The Month in Mines, December 2013

As we move into a new year, one that will witness the five-year review conference for the Mine Ban Treaty in June in Mozambique, we should also pause and think about the significant events of the past year.  For all of the positive news from so much of the continent, the emerging conflict in South Sudan is a sad reminder that past violence is the best predictor of future violence.  Conflict in the Central African Republic has origins in recent conflicts there, as do conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (both the eastern regions of the country and Kinshasa), Egypt and Libya.  The wounds of a nation never really heal, the scars remain.  For some countries, the scars may fade and become less prominent; we are able to forgive our transgressors whilst never quite forgetting the pain they caused.  And as we mourn the loss of one of the continent’s greatest sons, we must not ignore the loss of any of the continent’s sons and daughters.  We may long remember the name Mandela, but if we are to honor his life, we must do so by honoring every life and mourning every passing.  We start this New Year together; let’s go to work.

Tunisia

An engineer in Tunisia’s army tried to defuse a landmine found on Mount Chaambi in the volatile Kasserine region near the Algerian border.  Throughout 2013, landmines, attributed to the banned Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia, have been found on Mount Chaambi, killing and wounding soldiers and civilians.  The mine exploded during the engineer’s attempts, killing him and wounding another soldier nearby (All Africa; Defence Web).

Somalia

Numerous explosions in Somalia killed and injured several people.  In southern Somalia’s El Waq town, two landmine explosions killed three people and injured seven others.  Among the casualties were soldiers and civilians (All Africa).  In Beledweyne, a Djiboutian soldier serving in the mine action team of the AMISOM peacekeeping force was killed and three others injured when a rocket-propelled grenade they were clearing detonated (Garowe Online).  In the city of Kismayo, 200 explosive devices, including landmines and grenades, were recovered during a security sweep (All Africa).  Later in the month, also in Kismayo, a woman was killed when Jubba Administration security forces opened fire.  The security forces were part of an AMISOM convoy that struck a landmine.  After the blast, from which no casualties were reported, the soldiers fired indiscriminately anticipating an ambush and killed the woman who simply happened to be in the area (Suna Times).  In the Daynille district of the Banadir region, a landmine explosion in the Bangala suburbs caused several casualties while a teashop in the same district was targeted by an explosive device, possibly a remote-controlled landmine (All Africa; All Africa).  At the end of the month, a convoy from the CARE International was targeted outside the Dagahaley area of the Dadaab refugee camp.  Four Kenyan police officers were providing security for the convoy when their vehicle struck a landmine, badly damaging the vehicle.  Reports differs, one said the officers were unhurt, another said all four sustained injuries, a third said the blast killed one officer and injured the other three.  The blast was blamed on Al Shabaab (All Africa; All Africa; Standard Media).

Western Sahara

The Foreign Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Mr. Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, called on the participants at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to force the government of Morocco to clear the anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines from the 3 meter high berm splitting the province of Western Sahara.  Calling it “the wall of shame,” Ould Salek pointed out that five people were killed in November by some of the 5 million landmines placed by the Moroccan army. Morocco is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty and is therefore not subject to the obligations of the Mine Ban Treaty.  The SADR is the recognized as the official government of Western Sahara by some 50 African and Latin American states (All Africa; All Africa).

Angola

As part of its annual reporting, Angola’s Ministry of Social Welfare reported that some 3.7 million Angolans received support from the Ministry, including 15,500 persons with disability who received mobility aids and all persons residing in areas cleared of landmines (All Africa).  Some 1,753 kilometers of road were cleared of almost 80,000 explosive devices, of which 1,600 were landmines.  Over 60,000 people benefited from mine risk education and the Ministry plans to “intensify” its efforts in 2014 (All Africa).  In Cunene province, 5.3 million square meters of land were cleared of landmines (All Africa) and another 67,000 square meters were cleared in Kwanza Sul province (All Africa).

