Angola’s Article 5 Extension Request

In the negotiations that lead to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 10-year requirement for clearing all mined areas within the a country was agreed upon because the negotiators felt that ten years would be sufficient for most countries to complete demining. The negotiators also realized that some countries would require more time, but if they set the deadline to meet the needs of the most mine-contaminated countries, the negotiators feared that countries would delay the start and completion of demining.  But some mechanism would be needed to allow heavily mine-affected countries to seek additional time to complete their clearance activities and that mechanism is the Article 5 Extension request protocol and format that is currently in place and almost 30 countries have availed themselves of to date.

At least three countries’ extension requests could have been predicted at the time the negotiations took place: Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia.  Angola and Afghanistan were still in the midst of their civil wars during the Mine Ban Treaty negotiations while Cambodia’s mine contamination, and publicity about it, was a huge part of the impetus for the Treaty.  Since the Treaty came into force, Afghanistan has known little peace and Cambodia has experienced a proliferation of mine action operators and activities.  Afghanistan and Angola both ratified the Treaty in 2002 and have 2013 deadlines for mine clearance (January 1, 2013 for Angola, March 1, 2013 for Afghanistan); Cambodia ratified the Treaty in 1999 and has already sought and received a ten-year extension of its Article 5 obligations (ICBL).


The Landmine Situation in Angola

Angola’s 40-year conflict came to a conclusion in 2002 with the death of Jonas Savimbi and the transformation of his UNITA into a political party (again).  Angola signed the Mine Ban Treaty as soon as it was open for signature in December 1997 but did not ratify the treaty until July 2002 and the end of hostilities.  In March 2012, the Angolan government submitted its Article 5 Extension request, a request whose submission had been planned and expected by the States Parties who will meet and review the request later this year.  My comments are based upon the translated document available on the AP Mine Ban Convention’s Implementation Support Unit’s website (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf).

After the end of its civil wars, 2.4 million Angolans lived in areas affected  by landmines and another 1.5 million Angolans were displaced, many of whom would return to mine-contaminated communities.  Estimates of the number of landmine survivors range from 50,000 to 80,000 with thousands more killed outright; one out of every 2,000 Angolans lives with a landmine injury; one in eight lives in a landmine-affected community.  Currently 793,177,246.68 square meters (or approximately 306 square miles, or equivalent to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region) of territory are thought to be contaminated with landmines

But Angola has not been idle.  Other countries who have sought Article 5 extensions have done so because they delayed the start of landmine clearance and never devoted the necessary resources to the task.  Since 1996, 4,491,707,182 (approximately 1,750 square miles) of land have been cleared of landmines by dozens of domestic and international demining organizations; almost half that amount cleared by the Angolan government’s Executive Commission for Demining (CED) for economic development activities.  Tens of thousands of mines have been destroyed with the Angolan government being one of largest donors to mine action (the actual amount contributed by Angola is unclear from the extension request being variously reports as $315 million, $24 million and $1 billion).


The Extension Request

Angola’s extension request is a two-stage request, much like other recent requests (e.g., Zimbabwe’s pending request).  In the first stage, the Angolan mine action authority will obtain a more accurate picture of the landmine contamination and then use that information to submit a second extension request for the remaining demining work to be done.  Several years ago, Angola was subject to a Landmine Impact Survey (LIS), but the LIS methodology seems to be widely discredited for over-estimating the contamination.  In addition, because upwards of 40 different companies and organizations have been conducting clearance and survey work in Angola, there is no unified information source for where minefields are and where demining has been completed.  Until a single, accurate source of information exists and can be accessed by all mine action operators, progress on demining will be stymied and the potential for gaps or missed minefields exists.

That said, this may also be a problem of Angola’s own making.  There are two separate agencies, CNIDAH (the Inter-Sectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance for Mine Victims) and CED, responsible for coordinating demining tasks.  The exact roles of the two agencies in relation to each other is still being sorted out, but the divide seems to be that CNIDAH manages the activities of international mine clearance organizations while CED manages the Angolan government’s demining activities.  By having two separate oversight agencies with different mandates, the opportunity for confusion is compounded.  One recommendation would be for Angola to consolidate oversight and prioritization of demining under one agency (or even better, have all mine action be coordinated by that one agency).

Another area of concern about the extension request is the complaints in the document about support from international donors.  In terms of need, Angola will require significant funding to cover the costs of demining, but the country has significant oil wealth and that wealth is why mine action donors are shifting their funding away from Angola to other, resource-poor countries.  Angola makes a big deal of the amount that the country has committed to demining, but I think there is ample evidence that Angola can continue to support the demining work without large amounts of international support.  First, Porsche will be opening a showroom in Luanda for its sports cars in the near future (The Guardian); any country that can support a Porsche dealership should be ashamed to ask for development aid.  Second, Angola is the second largest exporter of oil from Africa, trailing only Nigeria, with the capacity to export 2 million barrels per day.  Angola also has significant diamond deposits (UNITA funded its rebellion with diamonds, one of the original sources of “conflict diamonds” along with Sierra Leone) and earns nearly a billion dollars a year in diamond exports (State Department).  These natural resources provide Angola with a significant portion of its government revenue; revenues that are not shared equitably.  Despite a $5,900 per capita GDP, Angola has a very low development rating: on the Human Development Index, Angola is only one place above Burma (Myanmar) and below Pakistan and Bangladesh (UNDP, pdf).  Angola is viewed as a corrupt country, 42 other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are seen as less corrupt than Angola (Transparency International), so if Angola were to clean up its act a little bit and share the national wealth a little more fairly, the need for international support for mine clearance would be alleviated.  Those steps would also make the international donor community more likely to support mine clearance because the donors would have confidence in knowing their money will get to the projects as intended.

However, Angola has made tremendous progress towards becoming mi ne-free.  20,000 Angolans are employed in the mine action sector.  The authors of the Extension request estimate that only 40% of the landmine contamination has been completed.  While I would have preferred to see a complete, single stage, extension request, I think Angola has demonstrated a commitment to landmine clearance that other countries (I’m looking at you, Uganda and Zimbabwe) have not.


Michael P. Moore, June 12, 2012

2 Comments on “Angola’s Article 5 Extension Request”

  1. Bradly says:

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure
    of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got
    to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

  2. […] Angola’s Article 5 Extension Request […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s