Flooding in Mozambique, not a repeat of 2000 – 2001Posted: January 27, 2013 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: demining, Floods, landmines, Mozambique 2 Comments
In 2000 and 2001, Mozambique suffered catastrophic floods that killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands along the Limpopo River valley. For a country that was (and still is) one of the least-developed in the world, the floods overwhelmed the capacity of the government to respond and many humanitarian organizations, with images of Mozambicans clinging to trees to escape the waters, rushed into action. This winter, Mozambique has seen similar floods with the waters of the Limpopo cresting at 9.8 meters, just shy of the record levels (10+ meters) seen in 2000. In addition to the Limpopo river, the Save and Zambezi Rivers are also flooded. The humanitarian response has not been as urgent, but the death tolls and displacement due to flooding have also been less than they were a dozen years ago. There is another change worth discussing since the 2000-2001 floods.
Mozambique was once one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. After three decades of conflict beginning in the 1960s and lasting until the signing of peace accords in 1992, every province of the country and 123 out of the country’s 128 districts was contaminated with landmines. A herculean effort by the government of Mozambique and the international community has cleared all but 23 districts of their landmines, including all of Gaza Province where the Limpopo River Basin lies (All Africa). Below are two maps, one which shows the river locations better and the other which shows the provinces better.
After the 2000 – 2001 floods, many known minefields were flooded and because some of the mines used in Mozambique were plastic, they were carried away by the floodwaters and deposited downstream, essentially creating entirely new minefields where none had existed before. Handicap International conducted a series of mine risk education seminars for persons displaced by the floods and the National Demining Institute re-surveyed the flood plains to determine and define the newly affected areas.
The earlier floods and the response to them necessarily delayed the demining process in Mozambique, but this year, with demining as advanced as it is in the country, the likelihood of further delays as a result of the new floods is unlikely. In the Save River basin, the provinces of Manica and Sofala (on the northern banks of the river) and Inhambane (on the southern bank) will need to be monitored and depending upon where the remaining minefields are in those provinces, new mine risk education and survey may be needed (Sofala, Manica and Inhambane are currently the provinces with the most area, 12 million square meters combined, affected by landmines). In Tete Province, near the headwaters of the Zambezi River, there almost 2 million square meters of mine-affected lands, but the flooding on the Zambezi has been closer to the coast where Zambezia Province (on the northern bank) has been cleared of landmines and Inhambane Province (the southern bank, see above) lie.
So, despite this year’s floods and the reminders of the floods of 2000 and 2001, the long term impact on the country, especially in terms of landmine contamination is likely to be minimal. This is another example of how demining can benefit a country in the long term, providing not just relief and development opportunities in the mine-affected areas, but preventing other areas from becoming mine affected.
January 27, 2013
Michael P. Moore
Not everything that goes boom is a landminePosted: January 11, 2013 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Africa, landmines, Republic of Congo, Uganda Leave a comment
A year ago, the Control Arms Foundation of India, a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), hosted a workshop for Indian journalists entitled, “Not Everything that Goes Boom is a Landmine.” The workshop was intended to brief journalists about the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and inform journalists about how those treaties define anti-personnel landmines and asked the journalists to be careful when they attributed an explosion to a landmine (Kangla Online). The general point to be made is that there are a *lot* of explosive remnants of war: anti-personnel landmines, anti-tank landmines, grenades, mortars, unexploded bombs, cluster munitions, rocket-propelled grenades, homemade or “improvised” explosive devices, etc., and only anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are subject to global bans or regulation. Also, the use of the term “landmine” is inflammatory, specifically because of the stigma against their use as a result of the Mine Ban Treaty so descriptions of their use can (and often are) used to sully the reputations of opponents.
I am reminded of this warning because of two recent items I have read. The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) was declared free of anti-personnel landmines by Norwegian Peoples Aid last year, but in the 2013 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects, the organization Demeter Deminage has requested about US $360,000 to conduct demining activities in Kimongo (UNMAS). In northern Uganda, the declaration of landmine-free status has been challenged by members of the local government who reported that Ugandan and Danish deminers are still active in Pader district. The presence of those deminers was taken to mean that landmines were still extant in the region (Acholi Times). In both declarations, Congo’s and Uganda’s, the context was very specific: the countries have been cleared of anti-personnel landmines as defined by the Mine Ban Treaty, but other explosive hazards, including anti-vehicle mines, are still present in the countries. So the fact that demining activities continue is a positive sign that while one threat, anti-personnel landmines, has been eliminated, work continues to address others.
