Africa at the 12th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty

On December 3rd to 7th, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty met in Geneva as part of the regular meetings required by the Treaty.  The Meeting, the 12th Meeting of States Parties (12MSP) was chaired by Slovenia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Matjaž Kovačič.  As in previous years, Africa was well-represented at the meeting and many agenda items addressed mine action issues on the continent.

Thirty-three African states sent representatives to the Meeting; 30 States Parties (Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Cote d”Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Gamia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and three non-States Parties (Egypt, Libya and Morocco).  Of mine-affected countries in Africa, only Mali failed to send a representative (possibly due to the current political crisis there).  The two mine-affected regions of Somaliland and Western Sahara are not able to send official representatives as they are not states as recognized by the United Nations.

In addition to sending country delegations, Algeria and Zambia were elected as Vice-Presidents of the Meeting.  Zambia co-chaired the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance and presented a report, with Indonesia, on a “Proposed rational response to States Parties discovering previously unknown mined areas after deadlines have passed.”  In recent years, the concern has arisen that a country may, after declaring itself mine-free by virtue of never having been mined or having cleared all minefields, discover newly laid landmines or a previously unidentified minefield.  In response to the Report, the States Parties at the 12MSP committed to immediately inform all States Parties should a country discovered a newly mined or previously unknown mined area and demine and destroy all landmines as soon as possible.  If the mine clearance cannot be completed before the next annual meeting of the States Parties, then the country with the mined area will submit to the States Parties a proposal for demining, using the Article 5 deadline extension process.

Algeria had stepped forward as a candidate to preside over the 13th Meeting of States Parties to be held in Geneva in December 2013, as Slovenia had done for the 12MSP, but another state also submitted its candidacy and so a decision will be made in February 2013 to confirm the Presidency of the 13th Meeting.

Angola and Zimbabwe submitted Article 5 Extension requests to allow more time to complete the demining process as required by the Mine Ban Treaty.  According to the Treaty, States Parties must complete demining within ten years of the Treaty entering into force for the country, so any extension to that deadline is subject to review by the other States Parties.  Angola’s request for a five-year extension, until January 1, 2018 was approved by the Meeting despite “a number a substantive concerns.”  One of those concerns is the fact that after 10 years and a tremendous amount of human, technical and financial resources made available by domestic and international mine action operators, Angola is still not able to identify the scope and scale of minefields that still remain to be cleared.  Also, the extension request submitted was only meant to afford enough time for Angola to make that determination; at which time a second extension request with a detailed plan for the completion of all demining activities will be submitted.  The Meeting asked Angola to provide frequent reports on progress and take advantage of all resources and techniques at its disposal.

Zimbabwe’s extension request is actually its third submitted to date and while Zimbabwe has not fulfilled promises made in earlier extension requests, the Meeting approved the extension request. Zimbabwe is still unable to determine the true extent of its landmine contamination and while it has been subject to international sanctions that preventing international mine action support, those sanctions did not relieve Zimbabwe of its Treaty obligations.  The States Parties, in approving the request to allow Zimbabwe more time to determine the extent of demining required, make note of the fact that the sanctions have been lifted for the most part and that Zimbabwe has been making rapid progress with the help of several international NGOs to increase its technical and human capacity for demining.

(It’s here that I must interject an earlier question of mine: what would happen if the Meeting rejected an extension request?  Shouldn’t the Meeting reject requests that merit rejection either on the basis of being unreasonably optimistic or lacking the necessary detail to make an informed decision?  Wouldn’t that make the extension process more accountable?  The Meeting considered a report on improving the Article 5 Extension process, but in reading the report, I get the feeling that the report and its recommendations are about the request process and do not really allow the States Parties to reject a request.  The recommendations will make the process smoother and should improve the quality of requests, but, in the case of a Zimbabwe which has utterly failed to meet its obligations under previous extensions or the Republic of Congo which submitted a hastily written request late, why not reject the request and force the country to properly and completely address the demining challenge in a revised request while holding the State in violation of the Treaty?)

