Four Areas of Concern for the Third Review Conference to Address

We are less than two months (55 days to be precise) from the start of the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo, Mozambique.  At the meeting, the humanitarian disarmament and landmine community will gather together, review the events of the last five years and set out a (hopefully) bold agenda for the next five years.  When the first meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty was held in Maputo in 1999, the thought of seeing a truly mine-free world might have seemed like a pipe dream.  Now, with the appropriate investment, that goal is maybe 15 years away, not 150 as Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano warned in 1999.  But, as we pack our bags for Maputo, I believe a few particular issues merit additional attention and resolution during the conference.  Starting on Monday, May 5th, I will post on each of the following items with a new post every Monday in May:

1. Old Mines versus New Mines

2. The Future of Survivor Assistance

3. Maintaining the Stigma

4. Responding to Violations

 

Michael P. Moore

April 29, 2014

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The Month in Mines, March 2014

One of the unsung heroes in the fight against landmines in Africa is the government of Japan.  Every year, the Japanese government makes a significant contribution to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action and 2014 is no different.  With contributions in March of US $2.5 million for South Sudan (UNMAS), US $1 million for Somalia (UNMAS), US $5.2 million for Libya (UNSMIL), and US $1 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo (UNMAS), Japan is one of the largest donors to mine action in Africa.  While most of the funding will support landmine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal capacity, the funding for the DRC includes a survivor assistance component.

 

Somalia

Three soldiers for the semi-autonomous region of Jubbaland were injured by a landmine in Kismayo.  The mine went off near the Vecchio football stadium (Radio Garowe). In Mogadishu, a convoy from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) detonated a landmine and in the aftermath, soldiers from the convoy fired indiscriminately.  An unknown number of AMISOM soldiers were injured by the mine and several civilians were injured by the AMISOM troops’ shooting (Anadolu Agency).  Also in Kismayo, Sierra Leonean soldiers serving with AMISOM were injured by a mine with one vehicle “seriously damaged.”  One civilian was killed in the blast and an unknown number of peacekeepers injured (All Africa).

 

Western Sahara

A ten-year old boy was injured by an anti-personnel landmine near the 2720-kilometer berm, built by Morocco to divide the Western Sahara territory.  The boy was evacuated by helicopter by a team from Action on Armed Violence (All Africa).

In Austria, the Volkshilfe Austria and Austrian Friendship Association with Sahrawi People launched a campaign, “Raise your hand for the Western Sahara” to increase awareness within Austria about Western Sahara and encourage Austria’s foreign ministry to support the Sahrawi people and their quest for self-determination.  One of the goals of the campaign is to solicit Austria’s support for the dismantling and demining of the berm (All Africa).

 

Angola

Nearly 2,000 kilometers of roads were cleared of landmines in Angola in 2013.  In the process, deminers found over 3,000 landmines and 100,000 pieced of explosive ordnance (All Africa). At local levels, 7,000 people in Bie Province received mine risk education and demining in Moxico province received a boost as the Japanese government provided a nearly US $600,000 grant to Mines Advisory group for landmine clearance (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Egypt

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reiterated its support for Egypt’s strategic role in the Middle East and announced the NATO will soon launch a project to test landmine detection equipment in the country’s western desert where mines remain from World War II (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

The reports are conflicting about the type of ordnance involved – one says a landmine, the other an 80 mm mortar bomb – but in the Sunningdale suburb of Harare, a welder was killed when he tried to open a piece of unexploded ordnance, apparently to obtain the hoax material, red mercury.  Two men, the ones who offered US $100 to the welder to open the object with a grinder, were injured in the blast (Zimbabwe Diaspora; All Africa).

Red mercury does not exist and people in Zimbabwe and elsewhere should not be dying to try to extract it from landmines and other unexploded ordnance (News Day).

Despite 30 years of clearance efforts, landmines continue to pollute Zimbabwe’s Mukumbura district and other border areas.  The problem is the lack of political will to carry out the work.  When the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) requested US $2 million for mine clearance this year, only US $500,000 was allocated.  Almost 1,600 people have been killed or maimed according to official records, but ZIMAC believes that casualties have been significantly under-reported.  The government of Zimbabwe uses international sanctions as an excuse and shield for its lack of activity, but those are merely excuses.  Clifford Sibanda, a parliamentarian, stated “There is little hope the government will be able to meet its [Mine Ban Treaty] obligations” by the January 2015 mine clearance deadline.  Currently, ZIMAC is being supported by the HALO Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid and the International Committee of the Red Cross, but the government of Zimbabwe must also provide support at a level commensurate with the problem (All Africa)

 

Mozambique

Maputo province declared free of landmines at event attended by Deputy Foreign Minister (and President of June’s Review Conference for the Mine Ban Treaty), Henrique Banze and US Ambassador Douglas Griffiths.  Maputo is the sixth of Mozambique’s ten provinces to be declared mine-free (All Africa). However, in Sofala, one of the remaining four provinces to be cleared, attacks on government forces and landmine clearance organizations by members of the National Resistance Movement (RENAMO) have led to suspension of demining activities and threaten Mozambique’s ability to meet its deadline of clearing all landmines by the end of the year.  If a ceasefire is not in place by May 1 and if that ceasefire does not hold, then the director of Mozambique’s National Demining Institute believes the deadline will be missed (Agence France Presse).