In addition to these two specific items, I have noticed that reporting on explosive devices in Somalia has changed. I used to see frequent references to “landmines” and “remote-controlled landmines” but recently, any references to explosive items uses the term, “roadside bomb” or simply “explosive device.” When the type of explosive is specified, invariably it is a grenade and the description of the attack, e.g., items are “thrown,” are consistent with grenades. The reduction in the use of landmines could be the result of Al Shabaab’s loss of territory and shift in tactics (from ambushes to assassinations), but I think there is also a refinement in the descriptions being used by reporters in Somalia (who are some of the bravest people in the world, by the way). The explosive devices used by Al Shabaab fall more broadly under the term “improvised explosive device” rather than “landmines” and since they are (mostly) remote-controlled, such devices do not meet the “victim-activated” qualification of anti-personnel landmines under the Mine Ban Treaty. Are there anti-personnel landmines in Somalia? Yes, many; but they are mostly the remnants of earlier conflicts and not a widely used weapon in the current one.
Michael P. Moore
January 11, 2013
Landmines and Football: The 2013 African Cup of NationsPosted: January 10, 2013 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2013 Cup of Nations, Africa, CAF, Confederation of African Football, football, landmines, Zambia Leave a comment
First, let me say that there is absolutely no reason to suspect *real* landmines at the 2013 Cup of Nations tournament to be held in South Africa this month and next. Sure, there may be some metaphorical ones as Zambia seeks to defend its title and long-time favorites (and frequent disappointments) Cote d’Ivoire seeks to live up to its exalted reputation, but real ones? No. However, this is a blog about landmines in Africa and as we did with last year’s tournament, we will use a combination of a country’s history of mine action and gambling odds to decide which team we will be backing in the tournament.
Second point, African football has by far the best team nicknames. While this year’s tournament is missing the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon (a loss of footballing prowess and fantastic naming), there are other great team names. The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, defending champion Chipolopolo, Algeria’s Fennec Foxes and Ethiopia’s Walias all put the vaunted Selecao of Brazil to shame. Don’t forget Angola’s Palancas Negras, Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, Morocco’s Atlas Lions or the Black Stars of Ghana.
Finally (before we get to the actual team and country analyses), conflict on the continent has already affected the tournament before it even started. The 2010 tournament in Angola was marked by an attack on the Togo team bus by rebels seeking independence for the Cabinda enclave of Angola. Togolese star, Emmanuel Adebayor’s presence at this year’s tournament was threatened by his (very real) fear for his safety in the aftermath of the attack. The entire event was originally scheduled to be held in Libya, scheduling that took place back prior to Arab Spring and the overthrow of the Gaddhafi regime. Ongoing security concerns in Libya forced the African football federation to move the tournament to South Africa where the infrastructure from the 2010 World Cup was ready to be used for this tournament. Among the participants, two countries, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), are in the midst of active civil wars with rebels controlling significant portions of northern Mali and eastern Congo. The conflicts in these countries provide an unfortunate backstory that should not be forgotten during the course of the tournament.
Team / Country Capsules
(warning, may contain actual football-related content)
So, to be considered as the official “Landmines in Africa Team of the Tournament,” the country must be a party to the Mine Ban Treaty (sorry, Morocco) and be (or have been) a mine-affected state (excluding Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, South Africa, Togo and Ghana). That leaves us with ten teams: Angola, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zambia. These teams represent the highest (Cote d’Ivoire) and lowest (either Ethiopia or Niger depending upon whose site you are reading) rated teams in the tournaments as well as everything in between. We’ll assess them in the reverse order of their odds of winning the tournament, starting with Ethiopia.
The Ain’t-Gonna-Happens: Ethiopia (odd of winning per Ladbrokes: 150 to 1), Niger (80 to 1) and Congo (66 to 1)
Ethiopia has a long history of landmines and proud tradition for long-distance running, but has no hope of winning the Cup of Nations. Sorry. The landmine contamination dates back to World War II and Italy’s attempts to invade the country; landmines were also used during the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia in the 1970s and during the civil wars of the 1980s which led to the capture of the country by the current regime. Also, the 1998 war with Eritrea saw landmines and trench warfare and the border region remains mined. Ethiopia has taken steps towards mine clearance and has been an ardent supporter of victim assistance.
