The Month in Mines, January 2015

New years always dawn with promise and 2015 is no different.  Last year, the parties to the Mine Ban Treaty re-committed to clearing all known minefields by 2025 and efforts this year will go a long way to seeing if that commitment can be met.  We also look forward to Mozambique’s declaration that it is landmine-free this year.  On the other side of the ledger, conflicts in Sudan, Libya, South Sudan, Mali and Somalia hold the threat of new landmine use while countries like Angola, Zimbabwe and Chad face long odds of meeting their current deadlines for landmine clearance.

Sudan

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) which is fighting against the regime in Sudan has signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment and pledged to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel landmines.  The SPLM-N also calls on the government of Sudan and the international community to assist with the demining of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  In both statements (All Africa; Radio Dabanga), SPLM-N suggests new usage of anti-personnel mines by Sudan, which would be a violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Sudan claimed to have destroyed any stockpiled mines in 2008 (The Monitor), while SPLM-N claims to have captured mines from Sudanese forces in the last four years and claims Sudan laid mines in South Kordofan and Blue Nile in that same period.

In North Darfur, three people and their donkeys were killed when they struck a piece of unexploded ordnance.  The areas around East Jebel Marra where the incident occurred had been subject to fighting between Sudan Armed Forces and allied militia and rebel groups (Star Africa).

Somalia

The United States government is giving 20 mine-resistant vehicles, MRAPS, to Burundian and Ugandan forces serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) (Stars and Stripes).  Somalia routinely sees several explosive incidents each month, necessitating the use of mine-resistant vehicles by peacekeepers. Unfortunately, many civilians are also killed and injured by mines and explosive weapons and they will no benefit from the MRAPS.

Five people, a guard and four teachers from Kenya, were killed by a mine or IED targeting their vehicle in the central Somali city of Galkayo (All Africa).  In Kismayo in southern Somalia, two soldiers were killed and four civilians injured by a mine and the Juba region police arrested “many people” for the attack as part of a massive security sweep (Al Shahid).  In Mogadishu, two people were killed and three others injured by a landmine (All Africa).  Two children were killed and a third injured by a mine they were playing with near Bula-Burte town (Radio Bar-kulan).  Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a landmine attack in Mogadishu that killed a district commissioner and two bodyguards and injured two people near the scene (Anadolu Agency).

Mozambique

Once the most mined province in Mozambique, with 85 percent of the mines found in the country, the western province of Tete has been declared free of landmines.  Five million square meters and almost 75,000 landmines have been cleared, leaving just 5 of Mozambique’s 128 districts to be cleared of landmines before the whole country is mine-free (All Africa).

One of the biggest obstacles to clearing the mines in Mozambique has been simply knowing where they are.  Four major surveys of Mozambique’s minefields have been undertaken over the last 20 years with at least one of those surveys grossly over-estimating the landmine contamination and another grossly under-estimating it.  These surveys have led to years of wasted efforts on the part of humanitarian deminers who cleared land that didn’t need it while missing land that did.  Fortunately, accumulated knowledge and experience means that the extent of the problem is well-known now and accurate record-keeping means that deminers have documented the work completed and the work yet to be done.  So when Mozambique declares the last mine cleared later this year, we can believe the claim (Global Post).

Angola

The government of Japan donated US $180,000 to Angola for survey in Huila province and expansion of a health post in Luanda to support survivors (All Africa).  In 2014, some 5.3 million square meters of land in Cunene province were cleared of mines (All Africa).  The demining specialists in Cunene province recently completed a training program to increase their capacity (All Africa).

Landmines continue to plague Angola’s portion of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.  Despite the presence of these mines, wildlife from Botswana have migrated to Angola with no reported injuries to date (Star Africa).

Western Sahara

One person was killed and three others injured by a landmine near the mine-riddled berm placed by Morocco dividing Western Sahara as they were herding their livestock (All Africa).

Uganda

With funding from Canada, researchers at Christian Blind Mission will pilot the use of 3-D printing to develop sockets for the fitting of prosthetic limbs for amputees (All Africa).

Egypt

A boy was killed and three others injured by a landmine in the Sinai peninsula (Ahram).

Mali

Six Nigerien peacekeepers with the MINUSMA contingent were injured by a landmine in northern Mali, near Gao (Star Africa).  Seven Senegalese peacekeepers were injured by a mine near Kidal (Reuters). These casualties are a continuation of the wave of landmine casualties experienced by peacekeepers in Mali, over 100 in 2014 alone.  The UN has bought several mine-resistant vehicles for use by the peacekeepers, but delivery of those vehicles is too late for so many (Janes).

MINUSMA also found two landmines in Gao which were destroyed before they injured anyone (Studio Tamani). The Tuareg militia, MNLA, arrested four people who had a dozen landmines and were suspected of planning attacks (MNLA).

Zimbabwe

Rainy season in Zimbabwe has spurred the police to mount an awareness campaign to discourage people from tampering with suspicious items, including landmines which may get displaced during flooding (All Africa).

Libya

Fifteen tons of unexploded and abandoned ordnance was destroyed after clashes in the Hira area south of Tripoli.  The Libyan Demining Centre and the Military Engineering College partnered to dispose of the items (LANA).

Algeria

3,661 landmines were cleared in December 2014 bringing the total number cleared for the decade 2004 – 2014 to 758,607.  Most mines in Algeria date to the liberation war of the 1950s and 1960s, but additional mines were laid during the civil war in the early 1990s.  If the government can clear 4.9 linear kilometers of the remaining minefields along the country’s border, then Algeria should be able to meet its April 2017 clearance deadline (Defence Web).

South Sudan

In the recent conflict in South Sudan, anti-tank mines were reportedly laid and from the civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence, anti-personnel and anti-tank mine were used. In January, Unity State began the process of clearing the landmines from the most recent conflict to enable persons displaced by the conflict to return to their homes (Talk of Sudan).

Michael P. Moore

February 18, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

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