Landmines and the Crisis in South Sudan

This blog was inspired by a snippet of a news story in the Washington Post.  On June 5, 2011, the following appeared, buried at the bottom of a page:

From the Washington Post, June 5, 2011

From the Washington Post, June 5, 2011

A month later, South Sudan was the newest country in the world.  Since independence, reports of new landmine use have appeared in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity States in South Sudan (to be fair, new use has also been reported in Sudan).  Last month’s eruption of violence in Sudan, between groups loyal to South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and the ousted Vice President, Riek Machar, have killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.  I have been monitoring the news stories for reports of landmine use and have thankfully seen none to date.  However, the mass displacement we are currently seeing in South Sudan will result in some landmine casualties.

People who are displaced, either internally or as refugees, are among the highest risk populations for landmine injuries.  The most mine-affected states in South Sudan are Central Equatoria (where the capitol, Juba, is), Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Upper Nile.  All four states have seen violence in recent weeks, with the largest number of displaced persons in Jonglei state.  The movement of people is in both directions; for example, some people are fleeing violence in Jonglei while others are going there for refuge.  Some people are relying on United Nations bases in Bentiu (Unity State), Malakal (Upper Nile State), Bor (Jonglei State) and Juba (Central Equatoria State) for security.

More than 600,000 people have been displaced, either internally or as refugees in neighboring countries, and as the displaced move to seek safety and security, they are exposing themselves to the very immediate risks of landmines.  Last week, Radio Tamazuj reported that two people had been killed and 14 others had been wounded by a landmine blast in Manyo Country of Upper Nile State.  Those killed and wounded had been riding in a vehicle that “was serving people who were displaced to different areas of the county by insecurity when it was hit by the land mine.” The mine was not believed to be newly laid, but a remnant from earlier conflicts (Radio Tamazuj).   Some 10,000 people have been killed and while the vast majority of those casualties are the results of gunshots or violent attacks, I would expect the number killed by landmines to be greater than the two reported so far.  In 2012, the number of landmine victims in South Sudan dropped from more than 200 to just 22 (The Monitor), but this spate of extreme violence will likely be accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of casualties, yet another issue for the world’s newest state to grapple with as it tries to achieve a lasting peace.

Now that a cessation of hostilities agreement has been signed (Lesley on Africa), some of the displaced may be on the move to their home villages and towns and again exposing themselves to dangers.  The authorities need to ensure that minefield markers are current and that any persons in refugee or displacement camps are provided with mine-risk education so they are aware of the risks during travel.

Michael P. Moore

January 27, 2014

Advertisements

In Defense of the HALO Trust

Over the last two and half years, I have relayed dozens of stories about the good work the HALO (Hazardous Area, Life-Support Organization) Trust (www.halotrust.org) does in Africa.  HALO has cleared thousands of landmines from Angola, Mozambique and Somalia, launched a new project in Zimbabwe and returned huge swaths of land to their communities to allow people affected by war to re-start their lives.  Unfortunately, other outlets choose not to cover these stories which are the results of the efforts of thousands of men and women working around the world.  Instead, two stories have been making the rounds in the last week, one of which has had a positive resolution, the other not so much, not yet.  On January 21st, more than 60 of HALO’s employees, all Afghan nationals, were kidnapped by armed men near the city of Herat.  After a few hours, all of the deminers were released thanks to the efforts of Afghanistan’s police forces (Washington Post).  A couple of days before the kidnapping, stories appeared in the British papers the Telegraph and the Daily Mail describing the annual salary and benefits paid to HALO’s chief executive and co-founder, Guy Willoughby.  The stories had a breathless tone as they described the fact that HALO pays for Willoghby’s four children to attend private schools where the annual tuition costs are US $45,000 or more.  While I am not as scandalized by these stories as the Daily Mail or Telegraph would like me to be because I am admirer of HALO’s landmine clearance work, I do think the stories raise two important questions that are applicable to the entire not-for-profit community: 1) Is the HALO Trust’s chief executive (or any organization’s chief executive) overpaid? (No.); and 2) Did the HALO Trust’s board of directors do its job as a not-for-profit organization’s board? (Maybe.)

Photo from HALO Trust exhibit at US Senate.

Photo from HALO Trust exhibit at US Senate.

First, it’s important to remember that the Daily Mail is a celebrity-driven tabloid whose coverage of the story always includes references to the celebrities associated with HALO including Princess Diana, Prince Harry and Angelina Jolie.  Were it not for these celebrities and their ties to HALO (and the opportunity to include photos of them with the story), the Daily Mail would probably not have covered this story. The Telegraph is not innocent in pursuing the celebrity angle either, naming Prince Harry and Angelina Jolie in their story’s headline. Second, I’ve covered questions of waste and fraud at not-for-profit organizations elsewhere on this blog and I think these particular stories represent an incomplete understanding of how the not-for-profit industry operates and exploits that absence of understanding to sensationalize what is a rather mundane question of executive compensation.  Third, the HALO Trust clears landmines from countries like Afghanistan, Mozambique, Sudan, Sri Lanka; the importance of that work should never be lost in these organizational matters.  So, let’s get into the substance at hand.

