The Month in Mines, November 2013

We often write about the human toll of landmines in this blog, but livestock also are routinely victims of landmine incidents.  In November, we find reports from Zimbabwe, Somalia and Tunisia that describe the fate of animals and since these animals are necessary for the economic well-being of their owners, their loss can be devastating.  Also in November we see continued reports of new use of mines across northern and Sahelian Africa, but there is also some promise as another couple of countries signal their support of the Mine Ban Treaty.

 

Zimbabwe

Thirty years after Zimbabwe started the landmine removal process, some in the demining sector are saying that another thirty years will be needed to complete the work.  During the liberation war, the government of Rhodesia laid hundreds of thousands of landmines along the borders, especially the border with Mozambique, to prevent its opponents from crossing into the country.  According to the HALO Trust, the border minefields are some of the densest in the world with 5,500 landmines per kilometer and the total cost of clearance is around US $100 million.  Currently, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing training and equipment to the Zimbabwean army to increase their ability to clear the mines which have killed or injured more than 3,500 people since 1980.  In addition to the human victims, thousands of livestock have been lost to the mines and the extant minefields are poorly marked due to vandals stealing the marker signs (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa).

In addition to the ICRC, the HALO Trust has also begun working on Zimbabwe’s landmine issue.  HALO has deployed three demining teams to the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border, focusing first on a community in Mashonaland Central whose residents are forced to cross a minefield on a daily basis to reach drinking water, graze livestock and raise crops.  As a result, several villagers and livestock from the village of 1,500 persons have been killed or injured by mines.  At present an estimate 1.5 million landmines lie along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border endangering many similar communities (Star Africa).

 

Somalia

In the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, the town of Burao, the second-largest city in Somaliland, experienced two separate landmine incidents. Burao’s landmine contamination dates back to the Somali civil war of the early 1990s.  In the first incident, a driver for a local electricity company drove over a landmine after installing some equipment.  The area surrounding the blast was cordoned off to prevent further accidents (All Africa; Somaliland Sun). In the second incident, a car carrying guests from a wedding at a local hotel drove over a landmine, killing one of the passengers and injuring the driver and two other passengers.  The car itself was owned by the local police chief, but he was not in the car at the time of the explosion (Somaliland Informer).  In response to these blasts, a demining NGO announced it would start the process of clearing landmines from the neighborhoods and the assistance of the business community and the utility company was sought to assist the deminers (Suna Times).

Elsewhere in Somalia, security forces were able to defuse a landmine placed in the livestock market at Beled Hawo town on the Kenya Somalia Border (Radio Bar-kulan).  In Galgadud, a truck transporting goods struck a landmine, killing two and possibly injuring other passengers who were riding in the vehicle (Radio Bar-kulan).  In response to the explosion, the Danish Demining Group (DDG) and United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) launched a landmine clearance project to prevent further incidents in Galgadud (Radio Bar-kulan).

Also in Somalia, Al Shabaab was accused of using a landmine to try and attack an AMISOM convoy south of the capitol, Mogadishu.  Fortunately for the persons in the convoy, the timing of the blast was poor and no injuries were reported among the AMISOM troops.  Unfortunately for a local herder and his camels, the landmine killed 21 camels who were passing by that spot in the road (RBC Radio).

 

Mali

In early November, a truck serving as public transportation and carrying 38 people in the northern Gao region struck a landmine, killing four people and injuring at least eight more (Global Post). In Kidal, also in northern Mali, three French soldiers serving in the peace-making Operation Serval were injured when their truck ran over a mine.  Because the French army vehicle was armored, the soldiers were injured, but their lives were not jeopardized by the mine; instead, their injuries were described as “noise trauma” from the blast and the soldiers were expected to return to active duty in a few days (Agence France Presse).   In response to these incidents and dozens of others, UNMAS is leading a mine risk education campaign with the support of Handicap International and the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance is also ongoing with almost 7,000 pieces of ordnance cleared so far.  UNMAS is currently training Malian soldiers on clearance techniques and Handicap International is providing rehabilitation services for survivors (All Africa).   Despite these efforts, the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach populations in need is continually hampered by the presence of landmines and ERW.  According to Doctors without Borders, “Our biggest worry is homemade bombs [improvised landmines] on the road” (All Africa).

 

Western Sahara

In Rome, the 38th International Conference of Support for the Sahrawi People launched and international campaign against the landmine-ridden berm put up by the Moroccan government to isolate the Polisario Front.  With more than 7 million mines, the berm presents a constant threat to the Sahrawi people, with hundreds of people killed or injured by the mines as they try to graze livestock near the berm.   The campaign was launched a week before a meeting of US President Barack Obama and Morocco’s King Muhammed VI (All Africa).

