The passing of one of the towering giants of the Cold War, Fidel Castro, has prompted a lot of column inches in other venues. This past summer I saw some of the impact of Cuba’s military adventurism in Angola but in previous trips I saw Cuban-built hospitals in Vietnam and met Cuban engineers in Denmark. During Castro’s leadership, Cuba was a country with an outsized impact on the world. Even before the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, the United States had removed the minefields that surrounded the military base at Guantanamo Bay and Cuba’s role as mediator in negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels had held out hope for demining progress there. Cuba recently joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the improving relations between the US and Cuba removed one of the principle excuses Cuba had used to remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty.
A newly discovered minefields was reported in the central province of Bie. The exact extent of the contamination is not known, but the area had been the scene of fighting during one of Angola’s many periods of fighting in the province (All Africa).
In the northern province of Malanje, the Japanese ambassador to Angola re-affirmed his country’s commitment to Angola’s humanitarian mine action program. Annually the Japanese government provides US $20 million for demining in Angola (Relief Web).
In the northern Zaire province, the National Demining Institute detonated over 100 explosive remnants of was including eight landmines (All Africa).
The director of Angola’s mine action program estimates that 270 million euros will be required to clear the remaining 1,435 known minefields. Angola will need international support to meet the Maputo Declaration’s goal of clearing all known minefields by 2025. At present, Angola still needs to complete minefield surveys in eight of the country’s 18 provinces to fully document the extent of contamination (Government of Angola).
During an attack on Mandera, a town along the Somali-Kenya border, Al Shabaab members planted landmines in the town which have hindered the efforts of the security forces to respond to the attack (All Africa).
In Mogadishu, three suspected Al Shabaab members were killed by the landmine they were trying to plant in a roadway (All Africa).
The extensive use of remote-controlled and victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been a major security challenge for the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia. 225 separate attacks have been recorded in 2016 with hundreds of casualties. Victim-activated IEDs, including pressure-plate and magnetic IEDs, are banned by the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).
The Nigerian army, having ousted Boko Haram from much of northeastern Nigeria is now busy trying to certify the safety of liberated areas. The army recognizes the threat from landmines and IEDs and once an area has been cleared of explosives, it will be released back to the population (The Eagle). The governor of Adamawa state acknowledged the threat and fear of landmines during a speech at the United States Institute of Peace. The governor also noted that despite the assurances of the army, many farmers are reluctant to return to their fields (All Africa). Those fears have some validity as less than an hour after the Nigerian army declared a road in Maiduguri safe, a truck struck a landmine injuring several passengers (All Africa).
During the fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria recruited and used local vigilante forces to augment the formal army units. At least 162 women whose husbands served as vigilantes have been widowed as a result of the fighting, many by landmines, and the Borno state government has committed to providing assistance to those widows (All Africa).
The national mine action authority is developing a new extension request for its Article 5 mine clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. This would be the fifth such extension request and set a new deadline for clearing all known minefields of 2025, matching the global deadline from the Maputo Declaration. At present, the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid are actively demining in Zimbabwe and they will soon be joined by Mines Advisory Group and APOPO (All Africa). Unfortunately, the national commitment to demining appears to be lacking. For the last several years, the government of Zimbabwe has only allocated US $500,000 for demining and in 2016, that allocation was reduced to US $100,000 (News Day). The government, in its extension request, should state its commitment to demining and identify national resources to match that commitment.
Multiple landmine incidents were reported in northern Mali. Three Malian soldiers were killed and another injured when their vehicle stuck a mine in the northern Timbuktu region. This accident closely followed an incident in which a Chadian soldier was killed by a landmine in Kidal when his vehicle struck a mine (Fox News). A Tuareg leader from an anti-government faction was killed by a landmine less than 300 meters from a United Nations base in Kidal where he has been meeting with peacekeeping troops (Reuters). Landmines were used as part of an ambush of Malian soldiers in the village of N’Goma Coura in the center of the country. Four soldiers were killed and seven injured in the attack (Yahoo).
Female parliamentarians in Libya called upon the Italian government and the international community to support demining in the liberated areas of Benghazi (ANSAMed). The Dutch ambassador to Libya pledged one million Euros for demining in Sirte (Libya Observer). Despite the gains made by the government-backed army in Sirte, there are concerns about the insurgent attacks. A teacher was killed and his family members injured by a landmine on the road from Sirte to Misrata, an area that is supposed to have been liberated from Islamist forces. This was the fifth such explosion on that stretch of road in less than three months (Libya Herald).
Despite the war, students at Benghazi University managed to complete their studies and to celebrate their graduation, they visited the campus which had recently been liberated after a two years’ occupation by Islamic State forces. Demining teams continue to work to clear the campus of explosives, but estimate that only 5% of the booby traps and landmines have been cleared (BBC News).