Question 1: Is the HALO Trust’s chief executive overpaid?  Short answer: no.  Like most chief executives at not-for-profit organizations (or charities), Mr. Willoughby’s primary responsibility to the organization is to raise money for the work of the organization and by any measure, he’s been pretty successful.  In FY2013, HALO recorded income of more than US $43 million and employed between 5,000 and 8,000 people in more than a dozen countries around the world.  Founded in 1988, HALO is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Willoughby has said in the past that he believes a mine-free world is possible in the next ten to twenty-five years.  HALO has confirmed that it offers a “school fees scheme for senior staff with more than seven years’ service, and children from the age of 10 to 18 are eligible;” such benefits are considered taxable income and part of the employees’ salary (Third Sector).  HALO defended its decision to offer such a benefit to Willoughby and a couple of other staff as being in line with benefits packages offered by United Nations organizations and other large development organizations for whom payment of school fees for expatriate staff is common.

Guy Willoughby’s salary is set by the HALO Trust’s board of directors and Willoughby is accountable to the board. Therefore, the salary HALO pays Willoughby is based upon the value the board places upon his work, which is very high and based upon the results he has achieved.  Think about this way, if Willoughby were not successful at raising money and raising awareness, the opportunity for this story would not exist.  Before the HALO Trust was founded, the concept of humanitarian demining barely existed.  Willoughby has helped to shape the industry he is now a leader of.  His fundraising success, work that has paid for clearance of thousands of landmines and enabled hundreds of communities to rebuild after conflict, makes him valuable to the organization as a leader and spokesperson.  Willoughby’s ability to recruit celebrities, like Diana, Harry and Angelina, to help him spread the word about landmines is what makes him valuable to the organization.  Without Willoughby, there would be no HALO Trust and no story for the Telegraph or Daily Mail to cover. Which brings us to the board.

Question 2: Did the board of directors of the HALO Trust do its job?  Short answer: maybe.  The board of directors for a not-for-profit organization or charity is tasked with oversight of the organization on the public’s behalf.  As the co-founder of the HALO Trust, one of Willoughby’s responsibilities has been to recruit a board of directors to oversee the organization.  And as the chief executive, Willoughby is accountable to the board.  This is the problem.  Willoughby is accountable to people he personally recruited to serve on the board; many of the board members joined the board because they believed in what Willoughby had created and wanted to support it.  In situations like this, where a person starts and runs an organization, the board of that organization is often in the difficult situation of managing what it sees as the greatest asset of the organization: the founder.  In that situation, can the board objectively evaluate the chief executive’s performance?  Some boards can and some can’t.  It all depends on the people who serve on the board and how they view their role.  Or asked another way: is their role to support the founder’s vision or support the founder, him or herself?  It can be hard to separate the person from the vision and it is not a task I envy of anyone.

Also, it is important to ask what is the correct motivation for the chief executive.  In the for-profit world, chief executives are believed to be best motivated by financial compensation in the form of high salaries and stock options or benefits.  If a chief executive felt he or she would receive a better financial package elsewhere, the executive would be tempted to leave.  This assumes that chief executive’s skills are easily transportable and applicable to different companies. In the not-for-profit world, we believe (hope?) all employees are motivated by the mission of the organization and not by financial rewards.  Sure, we all want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, but the opportunity to support the organization’s mission alleviates the need for using money as the sole incentive.  This leads to the question: what would it take to lure Guy Willoughby away from the HALO Trust?  I don’t know, but if HALO’s board doesn’t, then it needs to find out.

Photo from HALO Trust exhibit at the US Senate.

Photo from HALO Trust exhibit at the US Senate.

Question 3: Does it matter? No.  The HALO Trust, as evidenced by the experience of its deminers in Afghanistan, works in some of the most difficult conditions doing work that is necessary and life-saving.  With thousands of men and women in the field clearing landmines to help rebuild countries torn apart by conflict, the real story about HALO should be about the lives it saves.  If only it could get as much coverage for that.  The not-for-profit community does far more good than it gets credit for and the sensationalization of stories about the industry is reckless and irresponsible.  Could we be better?  Yes, but there are safeguards in place – in the form of boards of directors, audits, financial reporting and internal controls – and they work far more often then the authors of stories like the Daily Mail’s would have you believe.