Mozambique

Earlier this year, the National Resistance Movement (RENAMO), forsook its role as a political party and declared its return to the “bush” as a rebel force.  The “bush” is centered around Sofala province where RENAMO’s leader, and perennial presidential election loser, Alfonso Dhlakama is from and so when RENAMO started a campaign of kidnapping and banditry, it did so in Sofala province.  Handicap International (HI), the international demining and humanitarian organization, has been tasked with landmine clearance in Sofala province by the national mine action authority and in the course of their work, HI deminers have come under threat from RENAMO members.  Two HI employees were shot by RENAMO members whilst traveling on a main road and had to be taken to the capitol for treatment.  In response, HI withdrew its demining teams and focused efforts elsewhere.  Despite the tension and violence, HI was still able to clear 1.5 million square meters in Sofala province, but another 1.8 million square meters have yet to be cleared.  HI’s demining coordinator, Aderito Ismael, did say that while RENAMO may have some landmines at its disposal, he felt it was unlikely that the current troubles would lead to laying of new minefields (All Africa).

In Matunuine district, three young men tried to dismantle an old mortar shell in the false belief that they would be able to extract red mercury from the bomb.  Red mercury is a hoax, it does not exist; but still the fairy tale persists with lethal consequences.  Matunuine district is targeted for completion of demining in January 2014 which would also eliminate most unexploded ordnance, like mortar shells, and hopefully protect future lives (All Africa).

In positive news from Mozambique, the British government, through the Department for International Development (DfID), is supporting APOPO and its landmine-sniffing rats as part of a program to clear the remaining minefields in the country.  If RENAMO can be kept from interrupting the process, Mozambique will be able to declare itself mine-free later this year, after it has hosted the Third Review Conference in June (Daily Mirror).

Sudan

In part of Sudan’s Blue Nile State, a conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and the state rages.  But in another part of the state, in Ed Damazin, peace is taking hold between the former combatants.  Income generation projects and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs are creating communities that might be able resist a return to violence.  One of the projects features disabled veterans, working together on crutches and prosthetic limbs, to build a center that will provide assistance to landmine survivors (Malay Mail).  Just 30 kilometers to the south, the war is raging and the SPLA-N claimed to have killed the local commander of the local Sudanese Armed Forces unit and captured ammunition and equipment, including a landmine detector (All Africa).

South Sudan

In South Sudan, the world’s newest country has fallen into conflict.  A thousand people have been killed in less than a month and thousands have been displaced by what appears to be an eruption in the long-simmering rivalry between the president, Salva Kiir, and his vice president, Riek Machar.  During the war with Khartoum that ended in 2005, the two men were at times allies and at other times armed opponents.  The two men are of different ethnicities, Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer, but this is about power and money and control of sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, not ethnicity.  South Sudan has received significant support from the United States and the international community for landmine clearance and while there have been no specific reports of casualties from landmines during this outbreak of violence, displaced persons fleeing conflict are one of the most at-risk populations for landmine injuries (International Business Times).

Libya

Coordinated by the United Nations Mine Action Service, the Libyan Mine Action Centre, Handicap International, Mine Advisory Group and Danish Church Aid collected and destroyed 50 metric tonnes of explosives in Misrata, Libya.  While that represents only a portion of the unexploded ordnance and abandoned ordnance littering Libya, it is a lot of explosive material that cannot be trafficked to other conflicts or injure passersby or tempt little children.  It must have been a very loud boom (Tripoli Post).

The Rest of the World

Soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton has raised a lot of money to fund research into new methods of landmine detection through his charity, Find a Better Way.  In December, £1 million in grants were made to University College of London and Cranfield University to develop a portable ground penetrating radar system and to King’s College for an acoustic detection system. The projects have up to three years to present their results.  Personally, I was impressed to see an article about Find a Better Way that focused on the science and less on Sir Bobby (Engineering and Technology Magazine).