At the 12MSP, four African countries were able to declare themselves as mine-free.  Gambia submitted a formal report declaring mine-free status by virtue of never having landmines laid in its territory.  Some Gambians are landmine victims however, because they travel to and from the adjacent Casamance region of Senegal which is heavily contaminated by landmines.  As such, Gambia still has an obligation to provide care and services to landmine victims despite never being mined.  Guinea-Bissau, despite a coup in April 2012, was able to declare itself mine-free having cleared the final minefields in January 2012.  Guinea-Bissau’s original clearance deadline had been November 2011, but the country had requested and received a brief extension to complete the planned demining tasks.  The Republic of Congo had long had suspected landmine contamination, especially around the Cabinda enclave of Angola which is bordered on three sides by Congolese territory.  In 2011, Congo hastily requested an extension to enable it to survey the suspected hazardous areas and in 2012, Norwegian People’s Aid conducted non-technical surveys and, having found no landmines, declared the country mine-free.  Uganda also declared itself mine-free but acknowledged the fact that it was not able to complete its demining by the extended deadline of August 1, 2012.  Demining activities only concluded on November 28, 2012, a mere five days before the start of the 12MSP.  Uganda communicated the fact that additional time (three months, but it actually took four) would be needed hopefully this is a one-time only exception granted to Uganda and no other State will be allowed to take a similar extension without submitting a formal request.

Lastly, in 2014 the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty will hold their Third Review Conference.  Mozambique has offered to host and preside over the Conference, nine or so months after its demining deadline of March 1, 2014.   This suggests that Mozambique, once one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, will be free of landmines in less than two years, since they would not want to host the meeting if clearance obligations had not been met.

<All information from the Unofficial Report of the 12MSP; AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf>

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year,

Michael P. Moore

December 21, 2012

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The Month in Mines, November 2012, by Landmines in Africa

Landmines were both a local story and a global story in November.  On the global level, the First Committee of the United Nations met to discuss disarmament issues and held its annual vote on universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Also in the November, the Review Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons addressed issues related to its Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) which includes landmines.  At the end of the month, in anticipation of the 12th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) published the annual Landmine Monitor report, the de facto monitoring and verification mechanism for the Mine Ban Treaty.  These events provided an opportunity for states and non-governmental organizations to present information about landmine issues.  On a local level, landmine casualties continue to plague many nations including Somalia, Angola, Uganda and the Sudans.  Positive progress was seen in Libya, the Republic of Congo and in Egypt.

 

Somalia

In what just may be the first time since I started compiling these monthly summaries, there were no reports of landmine casualties in Somalia.  I did notice that Shabelle Media has started to use the term, “road-side bomb” more frequently in places where it used to say, “remote-controlled landmine,” but I think the change is also due to the change in the conflict in Somalia.  We are seeing more grenade attacks on soft targets and assassinations than landmine attacks.  This is due to the fact that Al Shabaab controls less and less territory and is not trying to defend territory; instead, Al Shabaab is trying to stoke fear through killings of journalists, leaders and random civilians.  Also, the AMISOM troops are sweeping former Al Shabaab controlled areas and clearing landmines.  Several have been found in the streets of Kismayo after the departure of Al Shabaab and these have been cleared, allowing for use of the roadways (All Africa).

 

Angola

The National Inter-sectorial De-mining and Humanitarian Assistance Commission (CNIDAH) launched a nationwide census of landmine victims as part of the strategy to create a comprehensive victim assistance plan.  Previous estimates of the number of Angolan landmine survivors has been as high as 80,000 and this census will provide the first accurate estimate of the number.  So far, 3,000 survivors have been identified in five provinces with another 14 to be surveyed (All Africa).

 

Libya

Handicap International (HI), operating in Libya since August 2011, conducted a public demolition of nine tons of ERW, representing 5,500 individual pieces of mortars, landmines, unexploded bombs and other expended and unexpended ammunition.  The demolition was the result of months of collecting materials and took three hours to complete.  HI has also been busy with mine risk education reaching tens of thousands of individuals with the message of the dangers of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.  However, HI’s Chief of Operations in Libya, Paul McCullough, said “after eight months of EOD operations we’ve still not broken the back of the clearance” in Libya and committed to continue working until “a manageable residue is left for” Libya’s national mine action authority to complete (Libya Herald).

 

Mozambique and Zimbabwe

In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Guy Willoughby, a co-founder of the HALO Trust remarked that while in most countries the number of landmines is in the tens of or hundreds of thousands, “There will be a million land mines to still clear on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.”  Both countries are working to survey the region, but the number staggers (Radio Free Europe).

