Sudan’s Article 5 Extension Request

At the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, three requests for additional time to complete demining will be reviewed and decided upon.  Already Sudan and Chad have submitted their extension requests and Mozambique is expected to submit its request in the near future.  As we have done in past years, Landmines in Africa will review the requests and offer our opinion.  We will start with Sudan’s and hope to offer our comments on Chad’s in the next couple of weeks.

 

Backgound

Sudan became a party to the Mine Ban Treaty on April 1, 2004 and under the Mine Ban Treaty’s Article 5 demining obligations, Sudan has until April 1, 2014 to clear all anti-personnel landmines from its territory.  Sudan will not be able to meet that deadline, so the Government of Sudan has submitted a formal extension request for an additional five years, until April 1, 2019 (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf), that will be reviewed and decided upon in Geneva at December’s Meeting of States Parties. Since becoming a State Party, Sudan has split into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, per the independence referendum and some of the investments that were made prior to the split in July 2011 and recorded as investments in Sudan were transferred to South Sudan.

In general the document is well-written and comprehensive.  Unlike other recent extension requests, this is not written as a two part request in which the first part seeks to determine the scope of the problem and serve as the basis for drafting a workplan that will be the second part and a separate extension request.  Thanks to multiple surveys of the country, the scope and scale of the problem in Sudan is well-understood and the country has the capacity to respond to the problem.  The request also commits to clearing all explosive remnants of war and not just anti-personnel landmines.  Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, only anti-personnel mines are required to be cleared, but Sudan is committing itself to clearing anti-tank mines and unexploded ordnance.  That means that all of Darfur is also covered by this extension request, an area with extensive UXO contamination but no known anti-personnel landmine contamination.

Like all extension requests, Sudan’s declares that the proposed workplan is contingent upon receiving the necessary funding to support the activities.  Sudan also adds security as a contingency noting that South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are facing active conflicts in the form of elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that are still active in Sudan after the division of the country.  However, in response to this insecurity, Sudan’s workplan focuses its efforts on other mine-affected regions with the plan being to clear those in the short term and then shift assets and demining teams to South Kordofan and Blue Nile when the security situation improves.

Sudan and its States

Sudan and its States

 

Analysis and Comments

I would anticipate that this extension request will be approved, but I would like to highlight a major failure of the request, a few smaller issues and a few serious problems that went unmentioned in the request.  First and foremost, there was no budget associated with the extension request.  The workplan is very detailed with GANTT charts showing the timelines for completion of tasks and the inputs required, but no estimate of the total cost.  The government of Sudan needs to put a price tag on the workplan before it can be reviewed and approved.

Second, the funding for Sudan’s mine clearance work has been declining from a high of US $90 million in 2008.  In 2008, Sudan contributed almost US $17 million but for 2013, the country has pledged less than a tenth of that amount, US $1.3 million.  The contributions from the international community have also declined by more than half in that period, but that decline is mostly due to the fact that funds have been split between Sudan and South Sudan when in 2008, everything went to Sudan.  Since the government of Sudan is proposing a five year extension, the government should make a five-year funding pledge that would last until April 1, 2019.  If Sudan could make such a pledge, that would show the country’s commitment to the donor community and, provided Sudan provides a budget for the workplan, inform the donor community of the shortfall they are being asked to make up.

Third, the extension request acknowledges the use of new anti-tank mines in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but does not report on their origin.  Anti-tank mines are not banned under the Mine Ban Treaty and so were not subject to the stockpile destruction of anti-personnel mines completed in 2008 so Sudan could be responsible for some of the new use of anti-tank mines in these states and the SPLM in South Sudan reported finding anti-personnel mines in SAF camps as recently as 2012.  So, as long as there are any mines – anti-personnel or anti-tank – in either Sudan or South Sudan, the possibility of new use exists so Sudan should re-confirm destruction of all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines and make efforts to destroy any anti-tank mines it still holds in its arsenal.

The last of the smaller issues I want to raise is the absence of any discussion of victim assistance or mine risk education in the extension request.  The extension request is supposed to be limited to mine clearance only, but I think recognizing that mine risk education activities must continue for as long as mine contamination exists.  Also, official records in Sudan show almost 2,000 landmine survivors living in Sudan and the government acknowledges that the true number is probably higher.  Those survivors require assistance for rehabilitation and integration and Sudan should include a discussion of its response to those needs in its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019, especially since the number of victims increased dramatically in 2011 and 2012 as a result of renewed conflict.  I also want to point out that the two national organizations, JASMAR and Friends of Peace and Development Organization (FPDO), that will certification as demining entities currently provide victim assistance and mine risk education services.  As these organizations shift activities to include demining, they should continue to work in victim assistance and mine risk education to avoid a loss of national capacity in those areas.