Niger has no anti-personnel landmine contamination, but the Sahelian state does have anti-tank mines from insurgencies along the Sahara. This is Niger’s second appearance (and second consecutive appearance) in the tournament and despite beating the holders, Zambia, in a tune-up game recently, Niger has little hope of lifting the Cup.
The Congo has one of the great African football clubs, Tout Puissant (TP) Mazembe, based in Lubumbashi in the southeastern part of the country, and Congo was the first sub-Saharan country to play in a World Cup final (in 1974 when it was Zaire). However, the national team is not well-regarded. The potential is probably there for a great football team, but the appalling lack of infrastructure, educational facilities and health systems means that such potential cannot be realized at this time. The landmine contamination in the country comes from any of several civil conflicts from the 1960s to the present and despite the continuing, heroic efforts of deminers, progress has been slow.
The Longshot: Angola (28 to 1)
Frequent readers will know that Angola features often in these pages and while Angola has of late benefitted from the presence of several former U-21 Portuguese players (who took advantage of Angolan parentage / grand-parentage to serve Angola as full nationals), the team has been getting better and better. Former Manchester United striker Manucho looks to lead Angola to a better conclusion than last year when the team fell at the group stages. However, they are the longest of longshots and an appearance in the quarter-finals would be a respectable showing. As a country, Angola is still trying to come to grips with its landmine contamination and while it is developing the systems to better document the extent of minefields, it is also still finding new ones. After a decade of work, probably another decade looms and tens of thousands of landmine survivors will continue to need services to fully participate in society.
The Darkhorses: Mali (12 to 1), Tunisia (11 to 1) and Algeria (11 to 1)
Here are our money bets. All three of Mali, Tunisia and Algeria offer excellent odds and a handsome payout for those brave enough to pick them (and lucky enough to be right).
Islamist rebels in northern Mali have been accused of using anti-personnel landmines (possibly looted from Gaddhafi’s plentiful stockpiles) to prevent the residents of the city of Gao from leaving. I haven’t seen independent verification of this accusation, but I have also not heard of any denials. Mali’s political mess would make them an excellent sentimental pick, offering a bit of respite from the endless negative news emanating from the country. They came in third place in last year’s tournament and a strong showing is not out of the question for the Eagles.
Tunisia was the “Landmines in Africa Team of the Tournament” last year in recognition of its role as the origin of the Arab Spring (and worth noting that the Arab Spring sentiment is still alive and well there) and the fact that Tunisia has completed demining with little outside assistance. We are very tempted to pick the Carthage Eagles again, as they return a strong team and have another year’s experience for some of the emerging players.
Algeria’s Fennec Foxes were a surprise package in the 2010 World Cup and always have the “next Zinedine Zidane” in the squad. The Maghreb nation has somewhat successfully resisted the pressures of the Arab Spring in neighboring Tunisia and Algeria’s crackdown on Islamists may have driven them to find their new home in northern Mali. So, politically they are a hard choice. But within the landmine movement, Algeria has been a significant and positive actor. Algeria served (with Croatia) as the co-chair for the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and presented the mid-term review of victim assistance progress under the Cartegena Action Plan at the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in December 2012, where Algeria was also elected a Vice President of the Meeting. Algeria has volunteered to lead the 2013 Meeting of States Parties and its candidacy is being weighed against that of Belgium (who has been active in universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty). Algeria has also been very active in clearing the landmines that litter its borders, a remnant of the war of independence with France when French forces erected a massive electrified fence and minefield around the country to prevent rebel movements and disrupt supply lines. With the recent acquisition of minefield maps from the French government, Algeria expects to make rapid progress in its demining obligations.
The Contenders: Zambia (9 to 1) and Nigeria (7 to 1)
Zambia are the current holders of the Cup after their emotional and epic run last year. In 1993, the majority of the Zambian national team were killed in a plane crash en route to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal. The crash took place shortly after the plane took off from Libreville, Gabon so when the final game of the 2012 tournament was scheduled to be in Libreville, it seemed as though fate would demand that the next generation of Zambian players would be the ones to raise the Cup and they were. Great story and one any good gambler should have seen coming. This year Zambia has struggled to maintain its form and has had several disappointing performances in the lead-up to the tournament. They do have the reigning BBC African Player of the Year in the squad and most of last year’s championship team returns so the expectation is that once the games begin in earnest, the real Chipolopolo will emerge.
