Many apologies for this one being so late. Will try to do better for the rest of the year…
2016’s news that the number of landmine casualties had gone up severely is tempered only slightly by the fact that this news seems to have spurred some action in the international community. At a meeting of the African Union in December, the countries that had joined the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions re-committed themselves to the goal of a mine-free world by 2025 and setting up mechanisms to create cross-border cooperation to help achieve that end (African Union).
In the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, security forces fought militants aligned with the Islamic State for the first time in that region of the country. The firefight began when Puntland troops were stopped by landmines placed in the road. When the troops started to clear the mines, Islamic State fighters attacked. No casualties were reported from the mines (All Africa).
In Hirshabelle, one of Somalia’s key agricultural regions, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) collaborated to rehabilitate major roadways to enable access and transport. During the operation, the teams rebuilt a bridge near Jowhar town that had been destroyed by a landmine (UN Support Office in Somalia).
The Zimbabwe Mine Action Center (ZIMAC) hosted a national mine action strategic planning workshop to develop the 2017 workplan and set up a long-term plan for clearing all remaining landmines in the country. This plan will help to inform the expected extension request from Zimbabwe to the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).
An India company, JMC Projects India, is building a hundred kilometer road between Kenya and Ethiopia and has pledged to provide prosthetics to members of the Tigray Disabled Veterans Association. An estimate 100,000 people in Tigray Regional State have been disabled by landmines or the wars in Ethiopia (All Africa).
Last year Nigerian military engineers discovered multiple caches of cluster munitions in northeastern Adamawa state and a suicide attack in Maiduguri carried out by a female bomber is thought to have used similar munitions (The Daily Beast).
In December, a lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian army died when his vehicle struck a landmine buried in the road in Borno state; the mine was attributed to Boko Haram. The lieutenant colonel is the fourth officer killed by Boko Haram in just two months (Naij.com).
To combat Boko Haram and the landmines, IEDs and booby-traps left by them, the Nigerian army acquired a Slovak-made mine-sweeper to clear the roads in Borno state (Naij.com).
The spokesman for the Libyan National Army’s engineering division was killed by a landmine in the Banfouda area of Benghazi (Libya Herald). As the army liberates more of the city, civilians are attempting to return to their homes and many have been killed or wounded by landmines and booby traps left by the fleeing Islamic State forces. A Chadian national was injured by a mine on a farm just east of Benghazi (Al Wasat). Bobby traps have been found not only in the streets and fields but also in Benghazi’s main hospital where two mines exploded. Fortunately no one was seriously injured (Libya Herald). As IS forces expand their asymmetrical warfare to include suicide car bombs and the use of weaponized drones, a brigade commander was killed by a landmine (Libya Herald) and a special forces soldier was killed and two other soldiers injured by a mine (Arab Today).
In the western city of Sirte, recently liberated from the Islamic State, residents and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) have called for assistance to clear the landmines left by IS. UNHCR and Mercy Corps are conducting a rapid needs assessment and have identified landmine clearance as the more pressing need (UNHCR). In partial response, army engineering teams from Misrata, Zliten and Tripoli are clearing the mines in Sirte and as they clear neighborhoods, alerting the residents so they can return. The engineering teams are also asking residents not to return to areas before those areas have been declared clear of mines to avoid further casualties. (Libya Observer). This message has been reinforced by the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, in remarks aimed at fostering national reconciliation (Press TV).
Democratic Republic of Congo
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reported on its 2016 achievements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In addition to clearing almost 175,000 square meters of ground and destroying over 26,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW), 8,000 Congolese have been sensitized about the dangers of landmines and ERW. The sensitization campaign included a pop song by a local artist and is available on YouTube. The current pace of clearance would allow DRC to meet its Mine Ban Treaty requirement of clearance of all known minefields by January 1, 2021 (UNMAS).
A shepherd lost his left leg to a landmine on Mount Semmama in the Kasserine region. The right leg was also severely damaged and may also require amputation (Webdo). Two Tunisian soldiers were also injured in the Kasserine region in a separate incident (Direct Info).
In the northern Malanje province, Angola’s National Demining Institute handed over to the local government, a 2,500 square meter field that had been cleared of mines. The local authorities plan to use the land for an electrical substation (ANGOP).
