Somalia signs on to the Mine Ban Treaty

At this past week’s intersessional meetings for the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva, Somalia announced its accession to the Treaty.  Despite the limited control exerted by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) over the physical dimensions of the country, the recent military gains by the TFG, with significant assistance from the Ethiopian and Kenyan military forces occupying large swathes of territory and the Burundian, Ugandan and Sierra Leonean forces that comprise the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), has enabled the TFG to establish its presence sufficiently to foresee a future Somalia with the Al Shabab militia.  The anticipated defeat of Al Shabab (and various pirate factions still active in Somalia) will mean no further use of landmines and improved explosive devices (IEDs) in the country.  No further landmine use is the minimum requirement for complliance with the Treaty.  The TFG’s gains also suggest that the Somalian government will be able to make good on the promise of clearing all anti-personnel landmines from the country within ten years.

Somalia has already made significant progress towards landmine clearance thanks to the efforts underway in the semi-automous regions of Puntland and Somaliland where mine action operators have been active for many years.  A Landmine Impact Survey has been completed in Somaliland so the extent of contamination there is understood.  In the southern areas (those currently under the nominal control of the TFG), the extent of contamination is unknown but assumed to be composed more of unexploded ordnance than anti-personnel landmines.

The concern with the absence of an understanding of the extent of landmine contamination in Somalia will be what happens to the refugees and internally displaced persons who would likely return to their homes once the conflict in the country ends.  Returning refugees and displaced persons are at particular risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance because they are not aware of minefields or battle areas that formed while they were elsewhere.  If the battle areas and minefields are not cleared before the refugees return to their home lands, we can expect to see a significant number of new injuries among this population.

A second concern would be the availability of vicitm assistance services in the country.  Somalia has recently experienced famine and the continuing food insecurity will mean that the donor community will focus on this immediate need.  Medical and rehabilitation services are almost non-existent in Somalia and as the health infrastructure is re-built in the country, the needs of landmine survivors should not be forgotten.

But, before I let too much cynicism out, let us applaud the fact that all of Sub-Saharan Africa is now under the Mine Ban Treaty regime.  On the continent, only Egypt (which will not join the treaty until Israel does and Germany and the United Kingdom offer assistance for clearing World War II minefields), Morocco (which will not join the treaty until the Western Sahara issue is resolved) and Libya (which may be a candidate for accession) remain outside the Treaty.  Somalia’s accession means that 160 Nations around the world have joined the Mine Ban Treaty. In the last year, the pace of accession has rapidly quickened and the efforts of the Treaty’s formal and informal ambassadors need to be thanked for their efforts.

Michael P. Moore, May 27, 2012

 

For More Information on Somalia’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty and the landmine situation in the country, please see:

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor

Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, pdf

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