Michael P. Moore

January 23, 2014


Demining a Road to Peace: The Continuing Role of Mine Action in Peacebuilding in Senegal

Some time back, I reported on the role that mine action can play in peacebuilding processes with specific reference to Senegal and the conflict in the Casamance (Landmines in Africa). I also covered the May 2013 kidnapping of a dozen deminers  in Senegal (Landmines in Africa) and their subsequent release two and a half months later, noting there was “No word about the future of demining in the region” (Landmines in Africa).  Now, because of a number of recent events, is a very good time to discuss the future of demining in Senegal.

At the outset, it is important to state that demining is typically an activity that occurs after the cessation of hostilities.  Some mine action, especially mine risk education, will occur in the midst of active conflict, but for most of Africa, landmine clearance is taking place in areas where a peace treaty or at least a ceasefire is in place.  Afghanistan does provide an example of a country, very much in conflict, where landmine clearance is ongoing and tremendous strides have been made to reduce the threat of landmines to the population.  However, the Mine Ban Treaty, to which Senegal is a party, does not allow for delays in implementation due to conflict; parties to the Treaty are expected to meet their obligations as quickly as possible. Another important point that should be mentioned here is, relative to other African countries, the amount of land contaminated by landmines in Senegal is very small, a few square kilometers at most.

 

Background: The conflict, the peace process and the landmine problem

The conflict in Senegal is a low-intensity, separatist conflict.  The Casamance region, the southern portion of the country, bordering on Guinea-Bissau and separated from capitol, Dakar, and the majority of the country by The Gambia, was once a Portuguese colony that the French acquired prior to Senegal’s independence.  That separate history is the basis for the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance’s (MFDC) claim for independence from the rest of Senegal.  Historically, the Casamance has been the breadbasket of Senegal and more recently continues to receive significant tourism from Europe at the Club Med at Cap Skirring just north of the Guinea-Bissau border.  The conflict started in 1982 after agitations by members of Casamance’s religious community, labor unrest in the wake of structural adjustment reforms imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and, according to some sources, questionable refereeing decisions in a football match between teams from Ziguinchor, the provincial capitol of Casamance, and Dakar.  Members of the MFDC also point to a rumored promise from Senegal’s first president, Leopold Senghor, to grant independence to Casamance twenty years after Senegal achieved its own independence (Africa Portal; Wikipedia).

Senegal’s presidents, Leopold Senghor, Abdoulaye Wade and Macky Sall, have all promised to resolve the Casamance conflict.  Wade suggested he could do so within 100 days, but that pledge was made in 2000 when he was first elected and while he was able to sign a ceasefire in 2004 with the MFDC, the conflict intensified at the end of his term in 2011.  Macky Sall’s election in 2012 has sparked renewed peace efforts and Sall appears to be sincere in his desire to bring about an end to the three decades of conflict and engaged with the process.  At the same time, the rebels appear to be tired of conflict, especially after the intensified violence of 2011 and early 2012 (Guin Guin Bali; The Monitor).  Many of the original firebrands have passed away and there is an entire generation of the MFDC who has never known anything but the conflict.  The MFDC itself is no longer a single entity, but a loose assortment of factions, the two largest of which are controlled by Salif Sadio (Front Nord) and Cesar Badiate (Front Sud).  Over the years, the MFDC has been supported by The Gambia, whose current president Yahya Jammeh is a member of the Diola which is the dominant ethnicity in the Casamance, and Guinea-Bissau.  The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau have provided arms to the MFDC in exchange for cash, timber, cannabis and cashew, as well as safe havens within their borders.  Like all too many conflicts, the long duration of the conflict in the Casamance has created a “war economy” where the MFDC and some members of the Senegalese army have been able to exploit the conflict.  The war economy is seen by some observers as a key reason for the failure of peace negotiations as any peace would eliminate lucrative smuggling and extortion rackets that have enriched many of the local actors (Overseas Development Institute).

Despite the economic disincentives to peace, the majority of the Casamançais, including the membership of the MFDC, want the conflict to end.  Having been displaced from their homes and villages for decades, the old arguments of independence have worn thin for the Casamançais.  The time appears ripe for resolution.

In 2012, the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) helped the US Embassy in Dakar monitor the presidential election.  After Macky Sall’s peaceful election and inauguration, the US Embassy and CSO offered to support Sall’s efforts to bring an end to the Casamance conflict.  For the US peace would mean an expanded opportunity for Senegal to participate in peacekeeping missions and a reduced potential space for Islamist extremists and drug traffickers to operate.  As part of CSO’s engagement, a senior Casamance Advisor has been posted to the Embassy in Dakar to provide in-person support and demonstrate the US’s commitment to the peace.  In addition to providing a Casamance Advisor, the US has also dedicated $1million to helping to support  peace talks between the MFDC and the Senegalese government hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio; Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration efforts; and to landmine clearance organizations (US State Department Briefing Paper).