The Syrian civil war, now in its third year and having already claimed more than 100,000 lives, is also creating demand for prosthetic and rehabilitation services.  A clinic in Reyhanli, Turkey has provided more than 300 artificial limbs and has a waiting list of 600 and these are just the people who are at the refugee camps near the clinic.  The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates half a million Syrians have been injured in the conflict.  In a strange confluence of globalization, Syrian landmine victims, injured by mines produced in Russia or China, are receiving care in Turkey from Jordanian prosthetists who are modifying a prosthetic design from India with funding from the United Kingdom (National Public Radio).

In Geneva, representatives from over 100 countries met at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (13MSP).  During the meeting, extension requests from Chad, Mozambique, Niger and Sudan were approved, giving each country additional time to clear the known landmines from their territory.  The dates and location (June 23 – 27, 2014 in Maputo, Mozambique) of the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty were confirmed (AP Mine Ban Convention).

On December 5th, the last day of the 13MSP, US Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the strongest champions of banning landmines anywhere but especially in the United States, gave a keynote address during the Human Rights First 2013 Summit.  During his speech Senator Leahy discussed the failure of the US government to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the tragic use of torture by the intelligence agencies after September 11th.  Senator Leahy also called for the revisiting of the Mine Ban Treaty saying simply, “We ought to just sign it.”  He recounted the fact that the US is the largest support of humanitarian mine action, his own efforts to help landmine survivors through the Leahy War Victims Fund and the fact that the United States is the only member of NATO that is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.  He called on the government to “show the courage” and end the isolation of the United States (The Raw Story).

Michael P. Moore

January 6, 2014


Points of Interest at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty

Frequent readers of Landmines in Africa will be interested in several items at next month’s 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty being held in Geneva.  For those that cannot attend, information and documents can be found on the Implementation Support Unit’s website: www.13MSP.org. In addition to the specifics highlighted below, many countries will provide updates about landmine issues and comments on issues of interest to the community as a whole.

 

Demining Progress

Four African states, Chad, Mozambique, Niger and Sudan, will be requesting additional time to complete clearance of anti-personnel landmines in their territory.   We’ve covered the Mozambique situation elsewhere (After the last mine is cleared) and that request is almost certain to be approved, so let’s focus on three Sahelian states.  Niger had previously declared itself to be free of anti-personnel landmines but recently discovered a previously unknown minefield and four possible minefields.  Per the Treaty’s requirements, Niger has brought this discovery to the attention of the Meeting and requests two years to complete the survey and clearance work.  There are two possible complications which would impede Niger’s ability to complete the work: first, sandstorms have and possibly will move landmines from their current location; and second, the security situation around some of the suspected minefields is poor as a result of ongoing instability.  The total anticipated cost of the work in Niger is US $800,000 of which about a third will come from the Nigerien government; the balance will be raised from international donors.  Barring any unforeseen issues, this request is likely to be approved.

Sudan has requested a five-year extension to complete its demining work with several caveats.  To date, Sudan has cleared almost 2 billion (yes, with a “b”) square meters and destroyed 450,000 pieces of ordnance.  Another 40 million square meters of land remains to be cleared and while the actual amount of land to be cleared sounds low relative to the amount already cleared, the concentration of ordnance in the remaining minefields is believed to be very high.  Also, of the known minefields that remain, half lie in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states which are in a state of near-civil war and completely inaccessible to deminers.  Sudan’s plan to complete demining assumes that the conflict will abate, but the work will begin in areas that are currently peaceful and as soon as is possible, demining assets will be transferred to the restive states.  Sudan also recognized that most international demining organizations had withdrawn from the country (TDI, The Development Initiative, is doing great work still) and so the national mine action authority intends to train several national organizations to conduct survey and landmine clearance work.  Sudan would also welcome other international operators, but could not guarantee the safety of their staff.  Sudan appears to be able to support a significant portion of the cost of the remaining work, but would not commit to a figure; the total estimate cost is US $93 million and historically Sudan has provided $7.5 million annually.  Recognizing the security issues and the possible additional delays should the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue, this request is likely to be approved.

