While I was off gallivanting around Angola in June, the threat of landmines continued in other parts of the Continent. The total number mine action stories from the month is fairly limited, but they continue to show the trend of contamination lingering from long ago conflicts and the immediate fears of new use and new contamination from active wars. In Angola, some of the battlefields I saw had classic tactics of position where one force probed and attacked from a fortified position, trying to outflank the other while protecting one’s own flanks. The minefields on these battlefields followed predictable patterns along lines of defense. The new uses in places like Mali and Nigeria reflect assymetrical warfare where small forces use mines to disrupt the movements of larger, better-armed forces.
Three deminers attached to the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission were attacked and killed in the northern city of Gao by members of Al Qaeda (All Africa). The MINUSMA mission is the deadliest peacekeeping mission and in response, the mission commander has called for upgrades in the mission’s ability to detect and defend against improvised explosive devices and landmines, saying the threat from such weapons is “growing” (Newsweek).
In Mandera, a landmine attributed to Al Shabaab injured several police officers who were riding in the lead car of a convoy (All Africa). In a similar attack in Garissa, an ambulance driver was killed and three medics injured as they were en route to pick up a patient. The attack on the ambulance was also blamed on Al Shabaab (All Africa).
In 2013 Angola and Italy signed a cooperation agreement related to defense and international security, including landmine clearance. In June, the Angolan Defence Minister traveled to Italy to review the status of that cooperation (All Africa). In southern Cunene province, a mine action representative from the government agency, CNIDAH, called on landmine victims to register themselves with CNIDAH to be able to access the services provided by the agency. The representative also reported that over half a million square meters of land had been cleared in the province in 2015 by the national NGO, Terra Mae (All Africa). The US Assistant Secretary for International Security and nonproliferation, Tom Countryman, met with the international demining NGOs supported by the US State Department in advance of our visit (All Africa).
The Nigerian general in charge of operations in the northeast of the country against Boko Haram asked the government to keep several roads in the area closed to civilian traffic due to landmines. The House of Representatives is pressuring the military to open the roads to travel to allow displaced persons to return to their homes, but the general notes that the roads have not been surveyed or cleared fully and landmines and IEDs may remain (All Africa).
It may not matter to Boko Haram, but I applaud the Cameroon Bar Association’s condemnation of the Islamist group for multiple human rights violations, including the use of landmines, in its 2015 report on the human rights situation in the country (All Africa).
The effects of Boko Haram’s landmines on Cameroon were made clear when three Cameroonian soldiers were injured by a mine planted in the far north of the country (Cameroon Concord).
One of the benefits of landmine clearance programs is the jobs made available to residents of the mine-affected areas. In Zimbabwe, the HALO Trust has trained and employs a large number of men and women who were born and raised in villages along the minefields on the border with Mozambique. In addition to the obvious benefits of clearing landmines, the additional cash in the local economies helps drive development through construction of homes and investment in the communities (Voice of America).
For those injured by mines, Zimbabwe Assembly member Newton Kachepa called on the Ministry of Health and Child Care to provide wheelchairs and prosthetic devices (Bulawayo 24).
1,603 French-laid landmines were cleared from Algeria by the national army in May (Ennahar).
The current arms embargo imposed upon Libya includes restrictions on the import of non-lethal military hardware, such as mine detection equipment. As the Libyan army advances against the Islamic State forces in the town of Sirte, IS-laid landmines are taking a heavy toll and the Libyan army has asked for the ban on mine detectors and similar items to be lifted (Libya Observer).
Michael P. Moore
July 27, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org