The peace talks themselves are occurring along two tracks.  The first track, hosted by Sant’Egidio, is between the Sadio faction of the MFDC and the government of Senegal.  Multiple rounds of talks have been held in Rome and the process continues to move forward.  The second track, between the Badiate faction of the MFDC and the government of Senegal, is hosted by the former mayor of Ziguinchor, Robert Sagna, and an organization based in Guinea-Bissau, Djemberem di Cumpu Combersa (DDCC).  A third faction of the MFDC, the Diatta faction, made peace with the government of Senegal in 2013 and called upon fellow MFDC members to lay down their arms.  While some of Diatta’s followers have done so, others have joined the Badiate faction for the time being.

In the 1990s and possibly earlier, both the Senegalese army and the MFDC used anti-personnel landmines with the majority of the mines laid by the Senegalese army.  There is no evidence to suggest new mine usage since Senegal joined the Treaty and the MFDC has stated that they are not currently using landmines, but retain the right to do in the future.  Senegal was one of the first members of the Mine Ban Treaty, but has not demonstrated a strong commitment to the Treaty’s obligations and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) questioned Senegal’s slow implementation of landmine clearance on several occasions.  To date, almost 15 years after the Treaty entered into force, Senegal still has not completely determined the extent of landmine contamination, but it is estimated at only 3.5 square kilometers, a little over one square mile.  Because of instability and security risks in the Casamance, mapping and marking of minefields did not begin until 2005 and landmine clearance did not begin until 2008 even though Senegal had committed to clearing all mines by 2009.  These self-imposed, almost negligent, delays forced Senegal to seek and receive a seven-year extension to its Treaty obligation to clear all landmines.  In 2012, a new mine action strategy was developed and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and Mechem joined Handicap International as active humanitarian demining organizations in Senegal.  With the arrival of NPA and Mechem, the speed of landmine clearance increased significantly and the capacity for clearance has increased further with the arrival of mine detection dogs and mechanical clearance devices. As of today, Senegal is required to clear all landmines by early 2016, a date that it could easily meet with the assets currently available.

 

Where are we today?

The Casamance peace talks, stalled in recent months, have recently restarted.  Sant’Egidio hosted negotiators from Sadio faction of the MFDC and the government of Senegal in Rome in November leading to an agenda for the negotiations.  Additional talks between the government and all the MFDC factions had been planned for December in Banjul, capitol of The Gambia, but those have been delayed until January at the earliest.  Because the MFDC is split into several factions with different structures and ideologies, reaching an agreement between the government of Senegal and the MFDC will likely involved reaching separate agreements with the factions.  Even though the Sadio faction is considered a hardline faction, willing to accept only independence, it is also smaller and more unified under its leader so an agreement with the Sadio faction may be easier than with the Badiate faction.  Badiate does not have nearly as strong a control over his members as Sadio does.

In terms of the conflict itself, there is a de facto ceasefire in place between the MFDC and the government, a ceasefire that began with Macky Sall’s election.  There has been some “banditry” but no confrontations between the sides, although there was the small matter of the kidnapping of Mechem’s deminers.

From the middle of 2012 until the kidnapping of the Mechem deminers in May 2013, tremendous progress had been made in landmine clearance in Senegal.  In less than a year, more land was cleared than had been cleared in the previous 13 years.  The Mechem team was clearing land in the “zone of occupation” near the Guinea-Bissau border and was working on minefields near two of the Badiate faction’s barracks.  The Badiate faction was worried that if those minefields were cleared, then the Senegalese army would have had a clear path to Badiate’s headquarters and so the deminers were kidnapped to halt the progress.  In addition to fears of an attack by the Senegalese army, the MFDC was alarmed at the presence of former Senegalese soldiers in the Mechem demining team and believed that the former soldiers were spies in active service to Dakar (they weren’t).  Despite this fear on the part of the MFDC, the deminers were well cared for during their captivity and the three female deminers were released after 25 days and the nine male deminers were released in July.  In response to the kidnapping, Senegal’s mine action authority suspended all demining activities in the Casamance, including activities in the areas controlled by the Sadio faction.

Just as the peace negotiations restarted in November, demining activities have also resumed.  At the end of November, Senegal’s mine action authority, the Centre National d’Action Antimines  au Sénégal (CNAMS) issued two new task dossiers for survey work in support of the rehabilitation of the R6 highway between Ziguinchor and Kolda.  The rehabilitation of the highway is one of several development initiatives in the Casamance supported by the US government and the World Bank.  One of the task dossiers called for survey of the stone quarries that will be the source of materials for the highway and the other dossier covered the highway and its shoulders.  Those dossiers provide work for two of the three international mine action operators, Handicap International (which is supported by the US State Department) and Mechem (which is supported by the European Union), but does not provide work for the third, Norwegian People’s Aid.  According to statements made by CNAMS, NPA is being held in “reserve” should additional clearance tasks be identified, but NPA is unaware of when any such tasks might be announced.  Also, the highway survey work being conducted by Handicap International is only survey work; if Handicap International were to find evidence of contamination, it would mark the suspected hazardous area, but have no responsibility for clearance under the current task dossier.  There is no timetable for clearance work along the highway.