Chad is submitting its third request for an extension.  Chad’s second extension, which expires on January 1, 2014 allowed for the development of a national strategy to address the landmine contamination.  That strategy has now been developed and serves as the basis for the current request.  Chad is requesting a five year extension that will cost US $40 million of which the Chadian government will contribute almost 60%.  Chad believes that surveys conducted during the previous extension periods provide a reliable estimate of the remaining contamination, although areas along the border with Libya and in the southern region of Moyen Chari on the border with the Central African Republic require further evaluation.  246 areas covering over 61 million square meters are known to be contaminated by explosive remnants of war and of those a quarter or 65 have landmines.  Technical and human capacity in Chad is being increased with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and Chad should be able to meet its obligations within the requested time frame.  This request is likely to be approved.

 

Third Review Conference

If everyone knows that the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty is to be held in Maputo in June and July of 2014, does it really need to be approved?  Yes, yes it does.  So one of the easier decisions in Geneva will be to confirm Maputo as the site of the Review Conference and Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mozambique, Henrique Banze, will be appointed to preside over the Conference.

 

Side Events

On December 2nd, the major findings of the 2013 Landmine Monitor will be discussed.  The Monitor is the most comprehensive monitoring and verification tool for the Mine Ban Treaty and its findings and reports are usually taken as gospel within the community.  A couple of things to look for in the briefing: 1) Are casualty figures going up, going down or holding steady?  2012 saw a lot of conflict in the aftermath of the Arab Spring which may have driven the casualty numbers up.  In 2010 and 2011, casualty figures crept up from 2009’s low of just under 4,000 casualties. 2) Has the funding for mine action gone up, gone down or held steady?  Mine action funding in 2011 was at its highest ever, but support for direct victim assistance programming was down. 3) Has the number of rebel groups using landmines gone up, gone down or held steady?  The number of states using landmines is down to a handful, so most new usage is by rebels.

On December 3rd, the Government of Sudan will host an event to discuss the mine clearance progress to date and share information about its request for an extension to complete the remaining clearance work.

On December 5th, the United Nations Mine Action Service and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo will discuss the DRC landmine survey and its findings.  DRC will be preparing an extension request for submission and review at the Third Review Conference and this event will be an opportunity to initiate conversations about that request.  DRC will also discuss the impact MONUSCO’s intervention or “peace-making” brigade will have on mine action in the country.

Also on the 5th, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines will host a session on US government’s landmine policy review and hopefully be able to present the outcome of that review and discuss next steps.

On the 6th, the last day of the Meeting, Handicap International will present the findings from its nine-month survivor assessment in Mozambique, conducted in partnership with the Mozambican survivor association RAVIM.  The assessment documents the needs and living conditions of survivors and their families and will present recommendations for how to meet those needs.

Two non-country specific events will cover operations and outcomes measurement within mine action.  Similar themes were covered in our survivor assistance thought-piece, so we’re glad to see these initiatives moving forward. In the first event, on December 4th, the Implementation Support Unit will present its findings from research sponsored by Australia around the sustainability of survivor assistance programming with a focus on mainstreaming survivor assistance into other frameworks (like disability programming or poverty eradication schemes).  On December 6th, Mine Advisory Group, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Danish Demining Group and Danish Church Aid will launch the Outcome Monitoring Initiative, a collaborative project to unify indicators for mine action and shift to an outcome-based monitoring system.

Michael P. Moore

November 22, 2013


After the last mine is cleared: The future of landmine survivor assistance

In Mozambique, thousands of our fellow citizens who have been mutilated by [anti-personnel landmines] are waiting for the day when we shall have the conditions required for increasing assistance and effecting the social and economic reintegration to which they are entitled.  It is within this framework that my Government, in close cooperation with friendly countries, drew up a national assistance strategy for landmines victims.  As the document will be presented in the next few days, you will have the opportunity to undertake a detailed assessment of this multidisciplinary programme we have worked out.  In fact, I hope to see this strategy encompass health, job promotion and social reintegration activities, for without these we cannot talk about adequate assistance to landmine victims.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, President of the Republic of Mozambique

May 3, 1999 (Opening Ceremony of the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty)[1]