Three militia members aligned with the government were killed when their vehicle struck and detonated a piece of unexploded ordnance (All Africa).
Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister met with Swiss representatives to request support from Switzerland to clear the landmines in the Northwest Desert that remain from World War II (El Balad).
A four-year old child was killed by a cluster munition and two others were injured (Remove the Wall).
Michael P. Moore
November 30, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Syria and Yemen deservedly get the majority of the news about use of cluster munitions and landmines, but North Africa has also seen fairly widespread use of these weapons in the last few years. Beginning with the Gaddhafi regime’s use to try and hold off the liberation forces encouraged by Arab Spring, through current use by various Islamist groups, new landmine use can be seen in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria. In Libya and Sudan, government aligned forces have been alleged to use cluster munitions. The use of these weapons in these ongoing conflicts means that their effects will be felt for years to come, in countries which already faced substantial burdens of explosive remnants of war.
During World War II, British and German armies laid some 17 million landmines in the western deserts of Egypt, an area that became famous as the tank battle of El Alamein. Most of those landmines remain in the deserts and until recently have only been a threat to the nomadic communities who make the desert their home. Two people were killed and three injured by a mine in the Wasy el-Natroun area. Egypt now has plans to development much of the western desert to take advantage of the natural gas deposits that lie below the surface and has cleared 155 square kilometers of desert of mines (Daily News Egypt), but another actor has also emerged with plans for the minefields: the Islamic State. According to the former director of Egypt’s Mine Action Center, Fathy el-Shazly, there have been at least ten confirmed reports of jihadists digging up old landmines and repurposing them as improved explosive devices, the first coming in 2004. The March 2016 landmine blast in the Red Sea area was attributed to repurposed landmines. Newsweek’s story about ISIS using World War II mines is a bit breathless and sensationalized, but points to another danger of abandoned ordnance. To its credit, Newsweek also highlights the poverty of the nomadic communities in the western desert and notes that some of the nomads are tempted to dig up the old mines and sell them as they have no other form of income (Newsweek).
In the Sinai region, where the Egyptian government is fighting a separate Islamist insurgency, a policy captain was killed while chasing insurgents following a firefight and an attempted bombing of an Al-Arish police station (Ahram).
When Papias Higiro stepped on a landmine shortly after the genocide and civil war in Rwanda, his life prospects were bleak. 21 years later, Papias has received his first prosthetic leg and can fulfill his dream of walking again and will attend vocational training to become a hairdresser. This intervention was made possible by the charitable arm of AirTel, a mobile phone company (All Africa).
The government of Zimbabwe has accused three Zimbabweans living abroad of trying to destabilized the government. One of the men is accused of threatening to plant landmines on the roads to kill a thousand people (The Herald).
In recognition of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, recognized the landmine clearance efforts of the Zimbabwean army, the HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (All Africa).
Nigerian soldiers are clearing landmines and other explosives left by Boko Haram and have arrested five members of the group who are suspected of planting some of the mines (All Africa). The local Nigerian commanders boasted of a massive demining effort covering the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, an effort made possible by the purchase and delivery of demining equipment (Vanguard).
Nigeria is not the only country affected by Boko Haram. Four Chadian soldiers were killed by a Boko Haram landmine near that country’s border with Niger (Reuters).
In Libya, the army under General Haftar, has ousted Islamic State forces from the city of Sirte, but Islamic State laid many landmines and booby traps. Deminers from the army and from Libya’s intelligence services are now tasked with clearing mines and explosives which have killed over 300 soldiers and injured another 400. At least four deminers have been killed and another injured trying to clear Sirte. Five months of clearance work remains in Sirte according to a military spokesman (IRIN News). To assist the Libyan forces, the Italian government is believed to have deployed special forces to the country to train Libyan deminers (Sputnik News; Ahram).
General Haftar’s army, while calling for assistance with landmine clearance, has also not helped its own cause by using banned cluster bombs. In official photos published by the Libyan National Army (LNA), army helicopters are shown carrying the munitions, which challenges the LNA’s denial of use of such weapons in Derna and Benghazi (War is Boring).
In addition to the LNA’s cluster bombs, the Islamic State left landmines in Derna city, one of which killed a leader of the Shura Council of Mujahideen, an Islamist group that ousted Islamic State before being besieged by the LNA (Libyan Express).
In Benghazi two soldiers were killed and two more wounded at a checkpoint in the Al Gawarsha district (Libya Observer). And in Misrata, the local hospital reported three soldiers killed in two separate incidents, both attributed to Islamic State landmines (Libya Observer).