Within the mine action community, Zambia has been an outstanding leader. Lusaka hosted a negotiating conference for the Convention of Cluster Munitions and one of the Meetings of States Parties to the Convention. Last year, Zambia was a co-chair of the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance and has declared itself to be mine-free. In addition, this past year, Zambia began a nationwide survey of all landmine survivors to ensure that they have access to the services they need for recovery and reintegration. As part of that survey, several survivors were flown from remote parts of the country to Lusaka for immediate treatment and were provided with prosthetic devices to assist their mobility.
Nigeria are the “nearly-men.” Every year they are among the favorites (they won the 1993 tournament facing a Zambia squad hastily formed in the aftermath of the plane crash mentioned above) and have many players based in Europe to call on. As the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, the pool of available players to draw on is large and there is also a robust domestic league. However, Nigeria usually comes up short, often disappointing those who have high expectations of them. Nigeria, like Zambia and Tunisia, has declared itself landmine free, but still has substantial contamination from other explosive remnants of war dating as far back as the Biafra War.
The Favorite: Cote d’Ivoire (7 to 4)
Last season, Cote d’Ivoire’s captain, Didier Drogba, practically willed Chelsea to winning the UEFA Champions League. In unlikely victories against Napoli, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Drogba again and again scored vital goals and led / pushed / forced Chelsea to winning games that on paper they should have lost. But games aren’t played on paper and Drogba was a man possessed. Has he got one last campaign in him? Does he have the same fire in his belly for the Cup of Nations? If he does, then this will be the year that Cote d’Ivoire finally lives up to its stellar reputation and fulfills its promise. If he doesn’t (and I think his big-dollar move to Chinese football would suggest that he is on the back end of his career, content to make money and not championships), then once again the Elephants will disappoint. As a nation, Cote d’Ivoire has just come through a very turbulent period politically, but with the successful overthrow of Laurent Gbagbo’s illegitimate regime and the establishment of Ouattara as the rightful president, there is hope that peace and calm will return. Forces loyal Gbagbo and Ouattara accused each other of laying landmines during the 2010 – 2011 conflict, but no evidence of contamination has been confirmed. There are other explosive remnants of war in the country, but the country is considered mine-free.
It comes down to Zambia versus Algeria. Both are active in the landmine movement, serving as vice presidents of the most recent Meeting of States Parties. Both have made great strides to clear their territories of landmines, but the edge goes to Zambia for its recent efforts in victim assistance. Yes, flying survivors to Lusaka for treatment is unsustainable, but the gesture was welcome. If only other countries were so willing to go above and beyond expectations to help landmine victims. Also, the Cup holders play an excellent team-based game with no reliance on any individual player, another way in which Zambia is an excellent example to all.
The full fixture list for the Cup of Nations is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20085024
A preview (with all teams discussed) is here: http://ghanamagazine.com/sports/the-2013-africa-cup-of-nations-preview/
Michael P. Moore
January 10, 2013
2013 Portfolio of Mine Action ProjectsPosted: January 7, 2013 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, landmines, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Victim Assistance, Western Sahara 1 Comment
Each year, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) publishes the Portfolio of Mine Action Projects, a compilation of mine action activities that require funding. The projects fall into several broad categories of mine action, e.g., mine clearing, stockpile destruction, etc., and are listed by countries. One of the interesting (or at least I think it’s interesting) aspects of the Portfolio is that it shows both the cost of the project (supported by a very basic budget) and the shortfall of funding that is needed to fully support the project. In light of the 2012 Landmine Monitor’s finding that funding for victim assistance (VA) projects are at their lowest level since tracking began and that VA funding declined 30% from 2010 to 2011, let’s take a closer look at the victim assistance projects in the 2013 Portfolio for Africa.
