The Month in Mines, August 2014Posted: September 4, 2014
Do you take your vacation in August? I sure wish landmines would. But they don’t. They don’t ever take vacations or mercy.
In the breakaway region of Puntland, the former chief of police was killed when he drove over a landmine (All Africa). In Mogadishu a crew of women cleaning the streets as part of a city beautification project detonated a landmine that may or may not have been deliberately placed in the trash. Three women were killed and another eight were seriously injured (All Africa). In the Lower Shabelle region, an AMISOM vehicle struck a mine in the roadway with at least peacekeeper killed and several wounded (All Africa). A five year-old was killed and his two friends injured by a landmine that they thought was a toy (Radio Goobjoog). An International Committee of the Red Cross vehicle drove over a mine in Kismayo, but no casualties were reported (Radio GoobJoog). Also in Mogadishu a massive firefight broke out when AMISOM forces and local police and military tried to disarm a local militia leader who possessed a massive stockpile of weaponry including landmines. At least five people, some innocent bystanders, were killed in the operation (All Africa).
Tunisian soldiers tracking Islamist fighters in the Kasserine area along the Algerian border set off landmines in separate incidents. No casualties were reported from the first blast, but two soldiers were injured in the second. Additional landmines were discovered during the operations (All Africa; Middle East Eye). In response to the frequent landmine blasts and casualties suffered by Tunisian forces, the United States government provided a military aid package that included equipment to detect mines and improvised explosive devices (All Africal).
French and United Nations peacekeepers and relief workers in northern Mali have been subject to multiple landmine attacks as Islamist fighters, routed by the French forces, have turned to mining the roads around the cities of Kidal and Gao. Peace talks between the parties had been planned for August, but those talks continue without resolution to date (All Africa; Voice of America). Several peacekeepers were injured, three severely, by a mine in the roadway near Aguelhok (Global Post).
The fight between Salva Kiir’s government in South Sudan and rebels led by his former vice president Riek Machar continues. Neither side has adhered to a Cessation of Hostilities agreement and peace talks amount to farcical opportunities for the negotiators to collect per diems. This month, the rebels accused the government of placing anti-personnel landmines along routes used by refugees trying to flee to Sudan. Should this be true, South Sudan would be in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty. The government of South Sudan responded by saying that the rebels were restricting access to deliveries of humanitarian aid to persons displaced by the conflict. The government also reported that all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines had been destroyed. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), already viewed dubiously by Salva Kiir and his allies was mentioned by the rebels as a witness to the landmine usage to which a government spokesperson demanded that if UNMISS had evidence of landmine use, UNMISS should present it (All Africa; Radio Tamazuj). The whole situation is tragic because hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are threatened by violence and hunger whilst Salva Kiir and Riek Machar continue to fiddle as Rome burns around them.
The last two major rebel movements from Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW) and the Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Arko Minawi (SLM-MM), both named for their leaders, signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment pledging not to use anti-personnel landmines. With their signatures, all parties to the conflicts in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan should no longer employ anti-personnel landmines. Darfur is littered with explosive remnants of war, possibly including mines, and the rebel leaders called on civilians to report any mines they might find (All Africa).
To prepare for the construction of some 40 industrial plants in Bie Province with an investment value of US $25 million, Angolan deminers cleared over a thousand acres of land. The project will serve as the core of a larger development in the area (All Africa). In Cunene Province, demining work focuses on clearing the roads between Chiulo and Manquete to allow the free flow of goods and people (All Africa). In total, 70% of the Angolan countryside has been demined to date (All Africa).
Angolan deminers received training from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (All Africa) and are making plans for providing demining services to other countries, should it be requested (All Africa).
Rumors continue to fly about the presence of landmines in and around areas controlled by Boko Haram. The most recent report is from the town of Banki in Borno State near the border with Cameroon where residents have run out of food and no aid can be delivered due to the fear of mines in the roads (All Africa).
Development + Cooperation published an extensive article on the landmine issue in Western Sahara and the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities in the refugee camps in Algeria. The article notes that while 352,000 square meters of land has been cleared, some 7 million landmines remain along the berm built by the Moroccan army and 1,400 persons have been killed or injured by landmines. Of those, some 450 have undergone amputations and thanks to the prosthetic center run in the camps, amputees have their choice of olive, brown or grey for the color of their artificial leg.
In addition to the physically disabled, the article described the plight of persons with developmental disabilities: “’Years ago, when the Sahrawis were still nomadic, disabled people were tethered in tents all day long, for their entire lives. And if the tent happened to catch on fire, no one tried to save them,’ Castro [founder of the only school for persons with developmental disabilities located in a refugee camp] recalls. ‘Even relatively recently, intellectually disabled children spent their days tied in tents and were only let out at night on a leash because their families were ashamed of them’” (Development + Cooperation).
Also in August, a young man was killed by a landmine in Madalchiat, about 50 kilometers east of the coastal city of Boujdour (All Africa).
In addition to rampant poaching from Mozambique and Zambia, Zimbabwe’s national parks are rife with landmines. Many of the parks are along the Mozambican border where Rhodesian forces laid minefields in the 1970s and three specific parks, Victoria Falls National Park, Zambezi National Part and Gonarezhou National Park are affected. The presence of landmines reduces the parks’ viability as tourist destinations (News Day).
Two landmines probably left over from World War II were found by herders in Wajir County in northeastern Kenya. The herders informed security forces who quickly disposed of the mines. Residents reported many injuries from similar mines and called for the government to survey and clear the area (Citizen News).
After the African Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC, Senegal’s President Macky Sall made a side trip to visit Vermont. No, he wasn’t there to stock up on maple syrup (but I’m sure he could have picked up a bottle or two), instead he was seeking to expand the relationship between Senegal’s military and the Vermont National Guard. Since 2008, the Vermont National Guard has been providing military training and support to Senegal including landmine detection expertise. A spokesman for the Guard noted Senegal’s participation in peacekeeping missions across Africa but failed to note Senegal’s own landmine contamination (Burlington Free Press). That contamination, resulting from the decades-long independence fight in the Casamance region, was highlighted when a wedding party struck a mine, killing seven and injuring three. Despite ongoing peace talks over the conflict, neither the government nor the rebels have made a strong enough commitment to clear the mines that are present (Jollof News).
In advance of the expected publication of the State Department’s annual report, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” the Department has published a number of blog posts about its support for landmine clearance and conventional weapons destruction. Key takeaways from the series include the fact that the United States has supported landmine clearance in 31 African countries and helped Burundi, Nigeria and Uganda to become mine-free with the expectation that Mozambique will do so in 2015. Current funding supports landmine clearance in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe (All Africa). Individual posts focused on work in the Sahel, Angola, South Sudan, Somalia and the Mozambique – Zimbabwe border.
Michael P. Moore
September 4, 2014
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org