Of course, the extensive use of landmines can also backfire as seen in Sirte when an Islamic State member tried to drive an explosive laden car into Al Bunyan Al Marsoos positions and struck a landmine laid by Islamic State forces, destroying the car and causing no casualties beyond the driver (Libyan Observer).
Three Tunisian soldiers were killed and seven more injured by an anti-tank landmine in the western region of the country, near the Algerian border. The mountainous region has been a hideout for militants since the start of Arab Spring in 2011 (Press TV).
The Algerian army cleared 866 landmines dating back to the liberation war against the French. This was part of the ongoing clearance work along the borders of the country. Algeria is also facing a current threat from Islamist groups that are fighting against the government and the army. In the last year and a half, Algerian has killed or arrested hundreds of suspected Islamists and the government claims that the Islamists have mostly been defeated and the government is now trying to consolidate its position and make the affected areas safe for the population. The government reported the seizure of two landmines that were believed to have been intended for use along the country’s roads. In just such an incident, four civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a mine attributed to Islamist groups (Strategy Page; Defence Web).
Michael P. Moore
September 26, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Bear with me, folks: this is going to be a long one. In March we have landmine-related stories from 15 countries and areas, with good and bad news to report. In the stories below, I report on over 150 landmine and ERW casualties, the deadliest month of the year so far. The positive news includes continued mine clearance in Angola and Algeria and Japan’s support for mine action in several countries. The glass is never more than half-full.
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights produces a biannual report on violations of the human rights of the Sahrawi people. In their report for the period July – December 2015, they noted one landmine injury in addition to multiple other violations (All Africa).
During March, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Western Sahara and observed the landmine clearance projects managed by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) (All Africa). During that visit, Ban referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara by Morocco which led the Moroccan government to call for the expulsion of the UN mission in Western Sahara, including the UNMAS staff.
Also in March, Western Sahara registered its first landmine fatality of the year when a shepherd’s truck struck a probable anti-vehicle mine west of the berm, near Smara (Remove the Wall).
The government of Japan pledged US $2.1 million in support of UNMAS’s work in Kassala, Red Sea, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The donation will support clearance of 1.5 million square meters and risk education for 100,000 Sudanese (All Africa). At the same time, a rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), accused the government of Sudan of using cluster munitions in the ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains region, which includes South Kordofan (Sudan Tribune).
In North Darfur’s Tawila area, two UXO incidents were reported. In the first, two men were killed by a UXO blast as they were collecting firewood (Radio Dabanga). In the second incident, six gold miners were killed and three more injured when their vehicle struck a piece of UXO (Radio Dabanga).
Even though the country has been declared landmine free, Mozambique is still plagued by other explosive remnants of war so the national police are being educated on explosive ordnance disposal (Star Africa).
In addition to training Senegalese forces, the US Marines have been training Moroccan soldiers to build the demining capacity of the Moroccan army. Starting in 2007, the Moroccan military has cleared some 564 square kilometers of land, and the goal is for Morocco to be able to train its own forces on explosive ordnance disposal. In April, Morocco will launch a new effort to clear the landmines from the eastern side of the berm that divides Western Sahara into the Moroccan-controlled area and the Polisario-controlled area (Camp Lejeune Globe; Sahara Question).
The governments of Japan and Norway provided US $ 203,384 for landmine clearance in Malanje province. With the funds, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) will be able to clear 117,000 square meters (All Africa).
The National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH) has called on the population to report suspected minefields to the Commission. At the same time, CNIDAH’s representative announced plans for clearance of 3.1 million square meters of land in Cunene province and that over 546,000 square meters had been cleared in 2015 (Angola Press). In Lunda Norte province, the National Demining Institute (INAD) reported the clearance of 2.2 million square meters of land in 2015 (All Africa). As part of the national infrastructure plan, INAD has finished the clearance of the high voltage lines in Cabinda Province which was accompanied by some clearance activities to enable small scale cultivation (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603170842.html). In Zaire province, construction of electrical lines is pending the demining of some 189 kilometers of line (Angola Press). In Uige province, the Angola NGO, Terra Mae, cleared over 300 landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in March (Angola Press).
The uncertain financial support for mine action globally continues to have very real, local impacts. The HALO Trust, which has cleared over 51 million square meters and 65,000 mines and ERW in Bie Province since 1995 have shuttered their operations in that province. INAD and the Angolan army will be responsible for surveying and clearing the 300 suspected hazardous areas that remain in the province (Rede Angola).
Egypt’s northwestern deserts are polluted with mines leftover from the World War II battles around El Alamein and the modern city of Matrouh. The European Union supports a large demining project there which is in its third year. Sahar Nasr, the Minister of International Cooperation, during a visit to the program called on the EU to extend the project (All Africa; State Information Service; El Balad).