In Huila province, fears of a previously undocumented minefield were heightened when a farmer was injured by an anti-tank mined as he was plowing a field for a newly launched agricultural program. This was the second such blast in the area in the last two years and the earlier explosion killed two people (ANGOP).
In its annual review of progress, the National Inter-ministerial Commission on Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH) reported 1.4 million square meters of land have been cleared of mines by Angolan military engineers. CNIDAH also announced its intention to secure another extension for its Article 5 clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty with the extension period lasting until 2025. CNIDAH calculates that US $275.2 million will be required to clear all known landmines and minefields (Prensa Latina).
Just a little a year after declaring the country free of anti-personnel landmines, Mozambique has declared itself free of cluster munitions. In 2015 Norwegian Peoples Aid, with support from UNDP, conducted a comprehensive survey of cluster munitions remnants and identified 4 provinces affected by cluster munitions. After the survey, NPA cleared 144 Rhodesia-made submunitions from multiple campaigns along the border leaving Mozambique cluster munition-free (Norwegian Peoples Aid).
In the North Darfur region, two boys were killed and a third injured by an ERW that the boys found and played with (Radio Dabanga).
According to the Sudanese Defense Minister, 14 civilians were killed or injured by landmines in Sudan in 2016. In response, almost 99 million square meters of land has been cleared of mines and other ERW (Sudan Vision).
Three French soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine. The vehicle was in the lead of a convoy traveling to Tessalit from Gao (Africa News).
In December, the Algerian National Police cleared over 81,000 landmines from the border with Morocco (DZ Breaking).
A man was injured by a landmine when he drove his Land Rover over it. The injuries were not thought to be life threatening, but there is concern that recent floods in Western Sahara may have moved some mines causing areas that had previously been safe to now be dangerous (Dales Vozalas Victimas).
Michael P. Moore
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
February 27, 2017
This month marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Angola. During that visit she donned protective gear and walked through a recently cleared minefield and met with landmine victims at the Red Cross’s prosthetic clinic. At this time, negotiations on the Mine Ban Treaty were ongoing and Diana’s visit to the minefield and her subsequent advocacy helped galvanize public opinion against anti-personnel landmines.
In February 1997, BBC1 aired a special on Diana’s trip which is available in three parts on YouTube:
Diana’s visit was coordinated by the British Red Cross and the minefield aspects were last minute additions to the program. I have been told that the HALO Trust team received a call from the trip organizers one afternoon asking if Diana could visit a minefield the next day. Recognizing the opportunity, the Trust made the necessary arrangements. Looking at the photos and the video, I am struck by how terrifying the experience must have been for Diana. The civil war in Angola had only ended a couple of years before (and would re-ignite soon enough) and despite wearing protective gear, you will notice that no one is walking with her in the recently cleared minefield and humanitarian demining was still in its infancy. Every step she took she could see the warning signs and the white stakes you see mark where a landmine had been laid and removed.
And yet, she managed a smile for the cameras.
Since Diana’s death in August 1997, other members of royalty have stepped forward. Jordan’s Prince Mired bin Raad serves as the special envoy for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and has traveled to multiple countries including China, the United States, Tonga and Peru to encourage accession to the Treaty. Princess Astrid of Belgium serves in a similar role, promoting the Mine Ban Treaty and advocating for the rights of landmine survivors. Prince Harry, Diana’s younger son, has also carried on her mantle serving as the patron of the HALO Trust’s 25th anniversary appeal and traveling to Mozambique and Angola to personally witness the mine clearance work. The presence and interest of royalty in landmines helps keep the focus on the subject and ensures that public attention and support continues.
The 20th anniversary of Diana’s visit affords an opportunity to review what has been done over the last two decades. The results are astonishing. The below picture shows the comparison of what the minefield looked like during Diana’s visit and what it is now: a city street with no signs of its past as a minefield.
In addition to the progress on landmine clearance in Angola, the victim assistance situation in Angola and Bosnia which was a large focus of Diana’s advocacy can also be reviewed.
When the movie, Diana, came out a couple of years ago, the Daily Mail tracked down the survivor in the below photo and gave an update on her life since meeting Diana. The 20th anniversary is another opportunity to check in on Sandra and the other survivors Diana met.
