The Month in Mines, December 2016

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).

 

Somalia

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).

 

Zimbabwe

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).

 

Ethiopia

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).

 

Nigeria

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).

 

Libya

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).

 

Tunisia

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).

 

Angola

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).

 

Mozambique

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).

 

Sudan

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).

 

Mali

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).

 

Algeria

In December, the Algerian National Police cleared over 81,000 landmines from the border with Morocco (DZ Breaking).

 

Western Sahara

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

 

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The Month in Mines, October 2015

We have tended not to cover cluster munitions as a specific topic here at Landmines in Africa. That decision has been based on the fact that cluster munitions have historically been less of an issue in Africa than elsewhere (e.g., Lebanon, Kosovo, Laos and too many other places).  However, cluster bombs have been recently used in Libya, Sudan and South Sudan and as you will see in the stories below, possibly in Nigeria.  Further in the past, cluster munitions contamination in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe dates back to the liberation wars and civil wars in those countries.  In Somalia this month, the government acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans these weapons, becoming the 97th country to do so (Horseed Media).  African nations played a key role in the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and we’ll be keeping a closer eye on these weapons going forward.

 

Angola

In Luanda Angolan authorities seized 14 landmines in the course of a series of arrests as the capital city witnessed a spasm of violent crime (All Africa). In Cuando Cubango, authorities collected another three landmines from citizens as part of a voluntary disarmament program (All Africa).  In Bie Province, almost nine thousand people have received mine risk awareness messages since the start of the year (All Africa).  To address the country’s mine clearance needs, 36 deminers have been trained and deployed to Cunene province where at least one mine incident occurred in June (All Africa) and 18 security and police personnel participated in a course on the management of humanitarian disarmament activities (All Africa).

Landmines also feature in Angola’s foreign affairs. Botswana’s president, Seretse Khama, traveled to Angola and discussed with Angolan officials the development of a trans frontier park for wildlife and the care of many Angolan elephants who migrated to Botswana to escape the landmines planted during Angola’s wars (All Africa).  During a visit to Japan, Angola’s minister of Welfare and Social Reintegration met with leaders from the Japanese Mine Action Service which clears landmines in Bengo province (All Africa).

 

Somalia

A landmine killed one soldier and wounded another in Afgoye Town’s animal market (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

The Nigerian army discovered several caches of cluster bombs in Adamawa State as the military continued its pursuit of Boko Haram.  The army then warned residents to be on the lookout for other caches (All Africa).  Later analysis of the cluster bombs confirmed that the Nigerian army had found French-made BLG-66 (“Beluga”) munitions which can only be used from aircraft which Boko Haram does not possess.  In fact, the Cluster Munition Coalition suggests that the found cluster munitions had originated with the Nigerian army and had somehow found their way into Boko Haram’s hands.  Boko Haram could use the bomblets as part of an improvised explosive device, but evidence points to the weapons’ origin as being with the national army (All Africa).  If such is the case, then the Nigerian army needs to explain how its own weapons could be found in areas controlled by Boko Haram.

Also, outside of the Boko Haram conflict zone in northeastern Nigeria, the army is operating in central Plateau State where a simmering conflict between the Berom and Fulani ethnic groups is spreading.  The army discovered several landmines in a road near the village of Gyambus (All Africa).

Abandoned and unexploded ordnance dating back to the Biafra War of the 1960s continues to plague Nigeria.  The government just settled a case brought by several individuals who sued the government, alleging that the government had failed to clear landmines and abandoned caches of explosives from residential areas.  Specifically, the suit sought to have the abandoned stockpile in a residential neighborhood of Owerri in Imo State violated the human rights of the persons living there.  The final settlement of the case will be made in January 2016 (All Africa).

 

Egypt

During an illegal hunting trip in a natural reserve in Egypt’s Red Sea governorate, a car drove over a landmine likely dating to the late 1960s killing one hunter and wounding another.  The men intended to use falcons to hunt in the area which is popular for the activities despite its being banned.  According to the director of the Cairo-based landmines struggle center, landmine clearance only takes place in Egypt if there is a significant financial incentive to do.  No word on the conditions of the falcon (Cairo Post; All Africa).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Safe Schools Declaration seeks commitments from nations and their armies to avoid using schools for any military activities.  In one school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the army had occupied the school’s buildings for a period and then dumped unused explosives into the latrines which had to be cleared by demining teams before the school could be re-opened for its intended purpose (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

While Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, was in India, the acting president, Phelekeleza Mphoko, visited the Gonakudzingwa Restriction Camp in Gonarezhou National Park.  The Camp had been used by the Rhodesian government to isolate nationalist leaders like Joshua Nkomo during the liberation war.  The area around the Camp, like much of Gonarezhou, is contaminated with landmines which limits access to the site.  Mphoko called for clearance of the mines and restoration of the Camp as a museum (All Africa).

 

Mali

A civilian convoy was attacked by “terrorists” who used rocket launchers and small arms to kill six people and would at least two.  The convoy was under the protection of security forces and the attack began when one of the vehicles struck a landmine planted in the road (Press TV).  In another incident, three civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine and two of the United Nations peacekeepers who arrived on the scene were injured by a second mine.  The mines were located near the United Nations base at Tessalit near Kidal (Reuters).  In a third incident, three French special forces operators were injured in an unspecified area of northern Mali (Agence France Presse).

 

Uganda

The Orthopedic Workshop at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, originally set up to respond to the needs of landmine survivors in northern Uganda, is unable to meet the demands of its clients.  Each month 30 patients come to the Workshop seeking prosthetic limbs and orthotic appliances but no one has received any items since June when the Workshop’s funding ran out.  Supported by the Italian NGO AVSI, the Workshop does not appear to receive any funds from the government and the cost of prosthetics and orthotics is prohibitive to its clients (Uganda Radio Network).  The Ugandan government must step in and provide the support it has committed to give under the Mine Ban Treaty and other agreements.

 

Mozambique

In 2007 an explosion ripped through an ammunition depot in Mozambique’s capitol Maputo setting off a chain reaction of explosions that killed more than a hundred people and injured another 500.  Ordnance remains at the depot even today, but plans are in place to clear the unexploded ordnance and create a public park on the site.  APOPO and the HALO Trust will work together to make the site safe for its transformation into a multifunction space that includes a zoo, a water park and camp ground (US News and World Report).

