What We Learned from this Year’s Landmine MonitorPosted: December 25, 2017
Since 1999 the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has served as the monitoring mechanism for the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. In that time, the Monitor has documented over 100,000 casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) across dozens of countries. In 2016, the Monitor recorded 8,605 casualties from landmines and ERW, the highest number since the first edition of the Monitor and the most child casualties ever recorded. 2016 represents the second straight year of increased casualties after a decade and a half of decreases (The Monitor). The conflicts in Yemen, Ukraine, Libya and Syria continue to drive the increase in landmine casualties as government and rebel forces in those countries use mines as part of their war efforts. In Africa, the Boko Haram conflict has also led to increased casualties in the Lake Chad basin, along with the Islamist insurgency in Tunisia.
The Arab Spring revolution in Libya which led to the overthrow of the Gaddhafi regime also allowed for the proliferation of tens of thousands of landmines stockpiled by the regime. In the years since Gaddhafi’s death, the Islamic State gained and lost a foothold in several Libyan cities and Islamic State fighters made extensive use of mines and booby traps. In 2015, the Monitor recorded just over a thousand landmine casualties in Libya and in 2016, the Monitor recorded 1,630 casualties, or a fifth of the global total in 2016. Only Afghanistan and Yemen had more casualties than Libya in 2016.
Tunisia, the first country in the Arab Spring series of revolutions has experienced a long-standing Islamist insurgency in the Kasserine mountain region along the border with Algeria. The Islamists have used landmines and booby traps to protect their mountain hideouts killing and injuring both military patrols and the shepherds native to the range. In 2016, landmine casualties in Tunisia more than tripled from 2015, increasing from 20 to 65. Until 2017 when Algeria cleared the last of its minefields, Tunisia had been the only country in North Africa to declare itself landmine free, a feat reversed by the Kasserine rebels.
The Chibok girls, over 200 girls abducted from their school in northeastern Nigeria sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and brought global attention to the Boko Haram insurgency. Ensconced in the Sambisa Forest of Nigeria, Boko Haram has been pushed out by a concerted effort from the allied armies of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger which share a border in the Lake Chad basin. With the ouster of Boko Haram from their self-declared caliphate, the Islamic force has resorted to mining roads and farmlands and increasing the range of attacks into the lands of the countries aligned against Boko Haram. In 2015, the four countries had a combined 32 landmine casualties; in 2016 that figure tripled to 103 casualties, including 34 in Cameroon, a country which had previously been free of landmines.
In sum, 22 African countries had landmine and ERW casualties in 2016; of those, almost half (ten) saw a decrease in the number of victims including two countries, Burundi and Senegal, which had casualties in 2015, had none in 2016. Twelve countries saw an increase in casualties, including three, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau and Rwanda, which recorded casualties in 2016 after having none in 2015. Somaliland had the same number of casualties in 2016 as in 2015.
There is continuing good news. In 2016 there were 2,218 landmine and ERW casualties in Africa, an increase from 2015 when there were 1,711 casualties. If we discount the increase in Libya’s casualties (626 casualties) and the increase in casualties from Boko Haram and Tunisia, the trend lines for casualties are improving. Algeria (down to 7 from 36), Mali (down to 114 from 167), Somalia (22 from 54), South Sudan (43 from 76) and Sudan (23 from 130) all saw dramatic reductions in landmine casualties from 2015 to 2016.
Michael P. Moore
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
December 25, 2017
(You keep Christmas in your way, and I’ll keep it in mine.)