In August of 1997, Diana made her last formal trip, visiting landmine survivors in Bosnia with the founders of Landmine Survivors Network. In the years following that trip, an annual sitting volleyball tournament was held in Diana’s honor, emphasizing her role in bringing attention to the issues in Bosnia. If the anniversary of Diana’s visit leads to a 20-year review of the progress in Bosnia, that would be a positive.
Michael P. Moore
January 4, 2017
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Memo to the New Administration
During the campaign, Hillary Clinton made reference to the Ottawa Treaty and her support for joining the Treaty as well as the lingering effects of cluster munitions in Laos. Donald Trump was silent on these subjects and so while representatives of the Heritage Foundation and the Lexington Institute have suggested that a Trump Administration should reverse current US policies on these weapons, please allow me a few moments to make the case for continuation of those current policies.
First, the US military has moved on. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the United States has not used victim-activated, anti-personnel landmines because after-action reports showed that US laid mines injured more American soldiers than Iraqi soldiers. In the mid-1990s, the Clinton Administration launched a search for alternatives to anti-personnel landmines that would be detectable using basic metal detectors and self-deactivating. That effort, combined with the Bush Administration’s 2004 landmine policy, has encouraged the defense industry to develop new munitions that are fully compliant with the Ottawa Treaty and nearly ready for deployment (Defense News).
The US Army has developed the “Spider” munitions system that will be put into use by the US Army in 2018 with improvements to its control mechanisms available in five years. The Spider replaces anti-personnel mines as an area-denial and defense tool and fits into the Army’s emerging tactics of “terrain shaping” in which the military uses munitions to constrain the movement of opponents into areas more favorable for the US forces. As part of the modernization process, the US army is also re-furbishing the Volcano system and developing a second landmine alternative, the “Gator.” With these changes, the Army will possess a “common munition that can be delivered in a variety of methods to meet the ground commander’s intent and provide maximum flexibility as operational requirements evolve” (Defense News). In other words: the US military has no interest in landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, which are not compliant with the Ottawa Treaty.
As for cluster munitions, the US government has, since 2008, asserted their military utility, but also recognized the potential civilian harm from indiscriminate use and high failure rates. The Obama Administration re-affirmed the Bush Administration’s policy, which is available here. To achieve a failure rate of 1% or less, thereby meeting the standard set by Department of Defense in 2008, contractors have developed new cluster munitions that not only adhere to the DoD’s policy but are also compliant with the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The “alternative” warhead will leave “zero unexploded ordnance on the battlefield” according to its manufacturer, Lockheed. These new warheads may already be in use by the military, beating the landmine alternatives to the battlefield (National Interest). Again, long story short: the US military has new tools which are compliant with the Convention on Cluster Munitions and no longer needs non-compliant cluster munitions.
The United States has not joined the Ottawa Treaty which bans the use of anti-personnel landmines. The United States was the first country to call for a ban on these weapons in 1994 and was the first country to ban exports of these weapons. The US has committed to never use persistent landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle; to prohibit the sale or export of non-detectable, non-self-destructing mines; and to increase funding for humanitarian mine clearance. Those were the policies of the George W. Bush administration from February 2004 (State Department). The current policy, published by the Obama Administration in 2014, does not differ much from the Bush policy, and can be found on the State Department’s website here.
Ted Bromund, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation, called the Obama Administration “foolhardy” for restricting the United States use of landmines, leaving only the Korean Peninsula exempt from that restriction. Mr. Bromund complained that the Ottawa Treaty has not had much impact on the number of landmine casualties each year, stating that landmine casualties are linked to the number of wars and that the number of wars has gone up (Forbes). As Mr. Bromund said, “let’s go to the tape”:
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the number of wars in 2014 was 41 compared to 32 in 2006.
In that same time period, the number of casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) declined from over 6,500 to less than 3,700.
Yes, the number of conflicts increased from 41 in 2014 to 50 in 2015, but the four conflicts that contributed to substantial increase in landmine and ERW casualties – Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – all began in 2014 or earlier (Washington Post; BBC News). So Bromund’s assertion that landmine casualties are linked to conflicts is false.
Bromund also fails to note that victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the ones that the Landmine Monitor counts, are banned by the Ottawa Treaty. If you only count factory-made landmines, then the number of landmine casualties decreased from 2014 to 2015, which is a success of the Ottawa Treaty as fewer and fewer such mines are available for use. But the Ottawa Treaty bans all victim-activated anti-personnel landmines, factory-made and home-made. Victim-activated mines cannot discriminate between civilian and soldier and so however they are made, they violate the laws of war related to the principle of distinction.
Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute called the United States’s policy on cluster munitions, “’bat poop’ crazy,” saying the Obama Administration had bared the US’s “throat to the enemy’s knife” (National Interest). Mr. Goure acknowledges that Obama Administration has publicly stated the utility of cluster munitions, a continuation of the George W. Bush Administration’s policy. The Bush Administration’s policy also clearly stated that the US recognizes the need to minimize civilian casualties (Congressional Research Service), which is the part that Mr. Goure gets very wrong.
In 2008, the US government declared that it would not export cluster munitions which had a failure rate greater than 1% and the US has long had a policy not to export weapons to countries which the US fears will use them in contradiction to international humanitarian law. When the Obama Administration cancelled transfers of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, that decision reflected Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate use of cluster munitions civilian locations. The burden of evidence of Saudi Arabia’s bad behavior simply became overwhelming and the US had to cancel the shipments. Recently, Saudi Arabia admitted to using British-made cluster munitions, but claimed only to have used them on legitimate military targets (The Guardian).
Mr. Goure understands the concern about cluster munitions, saying “The argument against cluster munitions is that those that do not explode on contact with a target or the ground can lie around posing a threat to civilians. Even when they are designed to become inert after a period of time, some small number can fail to go dud.” Note that Mr. Goure does not say what that “small number” might be and seems to accept the risk to civilians posed by unexploded cluster munitions. And the problem is worse than “some small number;” cluster munitions fail at rates of 20 – 40% leaving thousands of submunitions which become de facto landmines. In Laos, Lebanon, Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Yemen, hundreds if not thousands of civilians are killed or injured every year by cluster munitions dropped by the US or its allies. That is unacceptable.
Lastly, Mr. Goure’s statement that the Obama Administration has disarmed the military is patently false. The US military has received ample support to develop new weapons that would replace indiscriminate landmines and cluster munitions with high failure rates (in fact, the National Interest, which published Mr. Goure’s opinion piece, also published the article on alternatives to the cluster munitions which he advocated for). The military has newer, better, more reliable weapons at its disposal, making the older munitions obsolete. Like Mr. Bromund’s and Mr. Goure’s arguments.
The anti-personnel landmine and cluster munitions trains left the station a long time ago, Ted and Dan. Stop trying to get the Trump Administration to acquire weapons the US military doesn’t want.
Michael P. Moore
December 28, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
The release of the annual Landmine Monitor report included the shocking fact that landmine casualties had increased substantially in 2015 from recent years. Whereas 10 people were killed or injured by landmines each day in 2014, 18 people were killed or injured daily in 2015. On the African continent, Libya had the most casualties, with more casualties than all other African countries put together. I am hopeful that 2015 was an anomaly.
Five Nigerian soldiers were injured by a landmine during a patrol near Maiduguri, capitol of Borno state. Army official believe Boko Haram members planted the mine the previous night in expectation of the patrol (News 24).
Near the Chibok area of Borno state, a local militia patrol vehicle struck a landmine killing two militia members and wounding two others. Boko Haram members followed up on the blast with gunfire (Naij).
Despite the violence in South Sudan that erupted when the President, Salva Kiir, ousted his Vice President, Riek Machar, no evidence has been found of new landmine use in the country according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). In this blog we have documented multiple accusations of new use, but cannot confirm those accusations.
The violence has not prevented UNMAS and its partners from continuing to map and clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). So far, 750 hazardous areas have been identified and UNMAS prioritizes clearance and assessment of schools and humanitarian access points. Much of the country remains to be surveyed – the violence has made Jonglei and Upper Nile states inaccessible.
UNMAS maintains the South Sudan Mine Action hotline (+211 92 000 1055) and encourages all South Sudanese to use the hotline to report suspicious items (All Africa).
The United Nations Security Council, in its re-authorization of the peacekeeping force in the disputed territory of Abyei, expressed concern about the continuing presence and threat from landmines and ERW which prevent the return of displaced persons (All Africa).
In Sudan’s South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern States, the Japanese NGO, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), is conducting mine risk education work. These states are some of the most mine-affected in the country and the Japanese ambassador to Sudan led a delegation that included the State Minister of Defense, the Ambassadors from Italy and Sweden, and the US Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires (All Africa).