 

Somaliland

The German Deputy Ambassador to Somalia visited the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland and observed the German-funded work of the HALO Trust which is clearing minefields near the Ethiopian border.  The Deputy Ambassador also met with trainees who will soon be conducting the first comprehensive survey of Somaliland’s minefields as well as other German-funded development initiatives in the region (Somaliland Press).

 

Cameroon

The US Army Africa Command (AFRICOM) is providing a number of landmine-detecting vehicles to the Cameroon army in response to the threat of mines placed by Boko Haram.  The vehicles would also protect soldiers from explosions should the vehicles miss a mine (Voice of America).

 

Libya

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and United Nations Support Mission in Libya have trained 15 Libyans (14 men and one woman) in non-technical survey to enhance the capacity of Libya to assess the contamination of the country from landmines and explosive remnants of war.  The ongoing civil war in the country will limit the extent to which this training can be used (UNSMIL).

 

South Sudan

The UNMAS chief in South Sudan told reporters that 12 million square meters of land in South Sudan has been cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war.  Despite the ongoing conflict, some 2,800 villages have been surveyed and the residents educated on risk awareness.  He did note that there is the possibility of some residual contamination in Juba and other areas that have been cleared and South Sudanese should report any items they discover (The Niles).

 

Algeria

15 anti-personnel landmines were seized by the Algerian army along with a number of other items from smuggling groups that had been trafficking people and contraband (All Africa).

 

China in Africa

China has committed to providing US $100 million in military aid to the African Union standby force and will provide support to 10 landmine clearance programs in Africa.  The exact countries to be supported were not announced, but will likely be in countries of strategic interest to China (News Day).

 

Michael P. Moore

November 20, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, April 2015

Twice a year, upon release of the annual Landmine Monitor report around December 1st and the annual celebration of International Day for Mine Action and Awareness on April 4th, countries and organizations take the opportunity to recommit themselves to mine action.  Several of this month’s stories come from events commemorating Mine Action day, but entirely too many also come from the fact that landmines continue to plague Africa and the world, ten years after the first International day and almost 20 years after the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Landmine use appears to be on the increase, a sad way to increase awareness of the need for mine action.

Libya

Ten landmines were cleared from the road leading to Airport Road in Benghazi and a spokesperson for the army warned of the possibility of additional mines in the area from fighting earlier in the conflict (Al Wasat). In Ajdabiya, one soldier was killed and four others wounded by landmine (Al Wasat).

Despite the insecurity in the country, the United Nations Mission in Libya and the Libyan Mine Action Centre hosted an event for International Mine Action Day (UNSMIL).

LibMAC Director: “Despite the difficult times Libya is still going through it has set forward this event as a signal to the International community of the LibMAC’s respect to the International agreements, treaties and conventions believing in its moral and humanitarian responsibility towards its citizens in ridding areas most affected from mines and ERWs. "

LibMAC Director: “Despite the difficult times Libya is still going through it has set forward this event as a signal to the International community of the LibMAC’s respect to the International agreements, treaties and conventions believing in its moral and humanitarian responsibility towards its citizens in ridding areas most affected from mines and ERWs. “

Democratic Republic of Congo

The head of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, called achieving landmine-free Congo “a duty.”  Kobler noted that there were almost 30 landmine casualties in the DRC and over 2,500 survivors.  One-eighth of the mine-affected land in DRC was cleared in 2014 with over 15,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW), including landmines, destroyed (MONUSCO). The contamination in DRC is concentrated in a few regions. According to the group, Africa for Mine Action, 40% of Ituri Province is contaminated with landmines and after years of work, only three provinces in the entire country have been declared landmine-free (Radio Okapi).

Three deminers with the South-African firm, Mechem, were kidnapped from near the eastern city of Goma. While some reports erroneously labelled the deminers as United Nations peacekeepers, the three men, two Congolese and one from abroad, were released after about a week.  The kidnappings occurred as tensions between DRC and Rwanda were high with a Congolese soldier injured in an exchange with Rwandan troops and the re-emergence of the Allied Democratic Force, a rebel group committed to overthrowing the Ugandan government and responsible for brutal attacks in the 1990s and early 2000s (World Bulletin; Agence France Presse; News 24). The men were kidnapped while looking into reports of an anti-tank landmine and in total, three such mines were discovered near Goma the same week as the abductions.  The mines appear to be new ones and would represent the first new usage of mines in DRC since 1999 (State Department; Radio Okapi).

Central African Republic

During an April 4th event, the head of the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) confirmed that there were “no real threats of landmines” in the country.  MINUSCA teams has recovered landmines from “public places” and displacement camps, but these mines were in stockpiles and not deployed (All Africa).

During the recent conflict in the Central African Republic, Seleka rebels had attacked members of the Ba’aka ethnic group in the belief that Ba’aka members had mythical Red Mercury.  The Ba’aka village is now under the fulltime protection of government soldiers (Mint Press News).

Angola

Making quick and steady progress in Bie Province, Angola and the HALO Trust announced the clearance of three minefields covering 10.5 hectares (All Africa). This clearance and other projects across the country facilitate rapid development such as the National Urbanisation and Housing Programme which seeks to build one million new houses in the country. To date, over 80,000 have been built and the Minister of Urbanisation and Housing called for more landmine clearance to allow more houses to be cleared (All Africa).

Somalia

In the capitol, Mogadishu, three men were caught trying to bury a landmine in Howlwadag district.  The mine was cleared and the road made safe (Warar Media).

Sudan

In commemoration of International Mine Action Day, the UNAMID peacekeeping mission in Darfur and its partner The Development Initiative (TDI) hosted an awareness session.  In 2014, TDI completed assessments of 217 villages, cleared 183 dangerous areas and destroyed over 3,000 pieced of unexploded ordnance.  TDI and its local partners have provided mine risk education to over 600,000 people in Darfur, a necessary act in a region which has seen at least 150 ERW incidents which have killed 105 people and injured 215, many of them children (All Africa).

In South Kordofan state where the government is fighting a rebel group, a landmine detonated during the national election day killing three people and injuring another three (Radio Tamazuj).

That conflict in South Kordofan has been associated with many accusations of human rights violations and war crimes. In April, Human Rights Watch reported on confirmed evidence of cluster munitions use by the government, identifying the remnants of six cluster bombs.  This is the second accusation of cluster munition use by Sudan, the first was in 2012, and monitors suspect that Sudan both stockpiles and produces the weapon.  Both times, the targets of the cluster munition use appear to be civilians which would be a war crime (Sudan Tribune).  Of course, the Sudanese government has rejected the reports, calling them “fabricated and baseless” and the fight against the rebels in South Kordofan “does not need such bombs” (Anadolu Agency).