Even though the minefields of El Alamein are more famous, two landmine incidents in Sinai and one on the Red Sea coast highlighted the fact that Egypt’s landmine contamination is more widespread. Five soldiers were killed and seven more injured by a landmine near the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada (Egyptian Streets). In Sinai, seven police were killed and nine injured in one landmine incident and one Bedouin was killed and another injured in a second incident (Al Bawaba; Al Bawaba). The Red Sea mine likely dates to World War II and the first Sinai mine is from the conflicts with Israel in the 1950s and 1970s. The Bedouins were victims of a recently laid mine that detonated when struck by their tractor.
Algerian counter-terrorism forces destroyed four bunkers and 16 anti-personnel landmines in Boumerdes (Ennahar). In ongoing operations, the Algerian army cleared almost five thousand landmines from the borders that date back to the French colonial period. Through February 2016, Algeria has destroyed 831,017 landmines (Ennahar).
The anti-poaching unit operating near Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls park arrested 300 poachers in 2015 and recovered 10 kilograms of elephant ivory from three dealers. In the process, the unit also found a cache of 50 landmines leftover from the liberation war in the Zambezi National Park and called the Zimbabwe army to destroy them (Radio VOP).
Nigeria & Cameroon
Vigilantes, operating under the more benign name of “civilian self-defense groups,” have been important actors in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon. However, these vigilantes lack the necessary equipment – they have appealed for bicycles to assist in their operations – and have been victims of the very landmines and explosives they are trying to find. In five days, seven landmine blasts killed 34 people and injured 40 more. The Cameroonian army has received technical advice and equipment from the US government and trainers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the French army are educating Cameroon soldiers on landmine and explosive clearance (Voice of America; African Press Organization). Cameroon’s soldiers have also been landmine victims with one killed and four more injured in two separate blasts in Amchide-Gance and Zamga (Simon Ateba). The explosions and other war-related injuries have stretched Cameroon’s health system beyond its capacity (All Africa).
In Nigeria, 15 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram landmines in Nussa village in Borno state (Channels TV). On the road from Chul to Huyum, also in Borno, three Nigerian vigilantes were killed and seven injured by a landmine (Press TV). In addition to soldiers and vigilantes, hunters from Nigeria’s indigenous groups have also sought to join the fight against Boko Haram. Acknowledging the landmine risks, these hunters have “super natural powers” which they will use “to assist the military in crushing Boko Haram” in addition to their extensive knowledge of the Sambisa forest which Boko Haram is using as a refuge (TVC News). Two Boko Haram members were killed by their own landmine as they fled from Nigerian soldiers in Kumala area of Borno (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603180337.html).
The US government provided 24 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) to the Nigerian army to assist with the fight against Boko Haram. However, most of the vehicles require maintenance and servicing before they can be used and have been referred to as “carcasses.” The Nigerian army has been able to deploy some mine-clearance machines, but the available machines are insufficient for the vast area of the Sambisa forest (All Africa).
One soldier was injured by a landmine in the Kasserine region during a counter-terrorism operation (All Africa).
Under the auspices of the State Department’s Humanitarian Mine Action program, a US Marine contingent led a six week training session for Senegalese soldiers in demining and explosive ordnance disposal. Other partners in the training program include the Vermont National Guard and the Austrian Armed Forces (Defence Web). In addition to the national army, Handicap International is clearing landmines in Senegal’s Casamance region. In 2016, HI plans to clear 55,000 square meters, the equivalent of 8 football pitches (Relief Web). HI’s partner, the Senegalese Association of Mine Victims (ASVM) is leading a mine risk education campaign in Casamance with survivors directly participating. In the current campaign, ASVM hopes to reach 60 schools and 65 villages (Relief Web).
The European Union and UNMAS donated bomb disposal equipment to the Somali Police force which will outfit five bomb squad units that will also be trained (Relief Web). A line of landmines placed in the center of Bardhere town in southern Somalia killed two people and injured several others when an Ethiopian army vehicle drove over them. In the aftermath of the blast, the Ethiopian soldiers fired indiscriminately injuring some bystanders (Goobjoog News). In Bakol, three Al Shabaab members were arrested and charged with planting landmines (News Ghana).
Six peacekeepers with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured at the start of the month when their vehicle struck a landmine on the Aguelhok – Tessalit road (MINUSMA). Three days later an unknown number of casualties occurred when another MINUSMA vehicle struck a landmine near Kidal (Desert Media). At the end of the month, two Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine on the Mopti – Timbuktu road (Desert Media).
The government of Japan contributed US $2.3 million to UNMAS for mine action in South Sudan. Over 110 million square meters of land in South Sudan is contaminated by landmines and ERW affected almost eight million people. New mine usage during the current civil war compounds the problem (Modern Ghana).