To date, donors have committed more than US $52 million for projects in the 2013 Portfolio. The majority of that funding, approximately US $33 million will go towards mine clearance projects and another US 18 million will support projects that fulfill multiple pillars of mine action. That’s the good news. The bad news is, these commitments represent only 14% of the US $361 million requested. Less than US $450,000, or 3%, of the US $12.6 million requested for victim assistance has been committed to date. Also, not all mine-affected countries submit projects to the Portfolio so the actual amount of funding needed for mine action and victim assistance in 2013 is probably much higher.
In Africa, only 7 countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Western Sahara, South Sudan and Sudan, submitted victim assistance projects to the 2013 Portfolio. The total value of these projects is US $5.5 million and to date, no funds have been committed in support of these projects. This is not good because, as UNMAS says in its own application for funding, landmine “survivors’ needs are not yet fully addressed and a significant number of them are not fully enjoying their human rights” (UNMAS). Part of the reason that survivor needs are not addressed is due to the enormous cost of victim assistance relative to other mine action projects. For example, the Rufaida Health Foundation of Sudan is requesting US $278,710 to provide just psycho-social support, no physical rehabilitation, surgical or socio-economic services, to 250 direct and 750 indirect beneficiaries; or $279 per beneficiary (UNMAS). To compare, JASMAR for Human Security of Sudan is proposing to provide mine risk education to 30,000 beneficiaries for $258,456, or less than $10 per beneficiary (UNMAS). Also, if successful, the mine risk education would hopefully eliminate the need for victim assistance thus avoiding that potential future cost. If you are a donor looking at the metrics, you would fund the mine risk education to get the greatest “value” for your contribution. Victim assistance is costly, the most expensive pillar of mine action on a per beneficiary level, but it is also absolutely necessary for survivors. The projects seeking support, by country, are as follows.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Four separate agencies, UNMAS and three non-governmental organizations, submitted VA projects for DRC to the Portfolio. UNMAS is seeking support for national level coordination of victim assistance including developing a registry of all landmine survivors and building the capacity of national service providers to meet the needs of survivors. The UNMAS project also provides support for all aspects of victim assistance, from emergency care to socio-economic reintegration (UNMAS). Eglise du Christ au Congo’s (ECC) project is similar to UNMAS’s in that it seeks to provide comprehensive care and covers many of the aspects of victim assistance, but it is limited geographically to service areas in the district of Tanganyika, Fizi-Baraka territory, District of Kabinda and the city of Kinshasa. ECC also identifies a goal of 120 survivors participating in income generation activities (UNMAS). Afrique pour la Lutte Antimines submitted a project to provide socio-economic support to survivors in Orientale province, around the city of Kisangani (UNMAS) and Synergie pour la Lutte Antimines en Equateur Sud proposed the same for Equateur province (UNMAS). In total the 2013 request for DRC is US $1.45 million.
Egypt has not signed or ratified the Mine Ban Treaty so many donor countries may be loath to support mine action projects there, but both of the victim assistance projects are worth a look. The Executive Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the North West Coast submitted a project to support local NGOs and associations to develop income generation projects for landmine survivors from the Bedouin communities around the WWII battlefield of El Alamein. The project includes setting up businesses, government purchasers of products produced by landmine survivors and conducting vocation training over a four-year period. If combined with demining in the region, the proposed agricultural and pastoral products (olives and wool) could provide sustainable incomes to landmine survivors living on cleared land (UNMAS). Without more context, I cannot comment on the specifics of the other project submitted to the 2013 Portfolio , but there is some interesting ideas in it. The second project involves the development of a complete Bedouin village and community on land that has been cleared of landmine in Alamein. 5,000 individuals would be re-settled into 1,800 housing units supported by government services and infrastructure to create a new urban area out of what was once a desert minefield. Sounds cool, but can they get the buy-in from the Bedouins? If so, this might be an interesting prototype for future development of cleared lands (UNMAS). The total amount requested for 2013 is US $1.1 million with another US $1.035 million sought for 2014.
The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare has submitted a US $500,000 project for comprehensive victim assistance services. Focusing on psycho-social and socio-economic reintegration services, the program will reach 60% of mine-affected communities and provide community-based reintegration services “in-line with UN policy on victim support and human rights declarations.” Eritrea is proposing a decentralized program with a centralized monitoring and data collection system (UNMAS).