Nigeria

The campaign against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria continued with fighting focused around Borno State and the Sambisa Forest where Boko Haram is believed to be based.  Boko Haram appears to have used landmines extensively to prevent any direct assault upon its position.  Seven Nigerians, six soldiers and one “civilian vigilante” were injured by a landmine placed by Boko Haram near the town of Baga (All Africa).  When Nigerian forces launched an attack on Sambisa Forest, one soldier and three vigilantes were killed by a mine and the Nigerian soldiers retreated to a point, just five kilometers from Boko Haram’s main camp in the forest (All Africa).  After these two incidents, the Nigerian army brought out mechanized minesweepers to help clear roads and paths for further attacks against Boko Haram (All Africa). This begs the question, if Nigeria had such equipment already, why did they wait until several soldiers had been killed or injured by mines before using them?  Especially since Boko Haram has long been rumored to be using landmines as part of its defense.

Tunisia

Eleven landmines were cleared by Tunisian forces during a recent operation on Mount Salloum in the Kasserine region on the Algerian border.  A twelfth mine detonated without causing an injuries (All Africa).

Mali

Mali continues to be in the midst of a terrible landmine epidemic as a result of continuing conflict there that has shattered most of the northern region of the country.  Since 2013 more than 325 people have been killed or injured by landmines in Mali (MINUSMA).  Two incidents targeted peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission, MINUSMA.  The first injured two peacekeepers and the second another seven; both incidents occurred as peacekeepers were escorting convoys near Kidal (Global Post; MINUSMA).  Two Malian soldiers were injured by a landmine near the town of Diabaly which is the further south a landmine attack has been recorded in the course of the current conflict (Reuters).  In Aguelhok, MINUSMA peacekeepers arrested three men who were accused of planting landmines (MINUSMA).  Near the town of Gossi, two civilian women were killed by a mine (Defence Web), but that incident was dwarfed by one on the road from Gossi to Gao.  Two men on a motorcycle placed a mine in the road and a bus carrying people to people to the weekly market hit the mine, killing at least three people and injuring another 28 (Agence France Presse; Global Post).

South Sudan

In an April 4th event for International Mine Action Day, the South Sudan Vice President called landmines “one of the biggest obstacles to development in the country.”  At the same event, the head of the South Sudan Demining Commission accused the rebel Sudanese People Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/IO) of using landmines in the current conflict (Radio Tamazuj).  In response the SPLM/IO’s Mine Action Program denied using landmines and in turn accused the government of South Sudan of using mines, reporting at least 60 separate incidents of landmine use by the government (Radio Tamazuj).  So the government denied the SPLM/IO’s accusations and reported discovering nine mines placed by the SPLM/IO, two of which destroyed vehicles (Citizen News).

This has been the pattern of the conflict in South Sudan since violence broke out in December 2013.  The two sides have traded accusations of war crimes and treaty violations when in fact, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional body of governments of East Africa, has documented violations by both sides in roughly equal numbers.  The government of South Sudan, the SPLM/IO and the many, many militias associated with each are all complicit in the continuation and escalation of the conflict.  In the end, it is the people of South Sudan who are made to suffer by their leaders’ callous indifference.

Algeria

The Algerian People’s National Army has cleared over 720,000 landmines from seven provinces.  72 municipalities had been contaminated by mines and 46 have been cleared so far with demining crews active in four (Ennahar).

Zimbabwe

The United States government has been increasing its investment in demining of Zimbabwe.  In FY2013, the US provided $500,000, in FY 2014 $750,000 and this year, $1 million.  The landmine contamination in Zimbabwe prevents agricultural development and has injured more than two thousand people since the war ended in 1980 (US Embassy in Harare).  With US government support, the HALO Trust has already cleared 5,000 mines, but with an estimate 1.5 million to go, a lot of work remains (HALO Trust).

Chad

Handicap International recently sent a team to the Moyen-Chari region of Chad to conduct some initial surveys and do some community liaison activities including mine risk education. During the trip, the team found multiple areas where munitions were abandoned after the wars in the 1980s.  The mines in this part of the country have impeded road works and agricultural development and injured dozens of people (Handicap International).

Zambia

And last, one of the countries at the forefront of the fight against landmines and cluster munitions continues to support those affected by landmines, even after the last mine has been cleared.  The government of Zambia re-affirmed its commitment to support landmine survivors.  According to the Foreign Minister, Zambia will conduct a needs assessment and then come up with a suitable and sustainable victim assistance program (Daily Mail Zambia).

Michael P. Moore

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

May 20, 2015


The Month in Mines, November 2014

As part of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee (covering “Peace and Security”), the member states voted on a resolution, “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction” (the Mine Ban Treaty) which was sponsored by Algeria, Mozambique and Belgium (the past, present and incoming Presidents of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, respectively).  The vote, on November 3, 2014, reflects the overwhelming support the Treaty has in the international community with 160 states voting for the Treaty and none against.  However, 17 states abstained from the vote, including one African state, Egypt, and the United States which had previously indicated its interest in eventually acceding to the treaty.  Libya, which is not a party to the Treaty, voted for the resolution in a show of its support for the humanitarian aims, a stance which the United States could have followed.  Instead, by abstaining, the United States allowed other states, notably North Korea, to also abstain.

Enough about the “United” Nations…

 

Angola

In Angola, the government has identified demining as a key step in national development.  In 2015 US $20 million will be spent on landmine clearance from the European Union and the funds will be used by national and international organizations.  Along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Norwegian Peoples Aid will clear some 490,000 square meters (All Africa).  Elsewhere, 46,000 square meters of the central Huambo province were cleared by a national organization between September and November and the land turned over to the community for agriculture (All Africa).  The focus on demining for development has allowed the construction of dams and power stations, right-of-ways for roads and fiber-optic cables, and some 185 million square meters of agricultural land to date (All Africa).  However, because all land in Angola is owned by the state, land reform must accompany demining.  Otherwise, some fear that heavily mined areas will be turned over to extraction industries and agricultural land will be made available to foreign corporations and not Angolan subsistence farmers.  In Cuito Cuanavale, the most mined area in Angola (and that’s really saying something), the HALO Trust estimates that after a decade of work, yet another decade will be needed to clear the minefields and in the meantime, the local residents will not have access to farms.  The result is food insecurity in what should be a breadbasket but the food insecurity will not be solved when then mines are cleared if the land reform issues is not also addressed (The Guardian).