Since coming into force in 1999, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Convention or Mine Ban Treaty) has served as the framework for clearing millions of anti-personnel landmines, providing mine-risk education to citizens of dozens of mine-affected countries and providing survivor assistance to tens of thousands of survivors of landmine injuries.  Mozambique hosted the first Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in 1999 and will soon, just as it is about to clear the last anti-personnel landmine from its territory, host the Third Review Conference of the Convention (the first Review Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2004; the second in Cartagena, Colombia in 2009).  From June 29 to July 4, 2014, governments, civil society and landmine survivors will meet in Mozambique’s capitol, Maputo, to review progress towards the Mine Ban Treaty’s objectives and plot the way forward for the next five years (2014 – 2019).

Mozambique had once been considered one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. An estimated 2 million anti-personnel landmines polluted the country from decades of war beginning with the liberation struggle against Portugal through a brutal civil war that began shortly after independence in 1975 and lasted until a negotiated settlement in 1992.  In 1999, President Chissano estimated that clearance of Mozambique’s landmines could take 160 years to complete. While the true number of landmines in Mozambique was much lower than the original estimates, the symbolic nature of clearing the minefields of a country like Mozambique is not to be overestimated.  Mozambique will be an epic success story for the Mine Ban Treaty and held up as an example to other severely mine-affected countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia and Colombia as proof that the minefields can be cleared and the land returned to productive use.  But there is a flip side to this success.

The government of Mozambique estimates that almost 11,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines.  Of that total, the number of survivors is unknown, but historical data suggests that at least half of those casualties would be alive today.  A survey conducted between 2009 and 2012 identified 1,500 landmine survivors in the three provinces of Maputo, Inhambane and Sofala (Mozambique has 10 provinces and the capitol, Maputo).  For those landmine survivors, the heroic feat of landmine clearance is meaningless; it comes too late to help them.  Landmine survivors, depending upon the nature of their injuries, require surgery, assistive devices, physical rehabilitation, economic support and psychosocial counseling.  For this reason, one of the notable achievements of the Mine Ban Treaty was the inclusion of Article 6.3 which obligated states “in a position to do so”[2] to provide support to landmine survivors.

This paper, “After the last mine is cleared: The future of landmine survivor assistance,” seeks to describe how that obligation has (or has not) been met in Mozambique after 20 years of international support for mine action in the country.  This paper asks, “What is the future of survivor assistance?” now that we are able to envision a world free of landmines. With Mozambique as a case study for survivor assistance implementation, the goal is to spark conversations in advance of the Third Review Conference with an emphasis on the post-2015 development framework that is under discussion now.


[1] Final Report of the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

[2] Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.


Sudan’s Article 5 Extension Request

At the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, three requests for additional time to complete demining will be reviewed and decided upon.  Already Sudan and Chad have submitted their extension requests and Mozambique is expected to submit its request in the near future.  As we have done in past years, Landmines in Africa will review the requests and offer our opinion.  We will start with Sudan’s and hope to offer our comments on Chad’s in the next couple of weeks.

 

Backgound

Sudan became a party to the Mine Ban Treaty on April 1, 2004 and under the Mine Ban Treaty’s Article 5 demining obligations, Sudan has until April 1, 2014 to clear all anti-personnel landmines from its territory.  Sudan will not be able to meet that deadline, so the Government of Sudan has submitted a formal extension request for an additional five years, until April 1, 2019 (AP Mine Ban Convention, pdf), that will be reviewed and decided upon in Geneva at December’s Meeting of States Parties. Since becoming a State Party, Sudan has split into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, per the independence referendum and some of the investments that were made prior to the split in July 2011 and recorded as investments in Sudan were transferred to South Sudan.