Michael P. Moore
April 18, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
I think it’s the little touches in landmine stories that really get to me. In this month’s news, the fact that the reporter felt the need to confirm that when two herders were killed by a piece of unexploded ordnance, “their animals did not survive the explosion either.” In Morocco the fact that a young man’s “kicking” of a landmine set it off, provides a visual. Or in Zimbabwe, a young survivor and his girlfriend cannot marry because he lacks the money to pay for the wedding. These small flourishes show the humanity and the human tragedy of landmines.
In response to the Boko Haram insurgency, several vigilante groups emerged from the local populations in northeastern Nigeria to support the Nigerian army in the campaign against the Islamist group. In February, five members of the one vigilante group, euphemistically called the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), were killed and another four injured when their truck struck a landmine left by Boko Haram (All Africa). Four Nigerian soldiers were also injured in a separate incident (All Africa). Cameroonian soldiers are also active against Boko Haram and while Cameroon’s forces have been clearing mined roads and dismantling suspected bomb-making facilities, one Cameroonian soldier was killed and another eight injured when their truck struck a mine on patrol in Nigeria (All Africa).
In 2015 the HALO Trust cleared and destroyed more than 4,000 mines and 25,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the southern town of Cuito Cuanavale (All Africa). In Bie Province, landmine clearance is preparing some 250 hectares of land for industrial development and economic diversification (All Africa). In Cuando Cubango, the deputy governor witnessed the destruction of several explosive devices and noted how demining enables agricultural expansion and market access (All Africa).
Two members of the Islamist group, Ansar Dine, were killed when they drove over a landmine planted by other members of the group. The vehicle was headed towards Kidal and had four pieces of ordnance in the back which might have contributed to the deaths of the occupants (Mali Web). In northeastern Mali, Malian soldiers were victims of a landmine and firearms attack which killed four – it is not clear from the report how many casualties are attributable to either the mine or the guns (The Chronicle). In Mopti in central Mali, three Malian soldiers were killed and two more wounded by a landmine (BBC). Near Gao, another Islamist was killed by the mine he was trying to plant with the intention of attacking a Malian army convoy (Mali Actu).
Five people were injured, one seriously, when a Moroccan man kicked a landmine in the southern city of Laayoune (Morocco World News).
The Gulu Landmine Survivors Association (GLSA) in Northern Uganda has petitioned the government for victim assistance support. Most survivors are living in poverty and prosthetics are prohibitively expensive. Monica Pilloy, the chair of the GLSA, notes that Ugandan soldiers are entitled to pensions and compensatyion for injuries, but civilian victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army, despite the international attention and support for reconstruction, have received little (Uganda Radio Network).
In western Kasese district, the Kayondo Landmine Survivors Association called on the government for amendments to national legislation to reflect the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Uganda has ratified (Crooze).
One child was killed and eight others injured when they played with a piece of unexploded ordnance in Kampala. The football pitch where the boys were playing is opposite an old military barracks (News 24).
The 426 kilometer stretch of Zimbabwe’s northwestern border with Mozambique, from Mukumbura to Rwenya, is labelled as “minefield # 2.” 130 kilometers have been cleared, removing over 162,000 anti-personnel landmines. The balance remains to be cleared with the HALO Trust and Zimbabwe’s National Mine Clearance Squadron splitting the duties (Zimbabwe Nation). The presence of the landmines means that the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border hasn’t been formally fixed and efforts by the African Union Border Commission have been stymied (The Chronicle). The HALO Trust’s work is supported, in part, but the Japanese government and during a visit to the minefield, the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe called for more awareness of the landmine problem in Zimbabwe and more support from the donor community. Literally putting his money where his mouth is, the ambassador also announced an additional US $635,281 for the project (News Day). The Zimbabwean parliament has recognized that demining is underfunded and the committee responsible for defense activities has called for additional funds. With only US $100,000 provided by the government, some members of parliament have suggested taking up a collection among themselves to support the work (News Day).
“Minefield # 1” is near Victoria Falls in the northeast of the country and the National Mine Clearance Squadron had sole responsibility for its clearance. Declared clear in 2015, over 26 thousand mines were destroyed (Harare 24). The third major minefield (not sure if it is formally known as “Minefield # 3”) is along the southern border, near Sango Border Post, where Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa share a border. One area of the minefield, Gwaivhi community, is a place “where you can hardly find a family that has not been affected in one way or the other by the landmines. Some families lost their members while others have been maimed. Other families lost their livestock. The area is not suitable for human habitation and therefore has no settlements but those on the periphery of the area have been affected.” Zimbabwe army engineers are clearing the minefield and in 2015 the Defence Minister provided 15 artificial limbs to survivors from the community (Sunday News).