 

Zimbabwe

Two stories show the limitations of landmine survivor assistance services in Zimbabwe.  The HALO Trust has recently provided eight prosthetic limbs to landmine survivors living along the northwestern border of the country.  One of the survivors was forced to fashion his own prosthetic, essentially a peg leg, because professionally-produced limbs were not available.  In the rainy season, the survivor could not tend his fields as the home-made prosthetic would get stuck in the mud.  Now, with a new limb made by a prosthetic center in Bulawayo, hundreds of kilometers away, the survivors will be able to plow their lands year round (HALO Trust).

The other story featured a survivor who suffered severe facial injuries as a child.  After the injury, the survivor’s mother abandoned the family out of fear of stigma.  The survivor persevered and met with doctors from an international organization, Operation of Hope, which provides reconstructive surgeries for cleft palates and lips.  The doctors were not able to immediately help the survivor, but they raised the funds and secured the donation of services for a series of surgeries in San Diego, California.  The reconstruction of the survivor’s face and jaw has taken more than two years and now the survivor is living and studying in Idaho (All Africa).  For both survivors, interventions were needed on their behalf to provide the necessary services and care for the survivors to reintegrate into society after their injuries.

 

Somalia

Kismayo, the main city in southern Somalia, saw at least one landmine explosion that was targeting local security forces.  No casualties were report (Radio Goobjoog; Garowe Online).  Security forces in Kismayo also arrested five suspected Al Shabaab members as they tried to plant additional landmines in the roads (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Mozambique

On November 6th, Mozambique’s National Demining Institute declared Inhambane province in the south of the country as landmine-free.  Some 6.5 million square meters of land were cleared by Handicap International and commercial operators.  With the announcement, seven of Mozambique’s ten provinces and 120 out 128 districts are now landmine free.  Clearing Inhambane was complicated by the floods of 2000 and 2001 and in fact some 230,000 square meters of suspected minefields could not be cleared because these areas remain submerged and any landmines are at the bottom of lakes and swamps.  Local police will be trained to address any landmines should the need arise (or the waters recede).  The Institute is now moving clearance capacity to the remaining districts to clear the last few remaining landmines (All Africa; UNDP).

 

Sudan

A few months ago the head of a Greek demining organization was under scrutiny for embezzling money that had been granted for landmine clearance projects in Bosnia, Lebanon and Iraq.  In Sudan, the director of the Sudanese Association for Combating Mines (JASMAR), which we have profiled on this site, was accused of embezzlement and giving Land Cruisers as gifts to people “who have nothing to do with the association.”  The accusations were brought by recently dismissed employees who have demanded an investigation.  According to the accusers, JASMAR has not been audited in almost a decade (All Africa).

 

Uganda

In Windsor, Canada, a former volunteer with the Advocacy Project is using a quilt to raise awareness about the plight of persons with disabilities in northern Uganda, including landmine survivors.  Noting that there are only two accessible toilets serving a community of 300,000 people, Dane Macri is trying to raise awareness and funds to build more such toilets in and around Gulu, a town heavily impacted by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion in the 1990s and early 2000s (Windsor Star).

 

Libya

Human Rights Watch published a report showing evidence that one or more of the militias that fought over the Tripoli airport in July and August 2014 used anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines.  Libya is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, but has indicated its support for the Treaty and the National Transitional Council, the coalition of militias and political groups that overthrew the Gaddafi regime in 2011, pledged not to use landmines in April of that year, a pledge that General Khalifa Hiftar signed.  Hiftar commands the Libya Dignity militia which was in control of the Tripoli airport until Misrata-based militias under the name, Libya Dawn, ousted them in August; Libya Dawn has accused Libya Dignity of placing the mines at the airport which would be a violation of Hiftar’s pledge.  Libya Dawn engineers have cleared some 600 landmines since taking control of the airport on August 24th (Human Rights Watch).

 

Mali

Mali remains an epicenter for new landmine use on the continent.  Ansar al Dine, a branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb under Iyad Ag Ghaly, has established a specialized unit within the group to place landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the roads around towns and United Nations peacekeeper bases in northern Mali.  Ansar al Dine members, typically young men between 17 and 20, will spot a UN vehicle traveling on a road and then the members will ride on motorbikes to a place further along the road which they expect the UN vehicles will pass.  They will then bury a landmine in the roadway and ride away on their motorbikes before the UN vehicle arrives.  To date, at least 21 soldiers have been killed and 97 others injured by landmines and IEDs, many of which have been placed by Ansar al Dine using these methods (Sahelien).

In November, there were at least four landmine incidents in Mali, three involving UN peacekeepers.  The first, near the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) camp in Kidal, destroyed the peacekeepers’ vehicle but did not result in any injuries (MaliWeb).  The second, a few days later, injured three peacekeepers near Gao.  The injured soldiers were evacuated for treatment.  Following up the attack, demining teams found another mine nearby (MINUSMA).  At the end of the month, two peacekeepers were killed and another nine injured, four seriously, when the government minister’s convoy they were protected struck a mine near Gao.  That same day, a water truck carrying two civilians struck a mine near Kidal, injuring two people (Reuters).

 

Egypt

With the support of the United Nations Development Program, the local organization, Mine Victims Association for Development, based in the western Egyptian city of Matrouh, provided micro-loans to 58 women survivors of landmines and wives of landmine survivors.  The loans, for up to 3,000 Egyptian Pounds or about US $400, are paid back in monthly installments and could be used to by “sheep, poultry, goats or sewing machines.”  For most of the recipients, these were the first loans ever taken out and project is “turning jobless victims to real agents of change in our community.”  The recipients have been empowered and are able to be the breadwinners for their families (UNDP).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Over the course of two decades, the army of then-Zaire dumped more than 60 tons of explosive materials on the banks of the Congo River, some 200 kilometers downstream from Kinshasa. By failing to dispose of the ordnance properly, the Zairean army allowed the explosives to spread along the river, leaving long stretches of riverbank uninhabitable.  A car ferry was forced to close and fishing activities could not continue.  Over the last two years, a team from Norwegian Peoples Aid has destroyed over 70,000 separate pieces of ordnance from nine different dump sites, some pieces dating back to pre-World War II colonial occupation.  Soon, the local hospital will be able to re-open, the ferry will renew service and fishing will resume (The Guardian).