Of the known minefields in Senegal, most are used to protect barracks and cash crop plantations.  There are some nuisance mines that have been scattered by the MFDC along paths and roadways, but these are few in number.  The minefields protecting Senegalese army barracks are mapped and the Senegalese army maintains these maps; the Senegalese government has no allowed HI, Mechem or NPA to map these minefields.  The minefields protecting MFDC barracks are not mapped.  Both the Senegalese army’s landmines and the MFDC’s landmines pose risks to internally displaced persons and refugees who are starting to return to their villages and their cashew and mango groves.  The displaced Casamançais are seeking to re-start their lives in their homes, but they are not aware of the locations of the mines because neither the Senegalese army nor the MFDC have marked the minefields.  The Senegalese army could very easily do so with the aid of their maps, but MFDC minefields would need to be identified through technical and non-technical survey.  It is very likely that returning Casamancais will be killed or injured by landmines if these minefields are not marked very soon, if not completely cleared.

Senegal has a responsibility and obligation to clear its landmines so as to protect those returning Casamançais.  Senegal signed the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons (IDPs) (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre) which requires states to provide for the safe return or relocation of IDPs.  The continuing threat of landmines in the villages of displaced persons would be a violation of the Kampala Convention.  As a signatory, Senegal is bound by the Convention which requires that displaced persons are provided with safe locations to live in, whether it is their former homes or new homes.  In addition Senegal is obligated under the Mine Ban Treaty to clear all of the landmines in its territory in the most expeditious manner possible. While Senegal officially has until 2016 to clear its landmines, any delay or wastage of resources would be unacceptable.  As such, the use of minefields by the Senegalese army for defensive purposes could be a violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

 

The Opportunity, Landmines as a Peacebuilding Tool

There is precedent for mine action as a peacebuilding tool.  The organization, Geneva Call, has used its Deed of Commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty as a means of engaging non-state actors like the MFDC and encouraging them to adhere to the humanitarian principles of the Mine Ban Treaty.  In post-conflict reconstruction, mine action projects have provided opportunities for former opponents from governments and rebel groups to cooperate to determine the extent of landmine contamination and clear the mines.  Niger presents a recent example of this, an example that has been help up for Mali, a neighbor to Senegal.  The US State Department is using mine action as a peacebuilding tool in Burma and is working with partners to bring together actors in Senegal through mine action.

Several people have indicated to me that the newest round of landmine survey and clearance, under the task dossiers issued by the CNAMS in November, should be viewed as a confidence building measure between the government of Senegal and the Badiate faction of the MFDC.  In the most recent round of negotiations between Senegal and the Badiate faction, Badiate said he would allow landmine survey of the R6 highway and to show its commitment to the negotiations, the government is limiting its current clearance activities to the highway.  However, there are probably other opportunities for mine action that could be used as confidence building activities.

First, the defensive minefields maintained by the Senegalese army around its barracks could be cleared; frankly, these minefields should have been cleared long ago.  Since these fields are under the control of the Senegalese army, the permission and acceptance of the Badiate faction should not be required to clear the mines.  And the clearance of the defensive minefields would demonstrate the confidence and the commitment the Senegalese army has to the peace process.  Second, the MFDC has expressed an interest in participating in the demining process.  Just as the mine action operators have hired some former Senegalese soldiers, the operators could also hire and train some former MFDC members, especially those from the Diatta faction which has laid down its arms. The mine action operators could also interview the MFDC factions as part of a non-technical survey process to determine the extent of landmine usage by the MFDC over the years of the conflict.  This kind of cooperation on mine action occurred between former rebels and the government of Niger.  Last, the government and the MFDC factions should agree on other areas for landmine survey and clearance.  For example, there are landmines in areas under the control of the Sadio faction on which agreement could be reached for clearance; an urgent need since most landmine casualties in recent years have occurred near the border with The Gambia (The Monitor).  It was the Badiate faction, not the Sadio faction, who kidnapped Mechem’s deminers, so landmine clearance in the northern sections of the Casamance need not have been suspended.