In general the document is well-written and comprehensive.  Unlike other recent extension requests, this is not written as a two part request in which the first part seeks to determine the scope of the problem and serve as the basis for drafting a workplan that will be the second part and a separate extension request.  Thanks to multiple surveys of the country, the scope and scale of the problem in Sudan is well-understood and the country has the capacity to respond to the problem.  The request also commits to clearing all explosive remnants of war and not just anti-personnel landmines.  Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, only anti-personnel mines are required to be cleared, but Sudan is committing itself to clearing anti-tank mines and unexploded ordnance.  That means that all of Darfur is also covered by this extension request, an area with extensive UXO contamination but no known anti-personnel landmine contamination.

Like all extension requests, Sudan’s declares that the proposed workplan is contingent upon receiving the necessary funding to support the activities.  Sudan also adds security as a contingency noting that South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are facing active conflicts in the form of elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that are still active in Sudan after the division of the country.  However, in response to this insecurity, Sudan’s workplan focuses its efforts on other mine-affected regions with the plan being to clear those in the short term and then shift assets and demining teams to South Kordofan and Blue Nile when the security situation improves.

Sudan and its States

Sudan and its States

 

Analysis and Comments

I would anticipate that this extension request will be approved, but I would like to highlight a major failure of the request, a few smaller issues and a few serious problems that went unmentioned in the request.  First and foremost, there was no budget associated with the extension request.  The workplan is very detailed with GANTT charts showing the timelines for completion of tasks and the inputs required, but no estimate of the total cost.  The government of Sudan needs to put a price tag on the workplan before it can be reviewed and approved.

Second, the funding for Sudan’s mine clearance work has been declining from a high of US $90 million in 2008.  In 2008, Sudan contributed almost US $17 million but for 2013, the country has pledged less than a tenth of that amount, US $1.3 million.  The contributions from the international community have also declined by more than half in that period, but that decline is mostly due to the fact that funds have been split between Sudan and South Sudan when in 2008, everything went to Sudan.  Since the government of Sudan is proposing a five year extension, the government should make a five-year funding pledge that would last until April 1, 2019.  If Sudan could make such a pledge, that would show the country’s commitment to the donor community and, provided Sudan provides a budget for the workplan, inform the donor community of the shortfall they are being asked to make up.

Third, the extension request acknowledges the use of new anti-tank mines in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but does not report on their origin.  Anti-tank mines are not banned under the Mine Ban Treaty and so were not subject to the stockpile destruction of anti-personnel mines completed in 2008 so Sudan could be responsible for some of the new use of anti-tank mines in these states and the SPLM in South Sudan reported finding anti-personnel mines in SAF camps as recently as 2012.  So, as long as there are any mines – anti-personnel or anti-tank – in either Sudan or South Sudan, the possibility of new use exists so Sudan should re-confirm destruction of all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines and make efforts to destroy any anti-tank mines it still holds in its arsenal.

The last of the smaller issues I want to raise is the absence of any discussion of victim assistance or mine risk education in the extension request.  The extension request is supposed to be limited to mine clearance only, but I think recognizing that mine risk education activities must continue for as long as mine contamination exists.  Also, official records in Sudan show almost 2,000 landmine survivors living in Sudan and the government acknowledges that the true number is probably higher.  Those survivors require assistance for rehabilitation and integration and Sudan should include a discussion of its response to those needs in its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019, especially since the number of victims increased dramatically in 2011 and 2012 as a result of renewed conflict.  I also want to point out that the two national organizations, JASMAR and Friends of Peace and Development Organization (FPDO), that will certification as demining entities currently provide victim assistance and mine risk education services.  As these organizations shift activities to include demining, they should continue to work in victim assistance and mine risk education to avoid a loss of national capacity in those areas.

In addition to the issues raised above, I see three major issues with the extension request, based not upon what is in the request, but on where the request is silent.  First, the presence of landmines in and around the disputed territory of Abyei goes unmentioned.  Part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) called for a referendum by the residents of Abyei to determine whether Abyei would become part of Sudan or South Sudan.  That referendum has never taken place and Sudanese military have occupied the territory.  The continuing presence of landmines has prevented Abyei residents from returning to their homes.  Since Abyei is under the control and occupation of Sudan, Sudan has the responsibility for clearing any landmines in the territory.  Should the referendum take place and should the people of Abyei decide to join South Sudan, then Sudan would be absolved of this responsibility.  However, the likelihood of that happening is very slim because Abyei sits on top of some of the largest oil fields along the border between the two countries and Sudan’s leadership in Khartoum wants to maintain possession of those oil fields.  Hence the occupation and the cancellation of the CPA-mandated referendum.  The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the presence of landmines in Abyei and hold the government of Sudan accountable for their removal for as long as the future of the territory remains in dispute.