 

Algeria

Another month, another 3,600 landmines cleared in Algeria.  Algerian army forces have destroyed over three-quarters of a million landmines to date, including over 3,100 anti-personnel mines and 500 anti-tank mines in October 2014 (All Africa).

 

South Sudan

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs releases a weekly status report on a number of issues in South Sudan, including mine action.  In a report this month, the following statement caught our eye:

The ongoing conflict has created new risks of explosive hazards particularly in the three conflict-affected states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, including anti-tank land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Elsewhere in the country the risks of UXOs from previous conflicts remain. These remained a direct threat to the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and to the safety of civilians and need to be cleared.

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan, one-year old as of this writing, will leave a long shadow on the country, not least from the new use of landmines by the warring parties.  The people of South Sudan are owed a permanent peace and their leaders are complicit in the tragedy by not finding a resolution.

 

Michael P. Moore

December 12, 2014

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, October 2014

Landmines have been called weapons of mass destruction in slow motion.  This month’s stories, which report on casualties from landmines laid 70 years ago as well as just a few weeks ago, prove that adage.  While heroic efforts are ongoing to clear the landmine contamination, emerging and continuing conflicts provide ample opportunity for new use.

 

Somalia

As the Somali National Army (SNA) and various regional militias, supported by the peacekeeping (peacemaking?) forces of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), engage in a new offensive against Al Shabaab, we can expect to see reports of landmine use and asymmetrical warfare.  In the Galgala mountain range of the semi-autonomous Puntland state, Puntland forces “flushed” Al Shabaab from the mountains that had been their base for several years.  To defend their base, Al Shabaab had laid mines which killed one Puntland officer and injured two others (All Africa). In southern Somalia, an armored vehicle stuck a landmine outside of Kismayo; no injuries were reported (All Africa).  And in the Shabelle region in the middle of Somalia, near the Ethiopian border, AMISOM forces struck a landmine in Marka town which resulted in at least a dozen civilian injuries and an unknown number of military casualties (Codka 24).

In addition to the military actions, a court sentenced a suspected Al Shabaab member to death for a plot to place a landmine in the Puntland town of Bosaso (Horseed Media).

 

Angola

Norwegian People’s Aid provided landmine clearance and detection training to 35 members of the Angolan army in Zaire province where some 6 million square meters of land need to be cleared (All Africa).  In the first half of 2014, some 33,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance, including anti-personnel landmines, have been found and cleared in Zaire Province (All Africa). In Cunene Province, almost 350,000 square meters of land was cleared in 2013 by the National Demining Institute and in 2015, the Institute plans to clear another 10,000 hectares to enable expanded agricultural outputs (All Africa).  In the central Bie Province, 174,000 square meters have been cleared of landmines over the last twelve months (All Africa).

 

Mali

Mali continues to see new use of landmines in the restive northern region where Islamists had briefly declared a caliphate before being dislodged by French forces.  According to some sources, Islamists are paying US $200 to youths, who may or may not even be Muslim, who place landmines in the roadways used by the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, in northern Mali.  A bonus of US $1,000 is paid if a mine kills a French soldier (Le Monde).  The MNLA, a Tuareg group that had sided with the Islamists and is now closer to joining the government’s coalition, had two members seriously injured by a landmine, when the vehicle they were riding is struck a mine near the northern city of Kidal (MNLA).  Three Senegalese peacekeepers with MINUSMA were injured by a landmine also near Kidal; two were injured severely and transported to Dakar for treatment (Reuters).

 

Western Sahara

The Sahrawi Ambassador to Algeria reported that Morocco had planted more than 5 million anti-personnel landmines and an unspecified number of anti-vehicle mines in the Western Sahara region while speaking at the opening of a photo exhibit of landmine clearance.  The ambassador called on Morocco to assist in the clearance efforts (All Africa).

 

Tunisia

While the one lingering bright spot from the Arab Spring revolutions, Tunisia continues to struggle with its own Islamist insurgency based in the mountain ranges along the border with Algeria.  The Tunisian military has been actively engaged in the conflict, but has not been able to defeat the rebels.  Seven soldiers were injured by landmines in two separate incidents in the Sakiet Sidi Youssef area of Kef (All Africa; Cihan News Agency).  In later reports from the military, a landmine explosion was acknowledged but no casualties were reported from the blast (All Africa).

 

Libya

The civil war in Libya (and to be honest, it’s probably multiple wars) has shifted focus away from Tripoli to Benghazi, the heart of the original uprising that toppled the Gaddhafi regime.  As forces aligned with the internationally recognized government advanced on Benghazi, airstrikes and street to street fighting erupted.  A soldier with the Libyan army was killed trying to defuse a landmine; unclear if the mine was newly laid or dated from the 2011 conflict or even earlier (All Africa).

 

Egypt

In Sinai, where an insurgency has rumbled along since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, a child was killed by a landmine that was a suspected remnant from earlier wars (Arab Today).  Also in Sinai, two women were injured by an anti-tank landmine near the border with Gaza (TNN). Despite these incidents and others in recent years, it is the minefields in western Egypt which date back to the tank battles of World War II that receive all of the attention and have caused the majority of casualties.  A World War II landmine near the Libyan border injured eight Egyptians who were trying to cross into Libya seeking work (Ahram).  The European Union allocated 4.7 million euros to support demining efforts in the western desert to support the government’s longstanding development plans for the region (All Africa).  All told, there were more than 22 million landmines in Egypt, 17.5 million in the western desert and 5.5 million in Sinai; the Egyptian government has cleared 1.2 million mines over the last two decades (a rate which would mean that another two centuries are needed to clear the rest of the mines).  In the last 15 years, over 8,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines making expedited clearance a necessity (Ahram).

 

Namibia

Namibia has declared itself free of all known landmines, but the construction of a 200 kilometer highways faced some delays due to the suspected presence of unexploded ordnance in the right of way.  This was a reminder that even if a country has completed its demining for anti-personnel landmines under the Mine Ban Treaty, the danger of unexploded ordnance of other types may remain (New Era).

 

Central African Republic

Sticking with countries we don’t mention too often in these pages, the Central African Republic will soon see an engineering contingent of Cambodian peacekeepers in the country.  Among the Cambodians’ tasks will be demining which, as in Namibia, will likely focus on unexploded ordnance as there have been no reports of landmine use in the Republic despite the violence of the last couple years (and the many, many years previously) (First Post).