The alternative to creating more opportunities for mine action would be to release the existing assets in Senegal for use elsewhere.  In its statement at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL responded to Senegal’s statement by saying, “Senegal should make the best possible use of the landmine clearance methods available, and ensure that only confirmed hazardous areas are cleared, which does not always seem to be the case” (AP Mine Ban Convention).  This statement reflects the fact that the R6 highway and its shoulders are not believed to be contaminated with landmines and that while Mechem and Handicap International have been provided with task orders, Norwegian People’s Aid has not.  Therefore, CNAMS has requested survey of a mine-free area while failing to fully employ the landmine clearance assets at its disposal.  This is wasteful and the ICBL was right to call Senegal out for this and Norwegian People’s Aid has made it clear that NPA is not interested in task orders for survey or clearance of areas with no justification for mine action activities.  If Senegal cannot agree with the Badiate faction to allow for other areas to be surveyed, then Senegal should communicate this to the mine action operators so that they may re-deploy their assets to other countries instead of needlessly wasting limited donor funds and people’s time.  Having so many demining organizations in Senegal also gives the false impression that more is being done to clear the minefields than is truly happening; that false impression may encourage more displaced Casamançais to return to mine-infested villages and groves.

It is entirely reasonable and plausible for CNAMS to withhold permission for landmine clearance activities in areas where the safety of deminers cannot be guaranteed.  But Senegal should be honest with the mine action operators about this situation.  To hold NPA and its mine-detection dogs, “in reserve,” as Senegal stated in Geneva is irresponsible, but if Senegal is concerned about security (and again, this is a valid and reasonable concern given recent history), Senegal should be honest with NPA so that NPA may choose whether to wait “in reserve” or to try and mobilize elsewhere.  If the current security situation allows for very limited activities, the CNAMS should inform its partners of this fact; after all, confidence building with one’s opponents is important, but maintaining your friends’ trust is equally so.

In some conflicts, landmine victims represent only a small portion of the total number of casualties, but in the Casamance, landmines have killed or injured more than 800 people in 24 years (The Monitor) while the conflict overall has killed about 5,000 people over 30 years of conflict (Guin Guin Bali).  The high proportion of casualties from landmines reflects the low-intensity of the conflict (for comparison, the current conflict in South Sudan has killed more than 1,000 people in less than a month with no reported casualties from landmines); the continuing and immediate threat from landmines is demonstrated by the fact that landmines have caused more than 50 casualties between 2011 and 2012.

 

Recommendations

Mine action and landmine clearance can and should be part of the peace negotiations between the government of Senegal and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance.  Too many lives are threatened by the continuing presence of landmines in the Casamance, landmines laid by both sides in minefields that the Senegalese army and the MFDC continue to rely on for defensive purposes.  As negotiations proceed, landmine clearance tasks should be agreed upon and other mine action activities, especially mine risk education for returning displaced persons, allowed to continue.

  • Recommendation # 1: Include landmine clearance on the agenda for peace negotiations, starting with the planned talks in Banjul in January 2014 and future talks in Rome.
  • Recommendation # 2: A true cease-fire is necessary to provide the space for mine action organizations to work.  The cease-fire should also recognize the right of demining teams to operate according to their own guidelines for prioritization and needs.
  • Recommendation # 3: Senegal must admit the extent of the minefields laid by its soldiers and share the maps of the minefields with the CNAMS.  These minefields represent the majority of the landmine contamination in Senegal and need to be prioritized for clearance and that can only happen if the army is transparent about the minefields it has laid.
  • Recommendation # 4: If the MFDC finds the presence of former Senegalese soldiers in demining teams objectionable, the MFDC should clearly state that; if the MFDC finds the absence of their own current or former members in demining teams objectionable, the MFDC should clearly state that.  Mine action organizations should be free to hire the best persons for the tasks at hand, but they also need to be made aware of any possible security concerns prior to deploying those persons.
  • Recommendation # 5: Involve all parties to the conflict in landmine survey and clearance. After recent conflicts in Niger, the two sides to the conflicts cooperated to map and clear landmines used by the combatants.  This model could be replicated in the Casamance and demonstrate the commitment of all parties to a cease-fire and eventual peace agreement.
  • Recommendation # 6: The countries supporting mine action in Senegal need to cooperate to agree upon the short-term and long-term goals of their support. The United States is simultaneously supporting key negotiations between the government of Senegal and the MFDC and the demining task orders issued to Handicap International.  In this situation, the priority for the United States is to see a negotiated settlement to the conflict.  The European Union and the governments of Germany and Norway are supporting landmine clearance for the sake of landmine clearance.  Because the United States is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, it has not made the same commitments to clearance and cooperation that the other donors have made.

Several people were killed or injured by landmines in the Casamance in 2013, including children.  Unfortunately, more will suffer the same fate in 2014.  Senegal has the opportunity to eliminate this threat and the obligation to do so under the Mine Ban Treaty.  Landmine action can provide an avenue for collaboration and peacebuilding with the MFDC and to fail to attempt to do so is unacceptable.