 

Libya

The Japanese government tripled its contribution for mine action in Libya from US $1.8 million in 2013 to US $5.2 million this year.  The funding will cover landmine and UXO clearance from three cities which witnessed heavy fighting and landmine use by both sides in the war that toppled the Gadhafi regime.  The Libyan Mine Action Centre has called for additional funding, saying that US $19.7 million is needed for mine action tasks in 2014, including US $8.1 million for a survey to just establish the scope of contamination.  Landmines and UXO in Libya date from several periods and conflicts including World War II, a war with Egypt in 1977, wars with Chad in 1980 and 1987 and the recent civil war (Defence Web).  As if to highlight the continuing need a landmine laid by the Gadhafi regime exploded killing a man outside the city of Zintan (Libya Herald) and two others were killed and third injured during landmine clearance in Benghazi (Turkish Press).

 

Mali

Four Chadian soldiers serving in Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping force were injured by a landmine in northeastern Mali.  One source suspected the mine had been laid recently since the road the Chadians was traveling on was used frequently and no other incidents had been reported in the previous two weeks (Mali Jet).

 

Sudan

The Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Sudan traveled to Kassala state to observe the mine risk education programs the government of Japan is funding. Carried out by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), mine risk education is seen as contributing to peace, stability and development (Sudan Vision).

 

African Union

Experts from the ICRC, African states, civil society and survivor associations met in Addis Ababa to “discuss and seek solutions to the challenges involved in providing assistance for people injured by landmines, cluster munitions or other explosive remnants of war.”  Representing the 15 African states with significant numbers of survivors of weapon-related injuries, the participants in the workshop sought to document the progress African countries have made in terms of legislation relation to survivor assistance and discuss the challenge of implementing survivor assistance programs.   In 1997, the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, approved a plan of action that called on member states to “address the plight of victims and survivors and take renewed cognizance of their problems with a view to meeting the health and social needs of all landmine survivors in Africa.”  The workshop in Addis Ababa sought to integrate “victim assistance into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, poverty reduction, development and employment.”  The outcome of the workshop will be a report that shall be released soon (All Africa; African Union).

Michael P. Moore

April 8, 2014


“Few things as powerful as the fear of a landmine,” An Interview with Douglas M. Griffiths, US Ambassador to Mozambique

In 1993 Douglas Griffiths was a Foreign Service Officer working on economic development issues in Mozambique.  In his travels across the country Griffiths felt Mozambicans “palpable” fear of landmines.  At the time Mozambique was just emerging from years of civil war and the international community was just beginning to address the landmine issue.  Now, twenty years later, Griffiths has returned to Mozambique as the US Ambassador and in the following interview with Landmines in Africa, Ambassador Griffiths reflects on the “arc of progress in Mozambique” and the vital role landmine clearance has played in transforming the country.

 

Ambassador Griffiths: Thanks for your support on this important issue. This work [landmine clearance] has fundamentally transformed this country.

Landmines in Africa: I understand you were a Foreign Service Officer in Mozambique previously.

Griffiths: Correct.

LinA: And when was that?

Griffiths: I was here in 1993.

LinA: So you were there right as the peace process was going on.

Griffiths: Right in the midst of the peace process and I was the Economic-Commercial Officer so I did a lot of work on economic development issues. I was out in the field fairly often and I saw just how landmines constrained the normal activity of Mozambicans. And so coming back and seeing the amazing work of Mozambique and the international community in eliminating landmines in Mozambique and two weeks ago I participated in the event on declaring Maputo province mine-free.  It was very rewarding to come full circle.  Because when I was here, we were just talking about how we were going to engage and partner to confront the threat of landmines. And now, 20 years later I’m participating in the culmination of all that great work.

LinA: In 1999 Maputo hosted the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and then-Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano estimated that it would take 160 years to clear all of the mines in Mozambique.  How much does it mean to you and to the United States to be able to cut that to a tenth of that time?

Griffiths: I think this is a remarkable testimony to the power of international cooperation and coordination.  Because it’s the work of the government of Mozambique, a lot of donors, a lot of non-governmental organizations and extraordinarily courageous deminers who have dedicated their lives to this.  It’s given Mozambicans access to their farms and their markets in a way that they never did.  They’re not fearful of their children playing in the yard.  And that fear, I think there are few things as powerful as the fear of a landmine.  It was palpable when I was in Mozambique last time and now you see people at ease in their fields and letting their kids go to school and poor workers having to check transmission lines and things like that.