Mozambique, once one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, is making remarkable progress towards becoming mine-free.  To date, 97 of Mozambique’s 128 districts have been cleared or confirmed as mine-free.  While the border with Zimbabwe remains to be cleared, there is hope that a project believed to require decades of work, just might be completed by March 2014 (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf).

 

Congo (Brazzaville)

Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) conducted a survey of the Republic of Congo and based upon that survey has declared Congo to be free of anti-personnel mines.  There had been suspected contamination around the Cabinda enclave (part of Angola that is wholly surrounded by the Congo and has been subject to a long-running rebellion).  Congo requested an extension to its Article 5 mine clearance obligations (the request was submitted after the initial deadline had passed) and the NPA survey was designed to fulfill the obligations of the extension request (Norwegian People’s Aid).

 

South Sudan

Three children were killed and a fourth gravely injured by a landmine that was found in a swampy area in Warrap State.  The incident has prompted authorities in the state to conduct more mine risk education activities to prevent future casualties (Oye! Times).

To help South Sudan build its capacity to manage the land mine threat, the Canadian Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force funded a team from South Sudan to visit the mine action authority in Afghanistan.  The South Sudanese team observed mine clearance activities and had the opportunity for peer to peer learning (Norwegian People’s Aid).

As the dispute between South Sudan and Sudan over the status of the Abyei region continues, the United Nations Security Council authorized a six-month extension of its peacekeeping force there.  As part of the re-authorization, the Security Council its concern about “the residual threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war in the Abyei Area, which hinders the safe return of displaced persons to their homes and safe migration” and demanded “that the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan facilitate the deployment of the United Nations Mine Action Service to ensure JBVMM [Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism] freedom of movement as well as the identification and clearance of mines in the Abyei Area and SDBZ [Safe Demilitarized Border Zone].” So that settles that.  It is unfortunate that demining has become politicized in the border disputes between Sudan and South Sudan, but by preventing demining in Abyei, Sudan can effectively prevent South Sudanese people from returning to the area for fear of landmines and establish new “facts on the ground” in Sudan’s favor (All Africa).

Mine risk education continues throughout South Sudan in sometimes constrained circumstances.  A local NGO, the Sudan Integrated Mine Action Service (SIMAS), uses red painted stones to mark minefields instead of the formal warning signs found elsewhere.  SIMAS conducts outreach to pastoral groups to inform them of the significance of the painted stones and the potential risks of entering a minefield, which all too many South Sudanese are familiar with.  To date some 1.8 million people, over 20% of the country’s entire population, have received mine risk education information in South Sudan, but pastoral and traditional societies have been more difficult to reach due to their mobility and suspicions of outsiders.  SIMAS has been able to earn their trust and is actively educating “children and adults in cattle camps, returnees at way stations coming back from Sudan, and other displaced persons” (UN Mission in South Sudan).

 

Sudan

Two boys, one 12-years old and the other 7, were injured when the landmine they had been playing with in South Kordofan State exploded.  They were taken to a local hospital for treatment (Nuba Reports).

 

Uganda

Corruption in Uganda has become so rampant that the United Kingdom has suspended foreign aid payments amid accusations that “funds from several European countries had been funnelled into the private bank accounts of officials in prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s office” (The Guardian).  Unfortunately, corruption has also affected landmine survivors in Uganda.  According to the State Minister for the Elderly and Disabled, Mr Sulaiman Madada, Uganda is committed to supporting landmine victims but the funds allocated for that support were “misappropriated.”  Because of corruption, survivors are unable to get prosthetic limbs or participate in economic re-integration programs.  Mr. Madaba says, “We need to work together and ensure all money is used for its intended purpose.”  No, Mr. Madaba.  The government needs to stop stealing from its most impoverished citizens.  There’s no “we” in this problem (The Daily Monitor).

 

Western Sahara

Two Saharawis were injured by a landmine in Smara.  The landmine was likely placed by Moroccan forces who use landmines to prevent movement of the Polisario Front, the main political entity of the Saharawi people (All Africa).  In London, the NGO Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), which has been working in Western Sahara for many years to provide services to landmine victims and provide mine risk education, made a presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on landmines.  During the presentation, AOAV director, Steven Smith said “The Western Sahara is one the most heavily mined territories in the world with over 2,500 people killed in antipersonnel mine blasts” and noted the importance of providing services to landmine survivors (All Africa).

