The Month in Mines, March 2014Posted: April 8, 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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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)
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).
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).
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).
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).
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