Michael P. Moore

January 10, 2014

 


The Month in Mines, December 2013

As we move into a new year, one that will witness the five-year review conference for the Mine Ban Treaty in June in Mozambique, we should also pause and think about the significant events of the past year.  For all of the positive news from so much of the continent, the emerging conflict in South Sudan is a sad reminder that past violence is the best predictor of future violence.  Conflict in the Central African Republic has origins in recent conflicts there, as do conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (both the eastern regions of the country and Kinshasa), Egypt and Libya.  The wounds of a nation never really heal, the scars remain.  For some countries, the scars may fade and become less prominent; we are able to forgive our transgressors whilst never quite forgetting the pain they caused.  And as we mourn the loss of one of the continent’s greatest sons, we must not ignore the loss of any of the continent’s sons and daughters.  We may long remember the name Mandela, but if we are to honor his life, we must do so by honoring every life and mourning every passing.  We start this New Year together; let’s go to work.

Tunisia

An engineer in Tunisia’s army tried to defuse a landmine found on Mount Chaambi in the volatile Kasserine region near the Algerian border.  Throughout 2013, landmines, attributed to the banned Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia, have been found on Mount Chaambi, killing and wounding soldiers and civilians.  The mine exploded during the engineer’s attempts, killing him and wounding another soldier nearby (All Africa; Defence Web).

Somalia

Numerous explosions in Somalia killed and injured several people.  In southern Somalia’s El Waq town, two landmine explosions killed three people and injured seven others.  Among the casualties were soldiers and civilians (All Africa).  In Beledweyne, a Djiboutian soldier serving in the mine action team of the AMISOM peacekeeping force was killed and three others injured when a rocket-propelled grenade they were clearing detonated (Garowe Online).  In the city of Kismayo, 200 explosive devices, including landmines and grenades, were recovered during a security sweep (All Africa).  Later in the month, also in Kismayo, a woman was killed when Jubba Administration security forces opened fire.  The security forces were part of an AMISOM convoy that struck a landmine.  After the blast, from which no casualties were reported, the soldiers fired indiscriminately anticipating an ambush and killed the woman who simply happened to be in the area (Suna Times).  In the Daynille district of the Banadir region, a landmine explosion in the Bangala suburbs caused several casualties while a teashop in the same district was targeted by an explosive device, possibly a remote-controlled landmine (All Africa; All Africa).  At the end of the month, a convoy from the CARE International was targeted outside the Dagahaley area of the Dadaab refugee camp.  Four Kenyan police officers were providing security for the convoy when their vehicle struck a landmine, badly damaging the vehicle.  Reports differs, one said the officers were unhurt, another said all four sustained injuries, a third said the blast killed one officer and injured the other three.  The blast was blamed on Al Shabaab (All Africa; All Africa; Standard Media).

Western Sahara

The Foreign Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Mr. Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, called on the participants at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to force the government of Morocco to clear the anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines from the 3 meter high berm splitting the province of Western Sahara.  Calling it “the wall of shame,” Ould Salek pointed out that five people were killed in November by some of the 5 million landmines placed by the Moroccan army. Morocco is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty and is therefore not subject to the obligations of the Mine Ban Treaty.  The SADR is the recognized as the official government of Western Sahara by some 50 African and Latin American states (All Africa; All Africa).

Angola

As part of its annual reporting, Angola’s Ministry of Social Welfare reported that some 3.7 million Angolans received support from the Ministry, including 15,500 persons with disability who received mobility aids and all persons residing in areas cleared of landmines (All Africa).  Some 1,753 kilometers of road were cleared of almost 80,000 explosive devices, of which 1,600 were landmines.  Over 60,000 people benefited from mine risk education and the Ministry plans to “intensify” its efforts in 2014 (All Africa).  In Cunene province, 5.3 million square meters of land were cleared of landmines (All Africa) and another 67,000 square meters were cleared in Kwanza Sul province (All Africa).

Mozambique

Earlier this year, the National Resistance Movement (RENAMO), forsook its role as a political party and declared its return to the “bush” as a rebel force.  The “bush” is centered around Sofala province where RENAMO’s leader, and perennial presidential election loser, Alfonso Dhlakama is from and so when RENAMO started a campaign of kidnapping and banditry, it did so in Sofala province.  Handicap International (HI), the international demining and humanitarian organization, has been tasked with landmine clearance in Sofala province by the national mine action authority and in the course of their work, HI deminers have come under threat from RENAMO members.  Two HI employees were shot by RENAMO members whilst traveling on a main road and had to be taken to the capitol for treatment.  In response, HI withdrew its demining teams and focused efforts elsewhere.  Despite the tension and violence, HI was still able to clear 1.5 million square meters in Sofala province, but another 1.8 million square meters have yet to be cleared.  HI’s demining coordinator, Aderito Ismael, did say that while RENAMO may have some landmines at its disposal, he felt it was unlikely that the current troubles would lead to laying of new minefields (All Africa).