 

Egypt

The German, Italian and British governments have combined to provide $25 million to clear 190,000 feddans (roughly 80,000 hectares) of landmines by 2016.  The area to be cleared consists of portions of the El Alamein battlefield from World War II.  There are an estimated 17.2 million mines in the Western Desert where El Alamein lies, some 15% of the total number of landmines globally (All Africa).

 

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s presidential election provided an opportunity to interview members of the Sierra Leone Flying Stars Amputee Football Club.  The link between the footballers and the election was tenuous, but the resilience of these young men and their efforts to overcome injury should always be celebrated (Al Jazeera).

 

International

In November the First Committee of the United Nations, the group of the whole which is responsible for considering disarmament issues, voted on a resolution entitled, “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction.”  The resolution, or one very similar, is voted on each year and is seen as a bellwether of non-states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.  This year’s resolution was approved with a vote of 152 in favor and none opposed, but 19 states abstained (no word on which states were simply out of the room at the time of the vote).  Three states which abstained from the vote, Egypt, Libya and Morocco, took the opportunity to explain why they had abstained and why they also remain outside of the Mine Ban Treaty regime. These explanations can be used by the Mine Ban Treaty’s universalization advocates to address those concerns and try to get the states to accede to the Treaty.  Tanzania also took advantage of the vote to promote its work and support for APOPO’s use of rats for mine clearance activities (United Nations).

 

The High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) met in Geneva for 6th Conference on Protocol V on ERWs, the 14th Conference on Amended Protocol II (which covers landmines and was a fore-runner to the Mine Ban Treaty), and a two-day Meeting of States Parties to the Convention.  Since many countries who are not party to the Mine Ban Treaty are parties to the CCW, like Pakistan and the United States, meetings of the CCW are important opportunities for landmine advocates in NGOs and states to address issues already raised in Mine Ban Treaty meetings, like victim assistance.  Rather than paraphrasing, let me quote the report on the meeting written by Katherine Prizeman of Disarmament Dialogues:

Although no “new,” groundbreaking issues related to Protocol V were highlighted or resolved this session, the continued interest and enthusiasm around its universalization and robust implementation are important for both the disarmament and human rights communities as advocates and diplomats alike work to prevent gross human suffering during acts of warfare. It is essential that HCPs, in the context of Protocol V as well as the broader CCW framework, address not only the devastating humanitarian effects of such weapons during conflict, but also post-conflict and even during times of peace. As was noted by UNMAS and other delegations, unplanned explosions of munitions and ammunition sites are increasing risks and deserve attention at all times. Damage from unplanned explosions at munitions sites is far more costly than implementation of generic preventative measures that seek to curb this threat.

Many lessons can be drawn from the work on Protocol V of the CCW, namely the central role of victim assistance, the strong emphasis placed on national reporting and corresponding national templates, and the robust and regular exchange of information and best practices in an issue-specific format. With many other related processes underway in the disarmament and human rights fields, including the ongoing arms trade treaty (ATT) process and the Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs), the hope is that CCW practices based on the values of transparency and accountability will inspire these parallel processes. Such core principles must be an inherent part of any successful arms control, disarmament, or humanitarian instrument seeking to make a concrete difference on the ground. (Global Action to Prevent War Blog).

 

The ICBL published the 14th edition of the Landmine Monitor covering activities in 2011 and highlighting some exciting progress on Mine Ban Treaty issues.  Three states, Israel, Libya and Myanmar, used landmines in 2011, and non-state actors in six countries, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Yemen, also used mines.  However, the editor of the Monitor said, “Active production of antipersonnel mines may be ongoing in as few as four countries” and no exports of landmines from those countries has been documented in several years.  Therefore the number of new mines available for use is very small and existing stockpiles continue to be reduced in accordance with the Treaty.  Two dozen non-state actors (rebel groups) have signed Deeds of Commitment which state that the groups will abide by the terms of the Mine Ban Treaty, further reducing the demand for landmines. The good news was tempered by the facts that the number of confirmed landmine casualties had increased slightly for the second straight year and that funding for victim assistance is at its lowest level in a decade and a full 30% less than the year before (All Africa). Also in the bad news column, Canada, the country which hosted the negotiations for the Mine Ban Treaty (which is also known as the Ottawa Treaty in recognition for where it was signed), cut its funding for mine action almost in half, from $30 million to $17 million (Ottawa Citizen).

