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

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