The US Army’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) sent two US Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) trainers and a corpsman to work with and train Tanzanian soldiers on EOD techniques as part of the regional command’s capacity building program (AFRICOM).
A South African man was seriously injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance that he had somehow acquired from an army training ground near his home. The range is well marked and fenced, but still poses a danger to local residents (Defence Web).
The Libyan army has liberated areas of Benghazi and has warned local residents about the possibility of landmines and other explosive devices. The army’s engineering teams were sweeping the Laithi neighborhood and asked residents to accompany engineers in order to access homes and secure personal possessions (Al Wasat). The dangers from ERW were made clear when one soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Benghazi, the second such incident in less than a week (Arabs Today).
Two herders were killed along with five of their camels by a piece of unexploded ordnance in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra (Radio Dabanga).
To combat landmines and ERW elsewhere in Sudan, the government of Italy donated 250,000 euros to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) program in Sudan. the funds will be used to clear 900,000 square meters in Kassala state and provide mine risk education to 5,000 people (United Nations).
Burundi / Rwanda
Both Burundi and Rwanda have declared themselves to be anti-personnel landmine free after completing clearance. Neither army should have these weapons in their arsenal, but allegations that surfaced this month should raise questions about their use. Some Burundian rebels were interviewed by United Nations monitors in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rebels claimed that they had been trained in the use of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines by Rwandan army regulars to be able to overthrow the government of Pierre Nkurunziza, the Burundian president who recently ran for a third term in violation of the constitution (Voice of America).
In Somaliland, a young man who overcame the loss of both arms and his sight to a landmine explosion to attend college and complete his degree has resorted to asking for charity in a newspaper article (Somaliland Informer).
Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), which has been conducting mine risk education programs in Western Sahara for many years, has recently commenced landmine clearance activities in the region. With two teams now working in the country, NPA is hoping to contribute to a mine-free Western Sahara (NPA).
Two archaeologists were killed and third wounded at the Tel al-Dafna site near the Suez canal. The area had been subject to extensive landmine use in the Egypt-Israel wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973 and the archaeologists apparently set off a mine during their excavations (Mada Masr).
Michael P. Moore
March 28, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Already in 2016 the United States has signaled its intention to increase support to two of the most mine-affected countries, Colombia and Laos. The increased investments will enable both of these countries to be mine and cluster munition-free in a few years (State Department; CNN). There should also be consideration for increasing investments in African countries, many of whose contamination from landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) would be manageable with a long-term commitment of funding.
Provincial landmine clearance totals for 2015 were reported for several provinces. 2.14 million square meters of land in Cunene province, 5.4 million square meters in Lunda Sul province, 550 thousand square meters in Huambo province, and 750 thousand square meters in Kuando Kubango province were cleared of landmines by the National Institute of Demining, the Angolan Army, local government outfits and the HALO Trust (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa; All Africa). Cleared lands will be available for agriculture, building of roads and hospitals, and safe access to water (All Africa; All Africa). To maintain clearance capacity for 2016, the national demining association, Terra Mae, and a cadre of Angolan army sappers participated in separate training sessions (All Africa; All Africa).
Two boys were killed and a third injured by a landmine that they found and tried to dig out. The boys, all brothers, deliberately hit the mine, not realizing the potential consequences. Local officials have called for the survey and clearance of all mines in the area to prevent more casualties (All Africa).
In the Boni Forest on the Kenya-Somalia border, a landmine attributed to Al Shabaab detonated under a Kenya Defence Force vehicle killing six or seven soldiers (reports differ) and injuring three others. The continued insecurity around Boni Forest is keeping students and teachers out of school (All Africa; All Africa).
A Soviet anti-tank landmine was found beside a newly refurbished road. A country-wide explosive clearance campaign is underway in Namibia, but the area around the road was not surveyed prior to being tarred so the construction crew working on the road was lucky not to disturb the mine which dates back to the liberation war in Namibia (All Africa).
A tenth of Egypt’s arable land is contaminated with landmines, most, some 17.5 million, dating back to the battle of El Alamein in World War II. A second wave of mine-laying around the Suez Canal and Sinai Peninsula took place between 1956 and 1973 resulting in another 5 million mines on Egyptian soil. In addition to preventing agriculture, the mines impede development and exploitation of Egypt’s natural gas reserves. Since 1990, 3,200 people have been killed and over 4,700 have been injured by mines. Egypt has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty for a variety of reasons and remains one of the most significant hold-outs to the Treaty (All Africa).