 

United States

Last, AFRICOM continues to host trainings for African militaries in humanitarian mine action.  The curriculum currently covers demining, ordnance identification, explosives safety and theory, metal detector operations, demolitions, physical security, stockpile classes, medical training and one-man drills, but the director of the program for AFRICOM expressed interest in adding victim assistance and mine risk education to the subject topics.  As the director said, the humanitarian mine action program is “not very expensive… [and] is the most effective and has the greatest chance to build actual capacity in the country.”  To participate in the training program, which has so far engaged militaries in Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, nations must request support through the Department of State (AFRICOM http://www.usaraf.army.mil/NEWS/NEWS_121130_dmn.html).

 

Michael P. Moore

December 11, 2012


Sign the White House Petition: Accede to the Mine Ban Treaty

Dear Friends,

If our fellow citizens can petition the Obama Administration to build Death Stars and allow states to secede (Washington Post), surely we can petition the government to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty and ban anti-personnel landmines.

Please go to the We the People site and sign the petition to get the Obama Administration to submit the Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification.  You will need to register to sign the petition.

We have 30 days to get 25,000 signatures.  We can do this.  Sign the petition, send it to your friends and let’s get this done.

Michael P. Moore

December 10, 2012


The Narrative from the 2012 Landmine Monitor; Improving or Not?

The 2012 Landmine Monitor reports:

“The 4,286 new casualties from mines and ERW [explosive remnants of war] identified in 2011 are about one-third of the recorded annual casualty rate one decade ago…

“The 2011 figure is similar to the number of casualties identified in 2009 and 2010, or approximately 11-12 casualties per day. The annual incidence rate is about a third of what it was one decade ago, when there were at least 32 casualties per day.  Given improvements in data collection over this period, the decrease in casualties is likely even more significant with a higher percentage of casualties now being recorded.”

The general narrative of the 2012 Landmine Monitor is one of positive improvement.  From a release, “Amid the odd relapse, progress towards a world free of antipersonnel mines is inching forward” and “Some long term hold-outs [to the Treaty] have joined, namely Finland, and hopefully Poland will, too, by the end of this year. It is clear that the stigma against the use [of mines] is as strong as ever,” and “The mine action budget in 2011 was about US$662 million, the largest annual total to date” (All Africa).

In contrast, the 2011 Landmine Monitor narrative’s was not uniformly positive, mixing the positive with the negative: “Record levels of funding and mine clearance, but also increased use of landmines.”

However, in 2o11, according to the Monitor, recorded landmine victims have actually increased for the second year in the row.  The Monitor explains this with the phrase “the 2011 figure is similar to… 2009 and 2010” but doens’t actually say that it is an increase.  Now, there are two possible explanations: either the number of casualties has become static and the progress of the past 15 years has stalled, or the recent documented use of landmine has led to a regression and the number of casualties is slowly increasing.

First, let’s look at the possibility that the number of casualties has stabilized and the documented increases represent deviations around a new norm.  The Mine Ban Treaty’s success over its first dozen years is nothing short of incredible.  The fact that an accepted weapon has been given by nearly every army in the world is astounding, but if progress has stalled, surely that is an important story.  The remaining holdouts to the Mine Ban Treaty, including the United States, Pakistan and China, and the countries who have not met their demining obligations within the original ten-year period are responsible for new landmine casualties.  As states continue to delay on their mine clearance responsibilities and States not Party remain outside of the Treaty regime, further positive progress for the Mine Ban Treaty is not possible and so the story needs to be that the incredible progress of the Mine Ban Treaty has stalled and action by states, like the United States, is required to restart the positive momentum.

Alternatively, the fact that the number of landmine victims has increased for two years running, along with documented new use by states like Israel, Libya and Syria (and suspected use by Sudan and Yemen), actually shows that the Mine Ban Treaty regime is weakening and we can continue to see the number of victims increase.  Let me offer the following in support of this: In 2009 there were 635 landmine casualties on the African continent and in 2010 there were 624, but in 2011, there were 1,009.  That’s a 60% increase and can’t be explained as in line with the previous years.  The new and renewed conflicts in Libya, Sudan and Somalia were responsible for most of that increase, but countries that have long been at peace like Angola, Senegal and Uganda also reported significant increases in the number of victims in 2011.  The new victims in these countries are the result of failures of those states to clear their mines (especially Uganda and Senegal).

