Landmines in Nigeria and Uganda, a Review for Rights International

I received the following question via Twitter, “Can you send me more info about landmines in Uganda and Nigeria where we work[?]” from Rights International, a British charity focusing on children.  According to the website, Rights International’s mission is:

“[To] support children and young people to realise their rights and achieve better outcomes in the field of health and education. Better education allows children and young people to make informed and healthier decisions.”

Rather than do the research and only send it to one organization, I thought I would post it for all to see in case others had the same question (if I’m going to be in the business of giving out free information, I may as well give it out to everybody…).

 

Nigeria

Nigeria declared itself mine-free a couple of years ago, meaning that all known anti-personnel landmines had been cleared.  There is continuing contamination from other explosive remnants of war (ERW), mostly dating back to the Biafra War of the 1960s (The Monitor).  Action on Armed Violence recently profiled the head of a demining firm that is working on ERW clearance in Nigeria.

More recent conflicts, in the Niger Delta and the northern states against Boko Haram, have not involved landmines.  Boko Haram uses home-made bombs (improvised explosive devices or IEDs in modern parlance), but not factory-made landmines and Boko Haram’s bombs are not victim-activated (Wikipedia).  In the Niger Delta, the rebels have used kidnappings or attacks on infrastructure and have not relied on explosive devices (Wikipedia).  Both groups are well-armed and well trained, but landmines are not part of their arsenals.

A few weeks ago, reports came out about a possible cell of Hezbollah operating in Nigeria and several Lebanese men were arrested and had arms, including landmines, confiscated.  So far there has been no evidence of a wider network, but the series of reports was remarkable as the first confirmed presence of landmines, albeit anti-tank and not anti-personnel landmines, in Nigeria in several years (BBC News).

 

Uganda

I’ve covered Uganda several times on this blog and would refer anyone to the following pieces:

Uganda: Neither Mine-Free of Mine-Safe in 2012,” August 2011

Profile of Uganda’s Anti-Mines Network – Rwenzori,” September 2011

Will Uganda meet its Article 5 De-mining Deadline of August 1, 2012?” February 2012

Uganda’s Violation of Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty,” August 2012

 

In brief, Uganda declared itself free of anti-personnel landmines late last year, several months after its Mine Ban Treaty-mandated deadline for clearance had passed.  The known minefields in Uganda were the result of four separate conflicts: the National Resistance Army used anti-vehicle mines during its rebellion against Milton Obote’s regime in the early 1980s; the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) used landmines to sow terror in northern Uganda in the 1990s and early 2000s; the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) used landmines similarly to the LRA in western Uganda; and the border between Uganda and what is now South Sudan (and was at the time Sudan) was mined to prevent the movement of rebel groups – the LRA fighting the Ugandan government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting the Sudanese government – from moving across the border to evade pursuit and capture.  Those border minefields were the last to be cleared (The Monitor).

Since the Ugandan government’s declaration of mine-free status in December 2012 (Daily Monitor), rumors have emerged that a few landmines might remain in Uganda.  In Gulu district, 21 landmines were reported still in the ground in February 2013.  These reports are unverified, but if true, the landmines would have been placed during the 1990s and 2000s by the Lord’s Resistance Army or the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF).  The UPDF would also be responsible for clearing any found mines and local community members have marked the locations of the suspected mines (Sunrise News).

In addition to the possible mines left over from the LRA conflict, the reemergence of the ADF might signal a renewed use of landmines in Uganda.  Supported by the government of Sudan in Khartoum, the ADF used landmines throughout western Uganda and in recent months appears to have been resurrected by one of its founders and is now training rebels in DRC, taking advantage of the chaos there.  Armed with landmines and heavy weapons, the ADF has almost 1,000 fighters ready to attack – that’s triple the number Joseph Kony had at last count and his forces are hundreds of miles away in the Central African Republic (All Africa).  Just this month, the ADF was reported to be recruiting and training children as young as ten to be soldiers to fight against the Ugandan government (The Africa Report) and if they are willing to use child soldiers, I would not doubt their willingness to use weapons like landmines if they are able to get ahold of them.

Michael P. Moore

August 26, 2013

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