Sudan’s Foreign Minister repeated the government’s denial of possession or use of cluster munitions, claiming that international NGOs are making accusations for fundraising purposes. The minister also claimed that there was peace in Darfur (Morocco World News).
Conflict Armament Research published a report on weapons smuggling and trade in North Africa and the Sahel. The report says that despite efforts by the United States and Europe to prevent the proliferation of small arms from Libya after Gaddhafi’s fall, many factions in the region possess anti-tank landmines looted from Libyan stockpiles (All Africa).
In Germany, an eleven year-old girl from the Libyan town of Sirte continues her recovery from a landmine blast that also killed most of her family. Yaqeen Al-Hajali endured 17 hours of surgery in Libya, a medical evacuation to Tunisia and then onward evacuation to Germany. No word on Yaqeen’s brother and sister who also survived the blast (Libya Observer).
In Sirte, two members of the engineering brigade were killed and two more injured by a landmine attributed to the Islamic State (Al Wasat).
In Benghazi’s Al-Gawarsha neighborhood, a soldier in Khalifa Haftar’s army was killed by a landmine as Haftar’s army closed in on an Islamic State stronghold near the European Hospital (Libya Observer). A second soldier was killed by another landmine in the same area a few days later (Al Wasat). A few days later, Haftar’s army announced the liberation of the Al-Gawarsha district. Once the army had captured the European Hospital, the Islamic State forces fled the neighborhood. During the final approaches, a field commander was killed by a mine (Libya Herald).
Five young men were killed when they discovered a suspected landmine on former battlefield dating to the period before the 1994 genocide. The men were grazing cattle and, upon discovery of the explosive, began to play with it causing the blast (New Times).
A 60 vehicle convoy of the French army struck a landmine claimed by a rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda. One soldier was killed and another wounded (The Local).
During a visit of the International Cooperation Minister, a new prosthetic center was opened in the town of Masra Matrouh. The center will support landmine survivors injured in the minefields of the World War II battlefield of El Alamein, which is nearby. In addition to the prosthetic center, the Minister delivered a variety of economic and social supports to survivors and their families including water access, small business kits, agricultural inputs and sewing machines. During the ceremonies, the British ambassador to Egypt also announced the handover of maps of the minefields laid by British and Allied forces during World War II (Because).
The interventions were critiqued by several in Egypt who hold the position that because Germany and Britain laid the landmines, they hold all of the responsibility for their clearance. According the head of the military engineering department, the British minefield maps handed over by the ambassador are “sketch maps” and most of the mines were buried randomly. The prosthetic center was also critiqued as many of the survivors suffered loss of vision and / or hearing and will not benefit from prosthetic limbs. Among the survivors, almost half (48%) suffered upper limb injuries which suggest that they might have been digging or farming at the time of their injury, not just walking through the mine-affected areas (Middle East Observer)
The International Cooperation Minister also met with the Swiss ambassador to Egypt to discuss support for landmine clearance (Daily News Egypt).
The Japanese ambassador to Angola confirmed his commitment to support landmine clearance projects in Angola during a visit to Japanese-funded development projects in Uige province (Relief Web).
Recent flooding in the Western Sahara region of Saguia El-Hamra have displaced many landmines laid by Moroccan forces. The displacement of mines by flooding can lead to additional injuries as areas that had previously been free of mines may be contaminated (Facebook).
A child was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Galkayo in the Puntland region (Puntland Mirror).
In central Somalia, police forces located and cleared several landmines from busy roadways. The mines were attributed to Al Shabaab and found on a road used for transport convoys (Goobjoog).
The US Embassy in Senegal reminded citizens of the presence of landmines in the Ziguinchor and Sedhiou areas of Senegal’s Casamance region. The notice said that landmine clearance efforts are reducing the threat, but caution must continue to be taken (Overseas Security Advisory Council).
Michael P. Moore
December 22, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Back in October, Washington, DC hosted the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). One of the major elements of the annual meeting is the exhibition by defense and security contractors: it is essentially the largest arms show in North America and features a range of products. I was there to meet with and learn about the state of the art in explosives detection and removal and will write about that in a few days. In the meantime, I would like to share with you some of what I saw.
Things I expected to see at the Arms Show:
Bullets and explosive ordnance.