 

Kenya

Kenya is also not a mine-affected country, but does have several military installations which have not been adequately marked and cleared.  These installations include firing ranges where explosive ordnance was used to practice and when four herders passed through old ranges, one of them stepped on an unexploded piece of ordnance, causing it to explode and injuring all four (Baringo County-News).

 

Algeria

With around 11 million landmines dating from World War II, the liberation war with the French and the civil war of the 1990s, Algeria was once one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.  With up to 80,000 killed or injured by mines, Algeria has made massive efforts to address the problem, clearing 8 million mines as of 2000.  Clearance operations were halted from the early 1990s until 2004 when demining resumed in earnest.  Algeria anticipates meeting its Mine Ban Treaty deadline of clearing all anti-personnel mines by 2017 (Qantara).  Algeria continues to make steady progress towards mine clearance with over 3,600 mines cleared in September alone by Algerian army units (All Africa). In the decade since demining resumed, almost 1 million mines have been cleared which would leave an estimate 2 million mines yet to be cleared (Arab Today).

 

Sudan

Two Darfurian children died from alleged poisoning after touching a bomb dropped by the Sudanese Air Force near Jebel Marra.  After picking up the bomb, they ate their dinner and died within half an hour of eating from vomiting and diarrhea.  Other local reports suggest that livestock in the area suffer from paralysis, diarrhea and skin rashes.  “The people in East Jebel Marra believe that the bombing by the Sudanese government has poisoned the drinking water, affecting the livestock” (Radio Dabanga).  These allegations should be followed up on to determine the true causes of the deaths of these children and livestock.  Poisoning of water or delivery of poisonous substances by bombing would represent egregious violations of human rights.

 

South Sudan

The Development Initiative (TDI) has launched a few new projects in South Sudan in partnership with the United Nations Mine Action Service.  The projects include technical survey and landmine clearance and will provide emergency as well as long-term clearance capacity (TDI).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Of the more than twenty rebel groups to emerge and try to overthrow the Ugandan government since Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, one of the more obscure yet frightening is the Allied Democratic (or occasionally “Defence”) Front (ADF).  From a base in the Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the ADF launched several daring raids in the late 1990s on police and military positions in western Uganda as well as an assault on a school in which students were abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers for the ADF.  The ADF used mines to disrupt travel on the roadways and was subsequently defeated by the Ugandan army in a brief campaign linked to Uganda’s other adventures in the DRC.  In very recent days, the ADF has re-emerged in the DRC where it is manufacturing its own landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) following designs used by Al Shabaab in Somalia.  The ADF had been supported in the 1990’s by the government of Sudan in Khartoum as a proxy force against the government of Uganda (which was supporting rebels in South Sudan against Khartoum) and many of the ADF’s members were radical Islamists which is the link to Al Shabaab.  In its current incarnation, the ADF’s mines and IEDs are taking a toll on the United Nations’ Force Intervention Brigade which had been deployed against the Congolese militia M23 and similar groups.  It’s not clear how many people have been injured by ADF’s mines, but the attacks appear to have started in January 2014 (African Armed Forces).

 

Michael P. Moore

November 20, 2014

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

 


The Month in Mines, March 2014

One of the unsung heroes in the fight against landmines in Africa is the government of Japan.  Every year, the Japanese government makes a significant contribution to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action and 2014 is no different.  With contributions in March of US $2.5 million for South Sudan (UNMAS), US $1 million for Somalia (UNMAS), US $5.2 million for Libya (UNSMIL), and US $1 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo (UNMAS), Japan is one of the largest donors to mine action in Africa.  While most of the funding will support landmine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal capacity, the funding for the DRC includes a survivor assistance component.

 

Somalia

Three soldiers for the semi-autonomous region of Jubbaland were injured by a landmine in Kismayo.  The mine went off near the Vecchio football stadium (Radio Garowe). In Mogadishu, a convoy from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) detonated a landmine and in the aftermath, soldiers from the convoy fired indiscriminately.  An unknown number of AMISOM soldiers were injured by the mine and several civilians were injured by the AMISOM troops’ shooting (Anadolu Agency).  Also in Kismayo, Sierra Leonean soldiers serving with AMISOM were injured by a mine with one vehicle “seriously damaged.”  One civilian was killed in the blast and an unknown number of peacekeepers injured (All Africa).

 

Western Sahara

A ten-year old boy was injured by an anti-personnel landmine near the 2720-kilometer berm, built by Morocco to divide the Western Sahara territory.  The boy was evacuated by helicopter by a team from Action on Armed Violence (All Africa).

In Austria, the Volkshilfe Austria and Austrian Friendship Association with Sahrawi People launched a campaign, “Raise your hand for the Western Sahara” to increase awareness within Austria about Western Sahara and encourage Austria’s foreign ministry to support the Sahrawi people and their quest for self-determination.  One of the goals of the campaign is to solicit Austria’s support for the dismantling and demining of the berm (All Africa).

 

Angola

Nearly 2,000 kilometers of roads were cleared of landmines in Angola in 2013.  In the process, deminers found over 3,000 landmines and 100,000 pieced of explosive ordnance (All Africa). At local levels, 7,000 people in Bie Province received mine risk education and demining in Moxico province received a boost as the Japanese government provided a nearly US $600,000 grant to Mines Advisory group for landmine clearance (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Egypt

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reiterated its support for Egypt’s strategic role in the Middle East and announced the NATO will soon launch a project to test landmine detection equipment in the country’s western desert where mines remain from World War II (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

The reports are conflicting about the type of ordnance involved – one says a landmine, the other an 80 mm mortar bomb – but in the Sunningdale suburb of Harare, a welder was killed when he tried to open a piece of unexploded ordnance, apparently to obtain the hoax material, red mercury.  Two men, the ones who offered US $100 to the welder to open the object with a grinder, were injured in the blast (Zimbabwe Diaspora; All Africa).

Red mercury does not exist and people in Zimbabwe and elsewhere should not be dying to try to extract it from landmines and other unexploded ordnance (News Day).