In Matunuine district, three young men tried to dismantle an old mortar shell in the false belief that they would be able to extract red mercury from the bomb.  Red mercury is a hoax, it does not exist; but still the fairy tale persists with lethal consequences.  Matunuine district is targeted for completion of demining in January 2014 which would also eliminate most unexploded ordnance, like mortar shells, and hopefully protect future lives (All Africa).

In positive news from Mozambique, the British government, through the Department for International Development (DfID), is supporting APOPO and its landmine-sniffing rats as part of a program to clear the remaining minefields in the country.  If RENAMO can be kept from interrupting the process, Mozambique will be able to declare itself mine-free later this year, after it has hosted the Third Review Conference in June (Daily Mirror).

Sudan

In part of Sudan’s Blue Nile State, a conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and the state rages.  But in another part of the state, in Ed Damazin, peace is taking hold between the former combatants.  Income generation projects and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs are creating communities that might be able resist a return to violence.  One of the projects features disabled veterans, working together on crutches and prosthetic limbs, to build a center that will provide assistance to landmine survivors (Malay Mail).  Just 30 kilometers to the south, the war is raging and the SPLA-N claimed to have killed the local commander of the local Sudanese Armed Forces unit and captured ammunition and equipment, including a landmine detector (All Africa).

South Sudan

In South Sudan, the world’s newest country has fallen into conflict.  A thousand people have been killed in less than a month and thousands have been displaced by what appears to be an eruption in the long-simmering rivalry between the president, Salva Kiir, and his vice president, Riek Machar.  During the war with Khartoum that ended in 2005, the two men were at times allies and at other times armed opponents.  The two men are of different ethnicities, Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer, but this is about power and money and control of sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, not ethnicity.  South Sudan has received significant support from the United States and the international community for landmine clearance and while there have been no specific reports of casualties from landmines during this outbreak of violence, displaced persons fleeing conflict are one of the most at-risk populations for landmine injuries (International Business Times).

Libya

Coordinated by the United Nations Mine Action Service, the Libyan Mine Action Centre, Handicap International, Mine Advisory Group and Danish Church Aid collected and destroyed 50 metric tonnes of explosives in Misrata, Libya.  While that represents only a portion of the unexploded ordnance and abandoned ordnance littering Libya, it is a lot of explosive material that cannot be trafficked to other conflicts or injure passersby or tempt little children.  It must have been a very loud boom (Tripoli Post).

The Rest of the World

Soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton has raised a lot of money to fund research into new methods of landmine detection through his charity, Find a Better Way.  In December, £1 million in grants were made to University College of London and Cranfield University to develop a portable ground penetrating radar system and to King’s College for an acoustic detection system. The projects have up to three years to present their results.  Personally, I was impressed to see an article about Find a Better Way that focused on the science and less on Sir Bobby (Engineering and Technology Magazine).

The Syrian civil war, now in its third year and having already claimed more than 100,000 lives, is also creating demand for prosthetic and rehabilitation services.  A clinic in Reyhanli, Turkey has provided more than 300 artificial limbs and has a waiting list of 600 and these are just the people who are at the refugee camps near the clinic.  The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates half a million Syrians have been injured in the conflict.  In a strange confluence of globalization, Syrian landmine victims, injured by mines produced in Russia or China, are receiving care in Turkey from Jordanian prosthetists who are modifying a prosthetic design from India with funding from the United Kingdom (National Public Radio).

In Geneva, representatives from over 100 countries met at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (13MSP).  During the meeting, extension requests from Chad, Mozambique, Niger and Sudan were approved, giving each country additional time to clear the known landmines from their territory.  The dates and location (June 23 – 27, 2014 in Maputo, Mozambique) of the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty were confirmed (AP Mine Ban Convention).

On December 5th, the last day of the 13MSP, US Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the strongest champions of banning landmines anywhere but especially in the United States, gave a keynote address during the Human Rights First 2013 Summit.  During his speech Senator Leahy discussed the failure of the US government to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the tragic use of torture by the intelligence agencies after September 11th.  Senator Leahy also called for the revisiting of the Mine Ban Treaty saying simply, “We ought to just sign it.”  He recounted the fact that the US is the largest support of humanitarian mine action, his own efforts to help landmine survivors through the Leahy War Victims Fund and the fact that the United States is the only member of NATO that is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.  He called on the government to “show the courage” and end the isolation of the United States (The Raw Story).

Michael P. Moore

January 6, 2014