fired rockets (MANPADs) that Gaddhafi had stockpiled in Libya and which may or may not have been looted and transferred to various factions including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In FY13, humanitarian mine action is part of a $531.7 million allocation for “anti-terrorism and non-proliferation” with a focus on mine clearance and weapons destruction. Limited funding will be available for victim assistance needs (All Africa).
Two mine action inventions were promoted in the month, one of which generated a lot of excitement and another which should have. Massoud Hassani, an Afghan immigrant living in the Netherlands, created the “Mine Sweeper” which has been nominated for Design of the Year 2012 by the Design Museum in London. The Mine Sweeper is “a landmine decommissioning device that takes its inspiration from a childhood toy. Mine Sweeper is a wind-blown, bamboo-spiked ball that loses spikes with each landmine detonation. A GPS built into the Mine Sweeper tracks the landmiens back to a website to help track a safe course.” The Mine Sweeper was profiled at the Design Indaba 2012 conference and generated dozens of stories and raised awareness about landmines in Afghanistan and Angola. (Design Indaba). However, I have not heard of any mine clearance organizations stepping forward to field test it so as a PR tool, the Sweeper has been fantastic, but as a true clearance device, the Sweeper has yet to be implemented.
The other invention is a $50 above-knee prosthetic leg developed by Toronto scientist Jan Andrysek who has received a $100,000 grant from grand Challenges Canada to field test the limb in Colombia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua. Should the field tests prove successful, Andrysek could access a further $1 million to make the prosthetic more widely available. Comparable prosthetics can cost as much as $3,000 and are difficult to repair or replace without proper equipment (The Toronto Star). This invention needs to be supported. Cost-effective below knee prosthetics have been widely available from groups such as the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation and Jaipur Foot. The American inventor Van Phillips, creator of the Cheetah leg used by paralympian Oscar Pistorius, has also been working on a $10 below-knee prosthesis (Smithsonian), but a cheap above-knee prosthesis would be a significant breakthrough for landmine victims. So, as exciting and sexy as Mr. Hassani’s Mine Sweeper is, Andrysek’s LC Knee is the best invention of the month in mines. Best of luck to him during the field tests.
Michael P. Moore, March 6, 2012.