In addition to the issues raised above, I see three major issues with the extension request, based not upon what is in the request, but on where the request is silent.  First, the presence of landmines in and around the disputed territory of Abyei goes unmentioned.  Part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) called for a referendum by the residents of Abyei to determine whether Abyei would become part of Sudan or South Sudan.  That referendum has never taken place and Sudanese military have occupied the territory.  The continuing presence of landmines has prevented Abyei residents from returning to their homes.  Since Abyei is under the control and occupation of Sudan, Sudan has the responsibility for clearing any landmines in the territory.  Should the referendum take place and should the people of Abyei decide to join South Sudan, then Sudan would be absolved of this responsibility.  However, the likelihood of that happening is very slim because Abyei sits on top of some of the largest oil fields along the border between the two countries and Sudan’s leadership in Khartoum wants to maintain possession of those oil fields.  Hence the occupation and the cancellation of the CPA-mandated referendum.  The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the presence of landmines in Abyei and hold the government of Sudan accountable for their removal for as long as the future of the territory remains in dispute.

Second, the extension request identifies Technical Development Initiative (TDI) as the only international mine action operator active in Sudan.  The request does not mention the fact that several operators had been active in Sudan prior to the split into Sudan and South Sudan and many of the operators who were working in what became South Sudan are still there.  However, there was at least one international operator, Danish Church Aid, active in South Kordofan in 2011 whose work came under threat.  With their compound across the street from the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) pay office, Danish Church Aid’s demining equipment and compound was looted.  The presence of the SAF office either means that the looting was done by SAF personnel or with the awareness and at least tacit consent of SAF.  Danish Church Aid (DCA) withdrew from South Kordofan, one of the most heavily landmine-contaminated states in Sudan shortly afterwards, reducing mine clearance capacity.  RONCO, a for-profit demining company, was also working in Kassala and South Kordofan states as recently as January 2011 and have since withdrawn despite clearing more landmines than any of the other 17 operators active in Sudan in 2010 (The Monitor).  These international operators are being replaced with the national organizations JASMAR and FPDO which, while admirable on the part of JASMAR and FPDO to take on the responsibilities, will mean diminished mine clearance capacity as there was a two year gap between when RONCO and DCA left Sudan and JASMAR and FPDO will be able to begin operations. The Government of Sudan’s role in ensuring the safety and ability of mine action organizations to operate in Sudan is paramount and the fact that so many operators left the country in 2011 shows that the government could not provide the necessary assurances.  The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the security of mine action operators and hold the government accountable for their well-being as they conduct their activities.

Third, in South Kordofan (and probably in Blue Nile), the Sudanese armed forces have been fighting against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) rebellion.  In the process of trying to quell the rebellion, the SAF has engaged in indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites including villages and camps for internally displaced persons.  These bombing runs, by Soviet-era Antonov aircraft, will simply add to the number of UXO that Sudan will need to clear (Amnesty International, pdf).  So while Sudan recognizes that insecurity in South Kordofan will prevent mine and UXO clearance in the near term, Sudan is also not doing itself any favors in terms of limiting the amount of work it will need to do once security is established.

 

Recommendations for Sudan to Strengthen the Request:

  1. A budget for this request needs to be included before the request is formally reviewed.  The government of Sudan should at least be able to estimate the costs, especially considering the exceptional detail that was available in the plan.
  2. Sudan should make a commitment for its contribution to this workplan and budget.  By doing so, Sudan will demonstrate its support for the plan and inform the donor community of the amount required to finish the job.
  3. Sudan should provide information about the mine risk education and victim assistance work covered by its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019.  While not required under an extension request, I think this information is helpful to reviewers to show the comprehensiveness of planning.

 

Recommendations for the Meeting of States Parties:

  1. Responsibility for landmine clearance in the disputed territory of Abyei must be determined.  If Sudan continues to occupy the territory and prevent the CPA-mandated referendum from taking place, then Sudan must bear the burden of mine clearance and should include plans for that clearance in its extension request.  If the referendum moves forward, then responsibility for clearance will be determined by the people of Abyei; if they choose to stay with Sudan, then Sudan must account for clearance of the territory; if they choose to join South Sudan, then South Sudan will assume responsibility for clearance.
  2. The security of mine action operators must be ensured by the state.  The looting of the Danish Church Aid compound in South Kordofan is a worrying event and Sudan should provide security assurances to all demining organizations – national and international – active in the country.

 

Michael P. Moore

May 24, 2013

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