Despite 30 years of clearance efforts, landmines continue to pollute Zimbabwe’s Mukumbura district and other border areas.  The problem is the lack of political will to carry out the work.  When the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) requested US $2 million for mine clearance this year, only US $500,000 was allocated.  Almost 1,600 people have been killed or maimed according to official records, but ZIMAC believes that casualties have been significantly under-reported.  The government of Zimbabwe uses international sanctions as an excuse and shield for its lack of activity, but those are merely excuses.  Clifford Sibanda, a parliamentarian, stated “There is little hope the government will be able to meet its [Mine Ban Treaty] obligations” by the January 2015 mine clearance deadline.  Currently, ZIMAC is being supported by the HALO Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid and the International Committee of the Red Cross, but the government of Zimbabwe must also provide support at a level commensurate with the problem (All Africa)

 

Mozambique

Maputo province declared free of landmines at event attended by Deputy Foreign Minister (and President of June’s Review Conference for the Mine Ban Treaty), Henrique Banze and US Ambassador Douglas Griffiths.  Maputo is the sixth of Mozambique’s ten provinces to be declared mine-free (All Africa). However, in Sofala, one of the remaining four provinces to be cleared, attacks on government forces and landmine clearance organizations by members of the National Resistance Movement (RENAMO) have led to suspension of demining activities and threaten Mozambique’s ability to meet its deadline of clearing all landmines by the end of the year.  If a ceasefire is not in place by May 1 and if that ceasefire does not hold, then the director of Mozambique’s National Demining Institute believes the deadline will be missed (Agence France Presse).

 

Libya

The Japanese government tripled its contribution for mine action in Libya from US $1.8 million in 2013 to US $5.2 million this year.  The funding will cover landmine and UXO clearance from three cities which witnessed heavy fighting and landmine use by both sides in the war that toppled the Gadhafi regime.  The Libyan Mine Action Centre has called for additional funding, saying that US $19.7 million is needed for mine action tasks in 2014, including US $8.1 million for a survey to just establish the scope of contamination.  Landmines and UXO in Libya date from several periods and conflicts including World War II, a war with Egypt in 1977, wars with Chad in 1980 and 1987 and the recent civil war (Defence Web).  As if to highlight the continuing need a landmine laid by the Gadhafi regime exploded killing a man outside the city of Zintan (Libya Herald) and two others were killed and third injured during landmine clearance in Benghazi (Turkish Press).

 

Mali

Four Chadian soldiers serving in Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping force were injured by a landmine in northeastern Mali.  One source suspected the mine had been laid recently since the road the Chadians was traveling on was used frequently and no other incidents had been reported in the previous two weeks (Mali Jet).

 

Sudan

The Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Sudan traveled to Kassala state to observe the mine risk education programs the government of Japan is funding. Carried out by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), mine risk education is seen as contributing to peace, stability and development (Sudan Vision).

 

African Union

Experts from the ICRC, African states, civil society and survivor associations met in Addis Ababa to “discuss and seek solutions to the challenges involved in providing assistance for people injured by landmines, cluster munitions or other explosive remnants of war.”  Representing the 15 African states with significant numbers of survivors of weapon-related injuries, the participants in the workshop sought to document the progress African countries have made in terms of legislation relation to survivor assistance and discuss the challenge of implementing survivor assistance programs.   In 1997, the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, approved a plan of action that called on member states to “address the plight of victims and survivors and take renewed cognizance of their problems with a view to meeting the health and social needs of all landmine survivors in Africa.”  The workshop in Addis Ababa sought to integrate “victim assistance into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, poverty reduction, development and employment.”  The outcome of the workshop will be a report that shall be released soon (All Africa; African Union).

Michael P. Moore

April 8, 2014


The Month in Mines, February 2014

Unfortunately, the shortest month of the year did not bring less news about landmines on the Continent.  In addition to the stories below, there has been a renewed push for the United States to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty with a symposium in Washington, DC at which the Mozambican Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Amélia Matos Sumbana, invited the United States to join the Mine Ban Treaty and send an official representative to the Third Review Conference in Maputo in June.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Congolese militia leader, Bosco Ntaganda, appeared in the International Criminal Court at The Hague for an evidentiary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to prosecute him for war crimes committed in Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Ntaganda, popularly known as “the Terminator” and associated with the M23 militia recently defeated in DRC, faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity.  While the official charges include rape, murder and recruitment of child soldiers, the ICC prosecutors included Ntaganda’s use of landmines as evidence of his attacks on civilians.  Militias under Ntaganda’s command would place landmines in villages rendering those places unsafe for return after looting (All Africa).

In February, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and National Mine Action Centre of DRC announced the completion and results of the national landmine contamination survey.  The survey identified 130 suspected minefields in eight of DRC’s 11 provinces; the total contaminated area is equivalent to 250 football fields which makes the scale of contamination relatively small.  However, almost all of the minefields block access to agricultural lands, depriving local communities of their livelihoods.

To date, 8 million square meters of land has been cleared of mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) and now, just 1.5 million square meters remain.  Based upon the survey results, DRC could be “mine impact free” by 2019 if some US $20 million were to be allocated for the effort.  There have been 2,500 landmine casualties in DRC and with this information, future victims can be spared (Relief Web).

Sudan

Five people, including a volunteer with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, were killed and another 19 injured, six of whom were also volunteers with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Sudan’s South Khordofan State.  In a bitterly ironic twist, the volunteers were on their way to provide medical treatment to civilians injured by gunmen in an attack on the town of Karida.  In South Khordofan, some one million Sudanese are isolated by conflict and unable to access humanitarian aid and the landmine blast occurred just as rebels in southern Sudan and the government in Khartoum began a new round of peace talks, the first in about a year.  The landmine also highlighted the fact that Sudan has one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in Africa and that with the blockades of humanitarian aid to South Khordofan, many other landmine survivors may not be able to access the rehabilitation services they need in the aftermath of their injuries (All Africa; Ahram; International Committee of the Red Cross; All Africa).

Angola

In a model of South-South collaboration, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and Angola’s National Institute of Demining (INAD), with support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), signed a cooperation agreement on the removal of landmines.  Cambodian and Angolan deminers will share experiences to better serve their respective populations (All Africa).  The agreement came as INAD announced plans to demine over 20 million square meters of land in Cunene province, focusing on secondary and tertiary roads and land designated for housing project (All Africa).  INAD also described its efforts to clear landmines from the transborder conservation area of Okavango-Zambia, with seven demining brigades deployed to Cuando Cubango province which is part of the conservation area (All Africa).

 

Western Sahara

 

The Coordinator of the International Campaign against the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara, Dr. Sidi Mohamed Omar, traveled to Austria to meet with the Austrian Parliament and supporters of Western Sahara’s independence.  Austrian members of Parliament were “shocked” by the presence of the wall and the millions of landmines that divide Western Sahara; others called it “shameful” (All Africa).

