The Month in Mines, June 2015

Demining progress continued in Zimbabwe, Algeria and Angola while obstacles to landmine clearance remain in Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal.  Islamist rebels in Tunisia, Libya and Somalia continue to wreak havoc with mines and victim-activated IEDs.  Victim assistance continues to be a missing link.  After four years of writing this blog, the story repeats itself.  Apologies for the delay in posting this edition of the Month in Mines; I’ll try to get the July edition out sooner.

Zimbabwe

The HALO Trust completed clearance of 180,000 square meters in Mukumbura district, removing and destroying over 6,000 anti-personnel landmines in the process. Supported by the Japanese government, among other donors, HALO Trust is tackling a landmine problem that has lingered since the liberation war ended more than 35 years ago (All Africa).

To help speed up the clearance in Zimbabwe, the National Mine Action Authority and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are planning to create a second demining squadron within the Engineering Corps of the army.  Recognizing the shortage of manpower for the task, the Zimbabwe Mine Action Center (ZIMAC) and its supporters are seeking an increase in the government’s allocation to landmine clearance which is currently US $500,000 per year.  “Millions of dollars” are required to clear Zimbabwe’s landmines according to the director of ZIMAC and even with significant increases in funding, Zimbabwe’s mines would not be cleared by the current deadline of 2018.  Defense attaches from southern Africa, the United States and China have observed the landmine clearance and Botswana’s attache has called upon other countries to contribute (All Africa; Bloomberg News ).

ZIMAC recognizes the needs of landmine survivors who “require social support in form of medical treatment, rehabilitation and compensation. Although the government has provided for this, more still needs to be done with regards to mine victims’ assistance.”  According to ZIMAC’s records ,there are over 2,000 landmine survivors in Zimbabwe and over 1,650 people have been killed by mines (News Day).

Nigeria

One and a half million Nigerians have been displaced by the Boko Haram conflict in the northwest region of the country.  According to the International Organization for Migration, landmines are one of the reasons people are unable to return to their homes (All Africa).  The Bring Back Our Girls movement has also highlighted the risks to returning people from landmines and called upon the government to clear areas reclaimed from Boko Haram of landmines to allow the safe return of residents (All Africa).  These warnings were confirmed when two soldiers and a policeman were killed by a landmine about 35 kilometers from Maiduguri where over half a million displaced persons have sought refuge (Channels Television).

Angola

Angola’s government issued several reports highlighting the progress in the country on mine action operations.  In the Mananje community, over 1,600 explosive remnants of war (ERW) including anti-personnel and anti-tank mines were cleared (All Africa).  In Cabinda Province, 132 square kilometers have been cleared of landmines (All Africa).  In Bie Province, almost 800,000 people have benefited from mine risk education (All Africa).  The central province of Huambo has been opened up for tourism after some 38.5 million square meters of land was cleared (All Africa) and across the country over 47,000 kilometers of roads have been cleared since demining activities began (All Africa).

At the same time, the Angolan government raised concerns about several landmine issues.  In Cuando Cubango province alone, there are 240 suspected minefields that still need to be cleared (All Africa).  In Cunene province, many suspected minefields are not adequately marked and at least one person was injured when a resident entered a minefield without knowing that it was there (All Africa).  And in Huila province, the national demining authority does not have maps of the minefields which would facilitate marking and clearing (All Africa).

Algeria

Almost 4,000 landmines dating from the French colonial period and the liberation war have been cleared by Algerian armed forces in May (All Africa).

Sudan

A ten-year old boy was killed by an ERW in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra while herding sheep (Radio Dabanga).  In the Nuba Mountains of southern Sudan, the Sudan Armed Forces have been accused of using cluster munitions against populated areas in its fight against the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) (All Africa).

Somalia

A convoy carrying Kenyan soldiers struck a landmine in Lamu country injuring three (All Africa).

Libya

Libyan army engineers defused landmines in the Ras al Helal forest that were planted by rebels (Arab Today).  The United Nations Mission in Libya trained 19 deminers to increase the capacity for humanitarian demining in the country (LANA News).

In the Sabri district of Benghazi, a famous handball player, Haitham al-Maliki, stepped on a mine and was killed (Al Wasat).  The landmine that killed al-Maliki is one of many threatening the lives of Libyans in Benghazi and preventing the safe return of internally displaced persons (All Africa).

South Sudan

In South Sudan’s Northern Bahr al Ghazal State, the Aweil West County Commissioner accused the rebels active in the region of placing landmines in Achana and Nyinbuoli areas (Radio Tamazuj).  This part of a long string of accusations and counter-accusations of landmine use in the current conflict in South Sudan.

Senegal

Women in the Casamance region of Senegal called upon the government and the rebels, the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), to set aside their differences and return to the negotiating table and conclude the decades-long conflict.  Also, the women called for immediate landmine clearance, calling the landmine problem an “emergency” and seeking to prevent any new mine laying (Senegal 360). The call for demining is important as all humanitarian landmine clearance activities in Senegal have been halted since May 2013 when a dozen deminers from the South African company Mechem were kidnapped by one of the MFDC factions; the deminers were released many weeks later. Earlier this year, demining was rumored to be resuming, but an April confrontation between the Senegalese army and the MFDC eliminated that opportunity. The national mine action authority, CNAMS, claims to be doing some limited survey work but its efforts are limited by the need to pursue peace and not violate any agreements with the MFDC.  A representative of the Senegalese Association of Mine Victims (ASVM) disputes CNAMS’s claims and calls for the government to prioritize demining to allow displaced persons to return to their homes and resume productive lives.  Even one of the kidnapped deminers now calls of the government to resume demining to provide him with employment (Enquete Plus).

Tunisia

A landmine exploded as a military vehicle passed it in the western Kasserine region where rebel Islamist groups have been using landmines to protect their bases from the government.  No injuries were reported (QNA).

Michael P. Moore

August 11, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

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