 

Angola

At a seminar for regional coordination for mine action in Angola, attended by deputy governors of the nation’s provinces, the director of the National Inter-Sectoral Demining and Humanitarian Assistance Commission (CNIDAH) declared that landmine clearance enables economic and infrastructural development while also calling for registration of persons with disability injured by landmines in order to better provide services for the population (All Africa; All Africa).  At a subsequent meeting, the National Demining Institute announced new policies to provide better protection and insurance to the people responsible for clearing landmines while also approving the use of mine detection dogs (All Africa).

In addition to official meetings and policies, mine action continued apace with hand grenades, landmines and other explosives destroyed in Luanda (All Africa).  The HALO Trust completed clearance within Catengue locality in the southern province of Benguela and acknowledged that additional landmine clearance is required in the areas surrounding Catengue (All Africa ).   A sense of the scale of work completed and yet to be completed was provided during a preview of Angola’s presentation to the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty which was held in Geneva in December.  According to the CNIDAH preview, landmine survey has been completed in 12 of Angola’s 18 provinces, but the CNIDAH representatives expressed confidence in their ability to complete landmine clearance by the deadline of January 1, 2018 (Prensa Latina).  However, until clearance is completed, the government recognizes the continuing threat and has purchased 45 Casspir landmine-resistant vehicles from South Africa’s Denel Land Systems (Defence Web).

 

Tunisia

The Jebel Chaambi area continues to be plagued with landmines from the Islamist group that uses the mountain as a base.  In November, three separate blasts occurred, injuring one woman, killing several sheep and possibly killing a donkey.  Earlier in the year, the mountain was the focus of Tunisian army activities to try and root out the Islamists, but November’s explosions were the first since June (Tunisia Live; Tunisia Live).

 

Sudan and South Sudan

The United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of the Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until the end of May 2014.  The resolution reaffirmed the Security Council’s concern “with the residual threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war in the Abyei Area, which hinders the safe return of displaced persons to their homes and safe migration” and demanded that the governments of Sudan and South Sudan allow UNMAS to operate freely in the area to mark and clear landmines (All Africa).

 

Egypt

Egypt’s landmine contamination is severe.  More than 20 million mines according to some estimates.  Along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal, some 5.5 million mines remain from the October 1973 war with Israel, covering a thousand square kilometers and impeding the development of the region.  In the northwest of the country, along the border with Libya, millions more mines remain from World War II.  Along the Suez Canal, landmine clearance is being conducted with domestic funding, but in the northwest, support for landmine clearance is coming from the government of Italy and the European Union (EU).  In addition to landmine clearance, the joint EU-Italy project will provide assistance to landmine survivors and the supporters of the Suez project have called upon the government to compensate landmine survivors with pensions similar to “martyrs of war” (Egypt Independent; European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument).

In addition to development programs, landmines have also become a feature of the recent strife between the Egyptian government and Islamist factions supportive of the ousted Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  In the Sinai, near the Suez Canal, a weapons cache consisting of landmines, mortars and ammunition was confiscated by security personnel (Masrawy).

 

Eritrea

The United States Department of State updated its travel warning for any US citizens traveling to Eritrea.  Besides recommending against any travel to the country, the State Department also noted the continuing presence of landmines along “well-traveled roads in and near the Gash Barka region of western Eritrea” noting the “subsequent investigations indicated that several mines were recently laid” (Asmarino).

 

Libya

In Benghazi’s shopping district, an anti-tank mine was found in a bag and defused by bomb disposal experts.  Had the mine been detonated, it would have caused significant damage (Libya Herald).

Also, for the first time and as a result of great advocacy work by a number of groups, Libya voted in favor of the United Nations resolution on the “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.”  Libya had in past years abstained from the vote, as do all states who are not supportive of the Mine Ban Treaty; no one active votes against the Treaty and thus, for landmines.  Morocco, despite its liberal use of anti-personnel landmines in the Western Sahara berm discussed above, also voted in favor citing the humanitarian goals of the Treaty.  Countries that abstained from the vote typically claim that anti-personnel landmines still retain some military utility as defensive weapons whilst acknowledging the humanitarian impact of their use (Reaching Critical Will).

 

Michael P. Moore

December 23, 2013

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When displacement, landmines and racism mix: the fate of Eritreans in Libya

A couple of weeks ago, Human Rights Concern  – Eritrea (HRC-E), a UK-based NGO working on behalf of the human rights of Eritreans in Eritrea and the diaspora, issued this report:

76 Eritrean refugees in Libya are being used to clear land mines in Sirte, the home town of the late Gaddafi. The refugees are forced all day to clear land mines. These are not trained professionals. This is not humanitarian de-mining. This is a callous, inhuman treatment of humans as if they were disposable pieces of equipment. It amounts to nothing less than murder.

These refugees are not given access to UNHCR. It is inhuman that these refugees, who fled persecution in Eritrea, should suffer further harassment and risk being blown up while clearing the mines. The Libyans do not want to do it themselves, so they use refugees.  This is barbaric and should be condemned. (Human Rights Concern – Eritrea).