UNICEF in Mali submitted a multiple pillar project, of which only a small (US $100,000 out of US $757,560) portion of which is for victim assistance. The VA activities consist of providing “access to emergency” services through referrals rather than direct provision of support and focuses on women and children, consistent with UNICEF’s mission (UNMAS).
Similar to the Egyptian proposals, the 2013 Portfolio submission for Western Sahara seeks to reclaim cleared land and use it for agricultural purposes. Working with the POLISARIO administration, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) will provide training on agricultural techniques, improve access to water for drinking and irrigation, and encourage the development of farmers’ cooperatives. This is a two-year project, budgeted at US $500,000, the majority of which will fund the purchase of agricultural equipment needed to raise crops in the desert (UNMAS).
In Sudan, UNMAS proposes to “support landmine survivors and persons with disabilities through the provision of socio-economic empowerment activities” through grants for small businesses and other income generation projects and business skills trainings. Combined with a broader proposal to provide mine risk education, the project will offer US $300,000 for socio-economic reintegration support and advocacy on behalf landmine survivors and improved data collection to understand the population of survivors. UNMAS will work through government ministries as well as the official mine action authority for South Sudan and local and international NGOs (UNMAS).
As a former employee of Landmine Survivors Network whose peer support methodology has been advanced to great success by Cameron Macauley and the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR, http://maic.jmu.edu/), it warns my heart to see that the Rufaida Health Foundation has submitted not one, but two projects to the 2013 Portfolio for landmine survivor peer support. The first project is a training of trainers program that will establish 20 peer supporters in mine-affected states of Sudan. These peer supporters will then help their fellow landmine survivors to reintegrate into society and be aware of their rights and the availability of rehabilitation services (UNMAS). The second project complements the training of trainers program and is the actual implementation of a peer recovery model in three states, Khartoum, Kassala and Blue Nile. In addition, Rufaida is proposing to provide medical and psychotherapy services through mental health professionals (UNMAS). The total cost of Rufaida Health Foundation’s two projects is US $320,000. Also in Sudan, UNMAS proposes a more comprehensive victim assistance program in Sudan, combining the psychosocial support with socio-economic interventions such as vocational training and seed funding for small businesses (UNMAS).
One last point, all of the victim assistance programs proposed in the 2013 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects focus on psycho-social support, income generation activities, data collection and / or advocacy and awareness of rights; there are no prosthetic services, surgical services or physical rehabilitation programs. Such services would be part of a country’s health care infrastructure, but they are also necessary for landmine survivors to be able to take advantage of the services being offered by the proposed projects.
Michael P. Moore
January 7, 2013
The Month in Mines, December 2012, by Landmines in AfricaPosted: January 4, 2013 Filed under: Month in Mines | Tags: 12MSP, Africa, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, HALO Trust, Jersey Shore, landmines, Mine Ban Treaty, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe Leave a comment
The global story in December, as it usually is this time of year, was the annual Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and the concurrent release of the 2012 Landmine Monitor report. These two events always spark a lot of discussion and present the opportunity for states and civil society to discuss issues related to mine action. The narrative for this year’s report and meeting in Geneva was one of continued progress towards the goal of a mine-free world. Six countries declared themselves to be free of landmines; casualty figures are a fraction of what they were a decade ago; only one country used landmines and the amount of money committed to mine action was the highest ever recorded. The good news was tempered by the fact that several countries saw in increase in the number of landmine victims (and in fact the total number of victims increased for the second year in a row) and funding for victim assistance, already a pittance in terms of mine action funding, fell by 30% from the previous year. During the meeting, Poland announced its accession to the Treaty bringing the total number of States Parties to 161 while the United States continued its practice under the Obama Administration of participating in the meetings as a non-state party (IRIN News; The Landmine Monitor; Agence France Presse; Tuoitre News).
In individual countries, there was the usual mix of positive and negative progress, running the full gamut from Angola to Zimbabwe. Many stories were tied to the Meeting of States Parties while others showed that events in Geneva often have little bearing on what happens elsewhere. Ongoing conflicts in Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to create new landmine victims, while long-standing problems in places like Zimbabwe remain a threat.
Angola applied for and received a five-year extension to complete its demining obligations from the Meeting of States Parties. This extension will provide enough time for Angola to determine the extent of landmine contamination in the country and prepare and submit a comprehensive extension request to complete the demining activities. Angola’s representatives at the Meeting in Geneva declared that “anti-personnel landmines continue to be violators of the basic political, civil, cultural and socio-economic development of” Angola (All Africa; All Africa).