Guns. Lots of guns. (notice the man on the left staring at me, cocking a pistol…)
Things I did not expect to see at the Arms Show:
A bag full of weed and money. They’re fake, but still…
Wells Fargo Bank. Predator drones: yes; predatory loans: no.
Re-enactors in period costume. Well, maybe dudes (and I did see Abraham Lincoln), but not a Southern Belle.
A six-foot tall mouse. Vermin: yes; children’s literary characters: no.
Things I didn’t expect to see, but really should have:
Blatant sexism and women looking very uncomfortable because of it.
Michael P. Moore
December 15, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
According to the Landmine Monitor, the de facto monitoring regime of the Mine Ban Treaty, casualties from landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) increased in by 75% in 2015; from 3,695 person killed and injured in 2014 to 6,461 in 2015. This dramatic increase reversed a decade of progress in which landmine casualties declined thanks to clearance programs, increased awareness and the stigma on use of new mines.
Make no mistake: This is really awful news. I had an inkling that landmine casualties were likely to increase in 2015 from compiling the monthly news round-ups for the blog, but I had no considered the possibility the increase was so severe.
In Africa the situation is even worse: there were 1,678 landmine and ERW casualties in 2015, an increase of 230% over the 731 casualties reported in 2014.
The “Silver Lining”
The increase in casualties was due to active conflicts in four countries: Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, where governments and rebel forces were actively using landmines and cluster munitions in 2015. [The Monitor also notes that Afghanistan, which again had the largest number of casualties in 2015, 1,310 persons killed and injured, is a major contributor to the 2015 casualty totals, but with 1,296 casualties in 2014, there was basically no increase in casualties in 2015]. If you take out the casualties from those four countries – Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – the number of landmine and ERW casualties reduced by about 10%; from 3,339 in 2014 to 3,016 in 2015.
In Africa, if you exclude the Libyan casualties, landmine and ERW casualties declined by 6%, from 721 in 2014 to 674 in 2015.
What this Means
The dramatic increase in landmine casualties can be directly tied to new use of landmines and cluster munitions in the ongoing wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. As long as combatants continue to use these weapons, we can expect to see new casualties and when there is new use of mines and cluster munitions we will see increases in casualties.
The armies and rebel groups using mines and cluster bombs in these conflicts are not party to the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions or Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. If they were, then they would be pledged to not use such weapons. All countries and combatants should disavow these and other inhumane weapons and parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions need to condemn any use. As we can see from recent developments in the defense industries, the stigma against cluster munition use has prompted several arms manufacturers to discontinue production of these weapons and only a very few countries still produce landmines. As long as these weapon remain in national stockpiles, they will be used.
Every Silver Lining has a Touch of Gray
Several countries in Africa witnessed an increase in landmine and ERW casualties in 2015. In Egypt, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan, these increases were due to ongoing conflicts (Egypt, Mali and Sudan) and movements of displaced people through mine-affected areas (South Sudan). Morocco and Namibia also witnessed increases in landmine casualties even though both countries have long been at peace. Other countries also free from conflict – such as Angola and Zimbabwe – saw reduced numbers of casualties, but still people are dying and being disabled from wars that ended decades ago. And in Mozambique, which declared itself landmine-free in September 2015, saw three casualties from anti-personnel landmines. Fortunately, these will be the last landmine casualties in Mozambique, but that is probably little solace to the victims and their families.
Michael P. Moore
December 5, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
The passing of one of the towering giants of the Cold War, Fidel Castro, has prompted a lot of column inches in other venues. This past summer I saw some of the impact of Cuba’s military adventurism in Angola but in previous trips I saw Cuban-built hospitals in Vietnam and met Cuban engineers in Denmark. During Castro’s leadership, Cuba was a country with an outsized impact on the world. Even before the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, the United States had removed the minefields that surrounded the military base at Guantanamo Bay and Cuba’s role as mediator in negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels had held out hope for demining progress there. Cuba recently joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the improving relations between the US and Cuba removed one of the principle excuses Cuba had used to remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty.
A newly discovered minefields was reported in the central province of Bie. The exact extent of the contamination is not known, but the area had been the scene of fighting during one of Angola’s many periods of fighting in the province (All Africa).