LinA: And how does that cooperation reflect US priorities for Mozambique?

Griffiths: Our top priorities here are creating a more prosperous, democratic Mozambique.  We are investing about US $500 million a year in the Mozambican people.  A significant amount of that money goes to health.  Because we believe that a healthy population is key to a prosperous, inclusive Mozambique where people can participate fully in economic life.  Obviously landmine clearing is a key ingredient of that, ensuring people aren’t losing their lives and limbs to landmines and that they are able to take full control of all the resources the country has to offer.

LinA: In the hope that Mozambique will be able to declare itself mine-free late this year, or maybe early next year, how will the US continue to support other parts of mine action, specifically survivor assistance and the establishment of an ongoing explosive ordnance disposal unit for all of the other unexploded remnants of war?

Griffiths: We’ve invested US $50 million in Mozambique for demining, including $3 million this year.  And we do hope that we will be able to declare Mozambique mine-free.  Our support to all of Mozambique’s socio-economic development includes victims of landmines, especially our very substantial support to the Mozambican health sector.  We will continue, I think you are familiar with the success in strengthening the capacity of Mozambicans to further the work. Through AFRICOM, the US Africa Command’s humanitarian mine action program, we trained a cadre of Mozambican police, civilian deminers capable of clearing any new landmines or unexploded ordnance they discover.  It’s one of our top priorities because it’s the sustainability that is the key of all of our engagement in Mozambique.

We used to work directly with the military here, with the same program.  Their military engineers are now self-sufficient in training new technicians.  That is exactly what we hoped to do and so now we are supporting more the civilian side, the Institute for Demining. I think our work the FADM, the armed forces, shows that self-sufficiency in training works and it builds the capacity that demining will continue.  That transition from our active demining to the Mozambicans taking responsibility is a very positive evolution.

LinA: Speaking of the National Institute of Demining, the head of the INAD earlier this week called for a ceasefire between RENAMO and the government of Mozambique saying that if a ceasefire weren’t in place by May 1st, he feared that Mozambique would not be able to meet its deadline of clearing all of the landmines by the end of this year.  How is the Embassy supporting any initiatives to try and achieve a ceasefire?  What active steps are you taking?

Griffiths: We’ve been actively involved in calling for political solutions to end conflicts, it’s the only way forward.  Given the Mozambican history, Mozambicans know the legacy of war and are very much in favor of negotiated political solutions to political issues.  We’ve been actively working with the government, with RENAMO, with civil society to promote dialogue and resolution of the differences.

LinA: In 2007 a large ammunition depot detonated in Maputo with hundreds of casualties.  One of the steps that the Embassy supported was to try and secure other ammunition depots.  Is that work still ongoing?

Griffiths: First off, our thoughts are still with the victims and the families of that tragedy.  It was a very sad event.  We work in many countries around the world with these stockpiles of aged, excess, and at-risk munitions and improve the partner nations’ ability to safely manage their stockpiles.  We’ve offered stockpile management assistance to Mozambique and encouraged the government to accept these offers.

LinA: In June, Mozambique will host the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty. Part of the significance of that event is being able to show the distinct difference between what countries and parties saw in 1999 and what they are going to see today.  I’ve spoken with representatives from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement here in DC and they’ve confirmed they will be attending that meeting.  What role do you see the Embassy having in that Conference?

Griffiths: I think it’s a beautiful story of 20 years of the arc of progress in Mozambique and I think it is a significant, symbolic decision to host the next Conference here.  And as you pointed out, there should be an observer delegation from Washington in Maputo and we’ll obviously support them and be present as necessary at the meeting.

LinA: In 1999, while President Clinton did not attend [the First Meeting of States Parties], he sent a letter that was read by President Chissano at the opening ceremony.  Have you had any indication that President Obama or perhaps Secretary Kerry would be issuing a similar statement for the Conference?

Griffiths: I’m not at all privy to the preparations for the Conference.  I think you should direct that one to colleagues at PM [Bureau of Political-Military Affairs].

LinA: In terms of seeing the end of landmines in Mozambique, we’ve made significant investments in groups like the HALO Trust and I understand that they are also working in Zimbabwe and do you have any knowledge of the work that is going on there?

Griffiths: I don’t.  Again, probably PM would be a good resource for that.  You are right in terms of the expertise that has been developed and I’ve met, in my visits to various demining areas, Mozambican deminers who have gone on to work in other countries and it provides life skills and discipline to these folks that we hope will help them find further employment.  The end of active demining here isn’t a static process.  Those skills that have been developed will continue to enrich Mozambican society.

We’ll need to continue to work on this issue here and in other countries that remain heavily affected.

LinA: Thank you so much for your time.

 

Ambassador Griffiths was interviewed via phone by Michael P. Moore on April 3, 2014.