Back in Angola, the national institute of demining continued to provide mine risk education to peoples living in mine-affected regions of the country (All Africa), a task made more urgent by the discovery and identification of nine, not-previously-known, minefields in Bié Province by the HALO Trust (All Africa). In Huambo Province, 1.3 million square meters of land were cleared of landmines and in Malanje Province, two land reserves were cleared to make room for two planned cities (All Africa; All Africa). In both provinces clearance was undertaken to “ensure the free movement of people and goods” as part of larger development programs by the country.
On the last day of the Meeting of States Parties, December 7, “a country representative unexpectedly announced [Gambia’s] mine-free status to the gathering” (Agence France Presse). Gambia had been suspected of landmine contamination after several incidents over the years in which loggers moving between Gambia and the neighboring Senegalese region of Casamance had been injured by landmines. Gambia’s announcement at the meeting of States Parties refuted this suspicion, saying that all such injuries had occurred within Casamance and not in Gambia itself. The announcement however closely followed an incident in which three Gambians were killed and another injured on Sunday, December 2 by a landmine when they were traveling in Casamance whilst logging (All Africa). So the announcement of mine-free status while welcome, merely overshadowed much worse news for Gambia and landmines.
Also related to the Casamance region, 44 villages were declared mine-free thanks to funding provided by the Italian government. More than 100 villages, long-since abandoned, still need to be cleared of mines and a new contractor has taken over from Handicap International to continue the work (All Africa).
Zimbabwe also applied for and received an extension to complete its Treaty-mandated demining obligations at the Meeting of States Parties (Touitre News). Like Angola, Zimbabwe was requesting additional time to determine the scope of the problem and submit a follow-up request once the needs were identified; unlike Angola, this was Zimbabwe’s third such request and was required because Zimbabwe has made very little progress over the last dozen years towards achieving mine-free status. Zimbabwe, like much of southern Africa, is in the midst of a terrible drought and being more dependent on subsistence agriculture than its neighboring states, the people of Zimbabwe are engaging in more and more risky behavior. Reports suggest that Zimbabwean ranchers are grazing cattle in mine-infested regions along the border with Mozambique resulting in dozens of cows being killed as they trigger landmines (All Africa).
Al Shabaab, while in definite decline in Somalia, continues to use landmines and improvised explosive devices to attack Somali and African Union targets. A landmine exploded under a car carrying the Somali Ministers of Justice, Defense and Interior and the Chief of Police. After the blast, Al Shabaab fighter opened fire on the car and its security detail, resulting in several injuries to the security detail’s members (Global Post). In its retreat from central Somalia, Al Shabaab has also strengthened its presence in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. In separate attacks on Puntland soldiers near Sugurre town, Al Shabaab fighters killed two soldiers in a firefight and 10 soldiers with a landmine (All Africa).
In the same week as the attack on Somali ministers, Somalia participated in the Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty as a full member, being the 160th country to ratify or accede to the Treaty. Somalia’s participation offered an opportunity to highlight the work being done by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the country. As the lead mine action operator in Somalia, UNMAS oversees demining and mine risk education while also funding “an emergency team of a dozen Somali medics who… provide emergency support [and] have treated 5,381 trauma victims, including more than 4,000 gunshot wounds, 50 UXO accident survivors, 965 shell injuries and 342 improvised explosive device (IED) victims since February 2010” (UNOPS).
Democratic Republic of Congo
The M23 rebels and fighting around Goma has received the lion’s share of headlines related to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that is not the only active conflict in the eastern part of DRC. Near the border with South Sudan (in the Orientale Province rather than the Kivus where Goma is located), “unrelated” fighting has driven almost 20,000 refugees into South Sudan, 4,000 in December. The rebels involved are unnamed, but Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has been active in this region as well as several rebel groups fighting against the government of the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, safe locations for refugee camps are at a premium in this part of South Sudan as there are known minefields in the area. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees will transfer the DRC refugees to safer locations once they are identified (All Africa).