Whichever is true, the number of landmine victims is increasing or the number of victims has been stable for the last three years, neither is particularly positive.  Either the great progress of the Mine Ban Treaty has stalled or worse, it has regressed.  I hope it is the former and fear it is the latter.

Michael P. Moore

December 8, 2012


Items of Interest from the 2012 Landmine Monitor

The Landmine Monitor, published annually by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, is the verification mechanism for the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty.  This year’s Monitor was published this week in advance of the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and has several items of interest related to landmines in Africa.

The good news reiterated the fact all of Sub-Saharan Africa is now under the Mine Ban Treaty regime after the accession to the Treaty by Somalia and South Sudan.  The bad news is that the number of people killed or injured by landmines increased in Libya, Sudan and South Sudan in 2011.  There’s more of each in this year’s Monitor.  All quotes and references are to the 2012 Landmine Monitor, available here.

Allegations of Use of Landmines in Sudan

“In 2011, there were reports of new mine-laying in South Kordofan state in the Nuba Mountains inear the border with South Sudan as part of clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the northern branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army…(SPLM-N).  [United Nations] reports claimed that both the SAF and the SPLM-N laid antipersonnel mines in strategic areas of… the capital of South Kordofan state.

“[A] British journalist… photographed three crates containing a total of at least 100… Iranian-made copies of the Israeli Mark 4 antipersonnel mine… Locals warned the journalist about entering the hill surrounding [where the crates were found], saying the area had been mined by Sudan government forces.

The government of Sudan denied the accusation, blaming the SPLM-N rebels for using the allegations of mine use as a means of gaining leverage against the government.  There was no indication of whether or not the accusation of use by the SPLM-N was reviewed or refuted.

Clearing the Mines

In 2011, Nigeria declared that it had cleared all known anti-personnel landmines.  This is balanced by the news that Niger and Burundi, states that were reported to be cleared of anti-personnel mines, had discovered areas contaminated with mines.  In Niger, the mines are remnants from French colonial forces; in Burundi, suspected areas were reported despite previous declarations that Burundi had cleared all landmines.  In total, 17 countries in Africa have mine clearance obligations that need to be met.

The Monitor reports that the extent of contamination in the Republic of Congo is unclear, however, a recent report from Norwegian People’s Aid declared the Republic of Congo free of landmines.

Uganda was due to complete its mine clearance activities in August 2012 and as of publication of the Monitor, Uganda still had work to be done.

Chad and Zimbabwe have requested initial extensions to their 10-year mine clearance obligations, extensions during which the national mine action authorities were supposed to complete surveys to determine the extent of landmine contamination and develop plans for comprehensive clearance.  Neither country appears to have completed the surveys and so they are likely to require additional time beyond their estimates to complete any demining.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique have discovered additional suspected areas of landmine contamination, but continue to make progress towards becoming mine-free according to their extension requests.

Ethiopia, seemingly alone among mine-affected countries, believes it will be able to complete demining two years ahead of schedule, provided financial resources are available.

Victims and Victim Assistance

For the second year in a row, the number of reported landmine victims increased.  In 2009, a reported 3,956 people were killed or injured by landmined; in 2010, 4,191; in 2011, 4,286.  The Monitor treats the increase as a consistent pattern (basically, just a minor annual fluctuation), and may simply reflect better reporting.  I hope this is so.

Of the ten countries with the largest number of victims in 2011, 4 were in Africa and alone had 658 casualties, 15% of all casualties globally: South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.  In 2010, Libya reported only one landmine casualty; in 2011, Libya reported 184.  In 2010, the Sudans had 149 casualties; in 2011 there were 328 casualties.  These increases reflect the new reported use of mines in these countries and the continuing conflict and refugee flows.

As in previous years, children make up a large proportion, 42%, of the new casualties.  In Libya, children represented 62% of the casualties and in Sudan they represented 48%.

Planning for victim assistance in Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan took large strides forward as they developed and implemented national victim assistance plans in compliance with the Cartegena Action Plan.

Globally, in addition to the increased number of victims in 2011, the amount of international funding dedicated to victim assistance declined by almost 30% from 2010 and is the lowest amount since records have been kept.  Angola and Uganda have both closed facilities that provided services to landmine victims; support for these facilities was supposed to come from national sources, but that has not happened.  This despite the fact that Angola provides more money to its own mine action program than any other country does.  Angola has prioritized mine clearance over victim assistance.

Michael P. Moore

December 1, 2012