The Italian government pledged 250,000 Euros for landmine clearance and mine risk education in Sudan. The funds will support clearance of 900,000 square meters of land in Kassala province and educate 5,000 people on landmine risks (All Africa). The contribution is part of the $12.4 million sought for mine action in Sudan by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). If the mine action sector were to be fully funded, Sudan could be landmine free by 2019 (Star Africa).
Three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine when their convoy struck the mine near the northern city of Gao (Sahelien).
The HALO Trust, freshly off its role in creating a landmine-free Mozambique, has launched a modest victim assistance program focusing on providing prosthetic limbs to landmine survivors in Mozambique. In October 2015, 14 survivors were taken to Zimbabwe for measurements for custom prosthetics. The prosthetics were made by the Bulawayo-based prosthetist, Noordan Cassim, and then transported the hundreds of kilometers to Mozambique for fitting. All 14 survivors have received their prosthetic limbs which would have cost hundreds of dollars had the survivors purchased them (TakePart). While the program is commendable, I think it says a lot about the quality and available of prosthetics in Mozambique if survivors must travel to a neighboring country for measurements.
A Maasai herder was killed by a landmine near the military academy at Lesekekwa Meser. The area around the academy is supposed to be a secure area, but Tanzania, as a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, should have cleared all anti-personnel mines that might have been near the training ground (IPP Media).
Nigeria / Cameroon / Niger
The Boko Haram insurgency is affecting all three of these countries, and Chad, as the group shifts its tactics territory-holding to asymmetrical warfare. Following a similar playbook to that of Al Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram is using improvised explosive devices and hit and run tactics to sow chaos and confusion. In partial response, the United States government has granted 24 used Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles to the Nigerian army. Coming from Afghanistan and Iraq, the MRAPs are part of the same program leading to the militarization of domestic police forces in the United States. Of course, had the Nigerian army checked the warranty before accepting delivery, they would have noticed that some of the MRAPs are not in usable condition and replacement parts will need to be ordered and purchased from manufacturers in the States (All Africa). However, the need for mine-resistant vehicles for use against Boko Haram is clear. Five members of the a local security force in northeastern Nigeria were killed by a landmine and four others injured when their pick-up truck struck a landmine believed to have been place by Boko Haram (Today).
In neighboring Cameroon, the Minister of Communication reported that there had been at least 12 landmine attacks by Boko Haram in Cameroon in 2015 (Business in Cameroon).
In Diffa, Niger, six Nigerien soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine (Med Africa Times).
Two Libyan soldiers were killed and a third injured by a landmine in Benghazi (Arabs Today). In Kikla, about 50 miles southwest of Tripoli, a civilian was injured by a landmine placed in the city’s center. Other mines remain in the city and the local governing body has warned displace residents from returning until they are cleared (Libya Observer).
Handicap International has resumed its landmine clearance program in the Casamance region of Senegal after a three-year suspension of work. The group aims to clear 55,000 square meters by August 2016 (ReliefWeb).
A member of a military engineering group was injured by a landmine during clearance and destruction near Jebel Ouergha in Kef (Mosaique FM).
Two Sahrawis were seriously injured by an anti-tank landmine near the berm separating Western Sahara into the western, Moroccan-controlled region and the eastern, Polisario-controlled region. Two other passengers in the car escaped unhurt (MAP Independent News).
By the end of 2015, the Algerian army had managed to clear its one millionth landmine. Since 2004, almost 10 million hectares of land have been cleared (All Africa).
Michael P. Moore
February 16, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Religion comes up surprisingly often in this blog about landmines. This month’s news roundup includes several Islamist groups and mentions of two Popes. I think this has more to do with the actors in the conflicts along the Sahel (and Pope Francis’s extraordinary visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic), than anything else, but I would like to hear others’ opinions. We frequently attribute landmine use to Islamist groups in Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and I often wonder if they get a disproportionate share of the blame. Are some of the mine accidents attributed to these groups placed by non-Islamist groups or remnants from previous conflicts that had no specific religious ties? If I knew, I would certainly attribute correctly.
The Nigerian Army claimed to have encountered many landmines left by Boko Haram as the Army cleared areas of northeastern Nigeria that had been held by the Islamist group. The presence of landmines has been confirmed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the landmines have hindered the delivery of humanitarian assistance (All Africa). With the expulsion of Boko Haram, Nigerian legislators from the region have called upon the Nigerian Army to prioritize the clearance of landmines and other unexploded ordnance to allow displaced persons to return to their homes. The legislators also sought assistance for victims of landmines (All Africa; Channels TV).
The visit of Pope Francis to Uganda, part of a three-nation visit on the African continent, has led to reminiscences of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Uganda in 1993. Included in John Paul II’s itinerary was Uganda’s western district of Kasese which in 1993 was contaminated with landmines remaining from the 1979 invasion by Tanzanian forces to oust Idi Amin (All Africa). Fortunately, Uganda has cleared all of its known minefields so Pope Francis’s visit did not cause the concern that John Paul II’s had done.