With the announcement that the Mozambican Province of Gaza has been completely cleared of landmines, only 23 districts remain to be cleared of landmines in advance of the March 2014 deadline for demining. Mabalane, the most heavily mined district in Gaza Province, was cleared by the Belgian NGO APOPO which uses specially trained rats to find mines; in Mabalane those rats found 3,000 such mines along the rail-line connecting Mozambique and Zimbabwe which were cleared in advance of the deadline for clearance set by Mozambique’s National Demining Institute (All Africa). Mozambique believes it will make the 2014 deadline and has offered to host the 2014 review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty as a demonstration of its belief. Considering the fact that Mozambique was once considered one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, this would be an impressive achievement and hosting of review conference would give Mozambique ample opportunity to show off and be an example for others (Touitre News).
Uganda declared itself to be mine-free having completed its demining tasks four months after the August 1, 2012 deadline for doing so had passed. Recognizing that clearing anti-personnel landmines is only part of the necessary exercise, Uganda is making plans for clearing other explosive remnants of war over the next three years. Now the next phase begins in earnest where the country looks to rehabilitate and reintegrate the survivors of landmines and to that end, the government of Uganda has pledged to compensate all landmine survivors and provide the necessary services for their recovery. To date, 2,000 individuals have been identified, but the announcement is likely to locate additional survivors. The State Minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, Musa Ecweru announced that Uganda is drafting a Victim Assistance Intervention law between the Office of the Prime Minister and the gender ministry. Already the country has been providing prosthetic limbs to victims of the Lords Resistance Army in the northern district of Lamwo and in the near future a psycho-social counseling program will be established with Handicap International (All Africa).
The Danish Demining Group (DDG) has been active in refugee camps in South Sudan to ensure their safety from landmines and other explosive remnants of war. In Unity State, DDG provided mine risk education to 800 individuals, cleared a minefield on the grounds of a Catholic church and declared a suspected minefield to be free of landmines (Reuters AlertNet). The refugee camps served by DDG are home to Sudanese and South Sudanese people fleeing the conflicts around the border between the two Sudans. The threat to civilians and refugees from the conflict is very real, with reports from Human Rights Watch about bombs being dropped on or near refugee camps by the Sudanese Air Force (HRW). For refugees crossing the border, active minefields lurk and at least four people were killed by a landmine in the contested “Mile 14 territory” in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State (All Africa).
While Sudan has been labeled as an aggressor by Human Rights Watch, Khartoum has also accused South Sudan of attacks. A spokesman for the Sudan Armed Forces denied the bombings described by HRW and said South Sudan’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) “is now planting landmines trying to stop the tribesmen and animals to go for drinking water at the river Bahr al Arab.” Of course the SPLA denied the accusation, but the fact remains that minefields are present in the area described, whoever placed them there (All Africa).
While not affected by landmines, South Africa has a long legacy as a producer and exporter of landmines and some December stories show how far the country has come from its past. Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was born with a defect that led to the amputation of both legs below the knee, has promised to “be involved in landmine victims relief work in Africa. I would like to work like this in the coming years” when he retires from competition (The Peninsula). Also, UNMAS singled out South Africa’s Mechem, a quasi-governmental organization that engages in landmine clearance, for praise for its work in and around Goma in DRC in the wake of the M23 rebellion. Mechem is contracted by the United Nations to provide mine action support to the mission in the Congo while also providing mine risk education to local communities. Mechem is the only African-headquartered organization accredited by the United Nations for mine clearance (Defence Web).
Sir Bobby Charlton’s Charity, Find a Better Way, and researchers at Furness College in Cumbria announced the development of a prototype device that “can identify landmines via their unique acoustic signature, making detection far easier and saving a lot of time.” The next step will be to create a probe that can be used either by hand or by remote-controlled robot for field testing (Northwest Evening Mail).
Lastly, let me be among those wishing the cast and crew of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” a most-welcome goodbye. Thanks to their antics every Twitter and Google search for the term “landmine” returns many useless hits of misogyny and sexism and ensured that many Americans no longer associate landmines with conflict but with clubbing. Please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Michael P. Moore
January 4, 2013
2012 in reviewPosted: January 1, 2013 Filed under: Off-Topic Leave a comment
I appreciate that WordPress is able to do this for me automatically and save me a ton of time a research. See the link below for the 2012 annual report of blogging from LandminesinAfrica.org.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals
Click here to see the complete report.