Second, the extension request identifies Technical Development Initiative (TDI) as the only international mine action operator active in Sudan.  The request does not mention the fact that several operators had been active in Sudan prior to the split into Sudan and South Sudan and many of the operators who were working in what became South Sudan are still there.  However, there was at least one international operator, Danish Church Aid, active in South Kordofan in 2011 whose work came under threat.  With their compound across the street from the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) pay office, Danish Church Aid’s demining equipment and compound was looted.  The presence of the SAF office either means that the looting was done by SAF personnel or with the awareness and at least tacit consent of SAF.  Danish Church Aid (DCA) withdrew from South Kordofan, one of the most heavily landmine-contaminated states in Sudan shortly afterwards, reducing mine clearance capacity.  RONCO, a for-profit demining company, was also working in Kassala and South Kordofan states as recently as January 2011 and have since withdrawn despite clearing more landmines than any of the other 17 operators active in Sudan in 2010 (The Monitor).  These international operators are being replaced with the national organizations JASMAR and FPDO which, while admirable on the part of JASMAR and FPDO to take on the responsibilities, will mean diminished mine clearance capacity as there was a two year gap between when RONCO and DCA left Sudan and JASMAR and FPDO will be able to begin operations. The Government of Sudan’s role in ensuring the safety and ability of mine action organizations to operate in Sudan is paramount and the fact that so many operators left the country in 2011 shows that the government could not provide the necessary assurances.  The Meeting of States Parties should challenge Sudan on the security of mine action operators and hold the government accountable for their well-being as they conduct their activities.

Third, in South Kordofan (and probably in Blue Nile), the Sudanese armed forces have been fighting against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) rebellion.  In the process of trying to quell the rebellion, the SAF has engaged in indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites including villages and camps for internally displaced persons.  These bombing runs, by Soviet-era Antonov aircraft, will simply add to the number of UXO that Sudan will need to clear (Amnesty International, pdf).  So while Sudan recognizes that insecurity in South Kordofan will prevent mine and UXO clearance in the near term, Sudan is also not doing itself any favors in terms of limiting the amount of work it will need to do once security is established.

 

Recommendations for Sudan to Strengthen the Request:

  1. A budget for this request needs to be included before the request is formally reviewed.  The government of Sudan should at least be able to estimate the costs, especially considering the exceptional detail that was available in the plan.
  2. Sudan should make a commitment for its contribution to this workplan and budget.  By doing so, Sudan will demonstrate its support for the plan and inform the donor community of the amount required to finish the job.
  3. Sudan should provide information about the mine risk education and victim assistance work covered by its National Mine Action Plan 2013 – 2019.  While not required under an extension request, I think this information is helpful to reviewers to show the comprehensiveness of planning.

 

Recommendations for the Meeting of States Parties:

  1. Responsibility for landmine clearance in the disputed territory of Abyei must be determined.  If Sudan continues to occupy the territory and prevent the CPA-mandated referendum from taking place, then Sudan must bear the burden of mine clearance and should include plans for that clearance in its extension request.  If the referendum moves forward, then responsibility for clearance will be determined by the people of Abyei; if they choose to stay with Sudan, then Sudan must account for clearance of the territory; if they choose to join South Sudan, then South Sudan will assume responsibility for clearance.
  2. The security of mine action operators must be ensured by the state.  The looting of the Danish Church Aid compound in South Kordofan is a worrying event and Sudan should provide security assurances to all demining organizations – national and international – active in the country.

 

Michael P. Moore

May 24, 2013