In the northern province of Malanje, the Japanese ambassador to Angola re-affirmed his country’s commitment to Angola’s humanitarian mine action program. Annually the Japanese government provides US $20 million for demining in Angola (Relief Web).
In the northern Zaire province, the National Demining Institute detonated over 100 explosive remnants of was including eight landmines (All Africa).
The director of Angola’s mine action program estimates that 270 million euros will be required to clear the remaining 1,435 known minefields. Angola will need international support to meet the Maputo Declaration’s goal of clearing all known minefields by 2025. At present, Angola still needs to complete minefield surveys in eight of the country’s 18 provinces to fully document the extent of contamination (Government of Angola).
During an attack on Mandera, a town along the Somali-Kenya border, Al Shabaab members planted landmines in the town which have hindered the efforts of the security forces to respond to the attack (All Africa).
In Mogadishu, three suspected Al Shabaab members were killed by the landmine they were trying to plant in a roadway (All Africa).
The extensive use of remote-controlled and victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been a major security challenge for the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia. 225 separate attacks have been recorded in 2016 with hundreds of casualties. Victim-activated IEDs, including pressure-plate and magnetic IEDs, are banned by the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).
The Nigerian army, having ousted Boko Haram from much of northeastern Nigeria is now busy trying to certify the safety of liberated areas. The army recognizes the threat from landmines and IEDs and once an area has been cleared of explosives, it will be released back to the population (The Eagle). The governor of Adamawa state acknowledged the threat and fear of landmines during a speech at the United States Institute of Peace. The governor also noted that despite the assurances of the army, many farmers are reluctant to return to their fields (All Africa). Those fears have some validity as less than an hour after the Nigerian army declared a road in Maiduguri safe, a truck struck a landmine injuring several passengers (All Africa).
During the fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria recruited and used local vigilante forces to augment the formal army units. At least 162 women whose husbands served as vigilantes have been widowed as a result of the fighting, many by landmines, and the Borno state government has committed to providing assistance to those widows (All Africa).
The national mine action authority is developing a new extension request for its Article 5 mine clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. This would be the fifth such extension request and set a new deadline for clearing all known minefields of 2025, matching the global deadline from the Maputo Declaration. At present, the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid are actively demining in Zimbabwe and they will soon be joined by Mines Advisory Group and APOPO (All Africa). Unfortunately, the national commitment to demining appears to be lacking. For the last several years, the government of Zimbabwe has only allocated US $500,000 for demining and in 2016, that allocation was reduced to US $100,000 (News Day). The government, in its extension request, should state its commitment to demining and identify national resources to match that commitment.
Multiple landmine incidents were reported in northern Mali. Three Malian soldiers were killed and another injured when their vehicle stuck a mine in the northern Timbuktu region. This accident closely followed an incident in which a Chadian soldier was killed by a landmine in Kidal when his vehicle struck a mine (Fox News). A Tuareg leader from an anti-government faction was killed by a landmine less than 300 meters from a United Nations base in Kidal where he has been meeting with peacekeeping troops (Reuters). Landmines were used as part of an ambush of Malian soldiers in the village of N’Goma Coura in the center of the country. Four soldiers were killed and seven injured in the attack (Yahoo).
Female parliamentarians in Libya called upon the Italian government and the international community to support demining in the liberated areas of Benghazi (ANSAMed). The Dutch ambassador to Libya pledged one million Euros for demining in Sirte (Libya Observer). Despite the gains made by the government-backed army in Sirte, there are concerns about the insurgent attacks. A teacher was killed and his family members injured by a landmine on the road from Sirte to Misrata, an area that is supposed to have been liberated from Islamist forces. This was the fifth such explosion on that stretch of road in less than three months (Libya Herald).
Despite the war, students at Benghazi University managed to complete their studies and to celebrate their graduation, they visited the campus which had recently been liberated after a two years’ occupation by Islamic State forces. Demining teams continue to work to clear the campus of explosives, but estimate that only 5% of the booby traps and landmines have been cleared (BBC News).
Three militia members aligned with the government were killed when their vehicle struck and detonated a piece of unexploded ordnance (All Africa).
Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister met with Swiss representatives to request support from Switzerland to clear the landmines in the Northwest Desert that remain from World War II (El Balad).
A four-year old child was killed by a cluster munition and two others were injured (Remove the Wall).
Michael P. Moore
November 30, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org