In Kenya, Pope Francis’s visit was preceded by a landmine blast in the northeast of the country, along the border with Somalia. According to Kenyan media, five Kenyan soldiers were wounded by a landmine planted in the roadway during a patrol (Standard Media). However, Al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the blast, said at least eight Kenyan soldiers were killed in the attack (All Africa). I’m not giving too much credibility to Al Shabaab’s claims, but think it is important to highlight that despite all of the efforts against the group, Al Shabaab continues to control significant portions of Somalia and in addition to its operation capacity, the group maintains a robust media function. Defeating a group like Al Shabaab will require not just military measures, but also social actions to prevent the group from being able to communicate with its intended audience. The inflation of casualties by Al Shabaab can be seen as an attempt to further show the group’s strength.
A child was injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance in Wamba. The boy, a herder, wandered into an area in which British and Kenyan troops had been engaged in live-fire exercises. After his injuries, the boy was evacuated to a regional referral hospital for surgery. The evacuation was seen by some as an attempt to cover-up the injury, but the British Army commander has committed to cover all costs of care (All Africa).
Mine action employees face a number of risks associated with their profession, most specifically from the mines that deminers clear. In Senegal and Afghanistan, deminers have been kidnapped and held hostage and some have been killed. However, Somalia poses its own threats. A few years ago a mine risk educator was kidnapped and held by pirate factions until her rescue by US special forces. This month, a United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) employee was killed in an apparent murder-for-hire scheme after the UNMAS employee got into an argument with the governor of Beledweyne region. The governor and UNMAS employee were from different clans which may have complicated their relationship (Hiiraan Online, no link).
Four days after the assault on the Radisson hotel in the capital Bamako, a United Nations peacekeeper was killed near Timbuktu by a landmine planted in the road. The peacekeeper was part of a convoy. No word on any other injuries (Reuters).
750,000 square meters of land, contaminated by over 700 explosive remnants of war, including anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, has been cleared so far this year in Menongue, the capitol of Angola’s Kuando Kubango province. The cleared land will be used to build houses for area residents (All Africa).
In Huila province, over a thousand kilometers of roads have been cleared in the last decade and over 127,000 explosive remnants of war were destroyed in the process. Also, nearly 2,000 persons with disabilities, including landmine survivors, benefited from social reintegration programs (All Africa).
Between September and October, Algerian army engineering units cleared and destroyed more than 12,000 landmines dating back to the French colonial period. In total, more than 800,000 mines have been cleared to date (All Africa; All Africa).
The Sinai Peninsula continues to be flash point for an Islamist insurgency that arose after the military overthrew Mohamed Morsi’s government. Near Arish, a group of Islamist gunmen attacked a family killing several members and when one member of the family rushed to the scene to try and help his relatives, he drove over a landmine, killing himself and a child (News 24). In Sheikh Zuwaid, two Bedouins, a mother and her child, were killed by a landmine supposedly planted to target Egyptian military forces (Al Bawaba).
The charges against Saadi Gaddafi, son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, will likely include the distribution and use of landmines in defense of his father’s regime in 2011. Other charges include terrorism and the murder of the coach of Tripoli’s Al-Ittihad football club (Middle East Eye). Dealing with those landmines is a priority for many organizations. The Libyan Mine Action Center, with the support of UNMAS, will conduct an assessment of the Tawrgha neighborhood of Misrata and provide mine risk awareness to the residents (Relief Web). In Benghazi, several Libyan soldiers were killed by landmines placed by Islamist groups as the soldiers advanced on positions in around the city (AFP). And in Derna, three Islamic State members died when karma struck and they drove over a landmine placed other Islamic State members (Libya Observer).
Serious flooding on both sides of the Moroccan-built berm in Western Sahara has likely displaced some of the millions of landmines that lie along the berm. Plastic and other minimal-metal mines are prone to moving during floods and once the waters recede, mine action organizations will need to assess the likelihood that minefields have been disturbed (ICBL).
Three children in North Darfur were killed by a grenade that they found and began to play with. Two other children were injured (Radio Dabanga). In the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, a man was killed and his wife maimed when the donkey he was riding on stepped on or kicked a piece of unexploded ordnance (Radio Dabanga).
To end on a piece of good news, Norwegian Peoples Aid announced that they have cleared their 1,000th landmine along Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique. Hundreds of thousands of mines remain to be cleared by NPA is making good progress and looking to shift to new work sites (NPA).
Michael P. Moore
December 18, 2015
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
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.
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).
A landmine killed one soldier and wounded another in Afgoye Town’s animal market (All Africa).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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