 

Mozambique

 

In an update on the demining progress in Mozambique, the National Demining Institute’s (IND) head of operations declared that 500 suspected hazardous areas across 19 districts remain.  Five of Mozambique’s 11 provinces have been completely cleared and 5.6 million square meters are all that remains to be cleared; in 2013, Mozambique cleared over 9 million square meters.  The occasion for the remarks was a seminar to develop a national victim assistance plan for the almost 2,500 landmine survivors in the country who will continue to need support after the demining tasks are finished, hopefully this year (All Africa).

Mali

In addition to the Cambodians participating in exchanges with Angola, 328 members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) have joined the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali where they will be responsible for demining, ordnance disposal and airport maintenance (Phnom Penh Post).

Unfortunately, the Cambodian team was not in place in time to prevent the landmine incident that took place near the Kidal airport in northern Mali.  Two Malian employees of the organization Medecins du Monde were injured after their vehicle struck the mine.  The injured were transported to Bamako for treatment (Reuters).

Tunisia

Another landmine detonated on Tunisia’s Mount Chaambi in the Kasserine region by the Algerian border.  No injuries or casualties were reported from the blast which occurred as an armored military vehicle passed by the mine.  The mine was not believed to have been newly laid (Tunisia Live).

Kenya

A six year old boy was killed by a piece of unexploded ordnance, described as a landmine, he stepped on at the military training ground in Baringo County.  It is not clear if the boy accessed a prohibited site (and if so, how) or if the explosive had been found outside the training grounds (Standard Media).

Chad

Five people were killed and another 15 injured when the nine vehicles they were riding in drove into a minefield.  The anti-personnel mines in the field were powerful enough to damage the first two vehicles, but not to severely injure those inside.  But, when the passengers got out of the vehicles to inspect the damage, they realized only too late the extent of their danger.  Terrified to move after their fellow travelers were killed or injured, one person was able to call Chad’s National Demining Center (NDC) for help.  An emergency response team from the NDC and Mines Advisory Group set off with some 400 liters of water for the ten-hour journey to the minefield.  The response team, with medics drove through the night to reach the survivors.

Stop and think about that.  Fifteen people injured by mines, four killed (the fifth would succumb after the response team arrived), and an unknown number of others spent the night in an active minefield, waiting for rescue.

Upon arrival, the response team provided first aid and then helped to transport the wounded get into ambulances for a two hour drive to the clinic.  The next day, the government of Chad provided a plane to carry the injured to hospitals in the capitol, Ndjamena.  The response team completed the task of marking the minefield for future clearance and removed the two damaged vehicles (Trust).

Algeria

The Algerian army reported clearing almost 3,700 landmines in January placed by the French army during the liberation struggle in the 1950s and 1960s.  The mines were removed from minefields along the eastern and western borders of the country (Ennaha).

Zimbabwe

A parliamentary report on the financial situation of Zimbabwe’s police and military shows massive underfunding of priority projects.  In addition to soldiers losing healthcare coverage due to failure of the army to pay debts, only a quarter of the requested US $2 million budget for demining was allocated.  With such a reduced budget, Zimbabwe will fail to meet its Article 5 landmine clearance deadlines under the Mine Ban Treaty.  Without the support of the ICRC, Norwegian People’s Aid and the HALO Trust, the country would be even further behind in its mine clearance obligations.  The poor financial situation is the result of sanctions against the Zimbabwe government in response to election violence and land seizures and a dwindling tax base and the national economy has faltered (Mail and Guardian).  Of course, the government was able to find US $1 million to pay for Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday party (Voice of America).

Somalia

A landmine blast in Beledhawo town killed three people and injured many more.  The mine appeared to be targeting government troops and may have been detonated remotely (All Africa).  In Kismayo, four civilians were injured by a landmine near one of the city’s mosques (Hiiraan Online).

In a ray of hope, the disabled community, including landmine survivors, is organizing as civil society in Somalia emerges.  The Institute of Education for Disabled People in Somalia, an organization founded in 1993 which has survived two conflict-ridden decades, called on the government to include disability on the development agenda for Somalia and provide reintegration services for all persons with disability.  As an example, the African Education Trust provided vocational training to 115 disabled Somalis, all of whom were able to find work after the conclusion of the training program.  The Somali government needs to also address physical accessibility of official buildings (All Africa).

South Sudan

Normally we don’t cover cluster munitions or other weapons, just landmines, but a recent turn of events in South Sudan requires some discussion.  This month, UNMAS confirmed the presence of cluster bombs on the Juba – Bor road in Jonglei state.  The bombs in question are air-dropped cluster bomblets which could have been dropped by either a plane or a helicopter.  South Sudan has reported in the past that it does not possess any cluster munitions and the rebel groups in Jonglei state lack the aircraft to have used the bombs.  The South Sudan army’s spokesperson declared “We (do not) have the capacity to deliver these weapons. We have no capacity to use them, transport them or even stockpile these weapons.”

There were credible reports of Ugandan helicopters in the area two months before the cluster bombs were discovered and UNMAS confirmed that the bombs were dropped less than two months before their discovery.  Uganda has made conflicting claims about the possession of a cluster munitions stockpile, but Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Development Programme has evidence that air-dropped cluster munitions of the same type found in South Sudan were used in Northern Uganda during the conflict with the LRA.  Now, here’s why I want to highlight this story: “Uganda denied that its armed forces ever used cluster munitions and said the LRA was responsible.”  The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has never, ever had the ability to use cluster munitions.  The LRA did use landmines, but never had any aircraft or artillery to deliver cluster munitions (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa; ENCA; All Africa).  The Ugandan army and government often use the LRA as a bogeyman or cover for all kinds of illegal activities, including smuggling and human rights abuses.  Whenever the Ugandan government faces questions from outside about its military activities, Uganda would bring up the LRA as an excuse.  That won’t fly here.  The cluster bombs were probably dropped by the Ugandan air force on South Sudanese rebels in violation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions which Uganda has signed (but not yet ratified).  There were accusations that in 1998 Uganda used landmines during its invasion of DRC when Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers fought for possession of the city of Kisangani (which was part of the survey mentioned above…).  No concrete evidence was ever found, but Uganda’s denials then were as hollow as their denials of cluster munitions use are now.

Michael P. Moore

March 6, 2014