The mine action community mobilized pretty rapidly after the fall of the Gaddhafi regime to provide mine risk education and demining services in Libya.  On the ground are several operators and significant funding was provided at the outset by donor states (although much of that funding was specifically geared towards preventing the proliferation of shoulder-fired surface to air rockets).  As such, this report seemed pretty incredible and I have not yet been able to locate any corroboration.  However, it does – unfortunately – fit into a much broader pattern of behavior in North Africa towards Sub-Saharan Africans.  It is also not the first report of people being forced to clear mines without proper training and support.

Prior to the revolution in Libya, as many as 2 million of Libya’s 7 million residents were foreign-born immigrants, some from Arab states, but many if not most from Sub-Saharan Africa.  Gaddhafi presented himself as leader of the pan-African movement and trained separatists and rebels from many countries including the Toureg who have recently been fighting against the Malian government and the convicted war criminal Charles Taylor and his allies in Liberia.  Gaddhafi also invited many black Africans to work in the Libyan oil fields where lucrative jobs were available and workers were able to earn enough to send remittances home to support families and communities.  In a billboard in Tripoli, “Colonel Qaddafi appears as a savior as sun rays break over his shoulder and a crowd of black men and women reach toward him with outstretched arms.” Native Libyans were angered by these acts and resented the presence of what they believed were “illegal” immigrants in their country.  In 2000 pogroms in Libya led to the deaths of many black Africans at the hands of native Libyans, attacks that were repeated in 2004, 2006 and 2008.  Against that backdrop, Gaddhafi’s use of African mercenaries to try and hold onto power in 2011 was an invitation for abuse.

Reports of Africans being held by Libyan rebels in detention camps abounded.  According to the US State Department African refugees in Libya faced killings, arbitrary detention, attacks on camps, and gender-based violence.  The State Department also reported on the presence of a camp at al-Kufrah where migrants faced physical abuse in addition to needing humanitarian assistance; a camp that Human Rights Concern – Eritrea also mentions as holding 300 Eritrean refugees.  Because Gaddhafi used African mercenaries, mostly from Chad, Niger and Mali, to protect his regime, all Africans in Libya after the 2011 revolution were subject to suspicion, detention and deportation, along with a host of abuses throughout.  Since the revolution, the new government has not taken steps to protect immigrants or refugees and human trafficking routes for forced labor and forced prostitution have returned.

The divide between North Africans and Sub-Saharan Africans and the racism of North Africans towards Sub-Saharan Africans has been well documented (see Think Africa Press’s pieces here and here and UN Watch’s piece here).  In the United States, the dichotomy came to the forefront in discussions about Darfur where the Arabized militias of the janjaweed would attack the black Darfurians as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign.  This simplistic and reductive argument paralleled the narrative about the Sudanese civil war between Sudan and South Sudan where the Arabs of Khartoum fought the Christians and animists of the South to maintain control over the oil reserves.  Again, a too-pat description, but one that was easy for Americans to understand and had a strong basis in the racism of North Africans and Arabs towards Sub-Saharan Africans.

It is very possible that Eritrean refugees are subjected to forced labor in the new Libya.  Many Eritreans have suffered greatly in their attempts to flee their country (in recent months, two Eritrean pilots defected to Saudi Arabia with the Eritrean President’s official plane; a third pilot sent to retrieve the plane from Saudi Arabia defected herself [Think Africa Press]; in 2009, 2011 and 2012 members of the Eritrean national football team sought asylum during regional tournaments [Sudan Tribune]) paying huge ransoms to human smugglers to avoid the country’s mandatory military service.  Traffickers take advantage of those wanting to flee Eritrea and have basically sold them into slavery in places like Libya.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea’s report would also not be the first report of people being forced to demine fields with little or no protection.  In Burma, the practice of “atrocity demining” has been reported by Human Rights Watch.  Atrocity demining, or “human mine sweeping,” is the “forced passage of civilians over confirmed or suspected mined areas or the forced use of civilians to clear mines without appropriate training or equipment.” It is a war crime and survivors of the practice in Burma were “forced them to dig out landmines, to strike or beat the ground with a pitchfork or pickaxe before [Burmese] soldiers walked on it, or to walk in front of Tatmadaw columns in a mined area or in an area suspected to have been mined.”

At its very root, the HRC-E report shows how marginalized persons suffer greater risks and abuses during and immediately after conflict.  Those risks are magnified when combined with racism and discrimination and can constitute war crimes when in the presence of landmines.

Michael P. Moore

April 10, 2013


The Month in Mines, March 2013

March was very good to the HALO Trust and Japan has been very good to the mine action community.  Globally, civil society used the month to raise awareness and ramp up interest in the landmine issue as April 4th, the International Day for Landmine Awareness approached.  Mali continued to dominate the headlines, but landmine injuries were also reported in Somalia, as Egypt progressed towards a mine-free state.

Mali

The conflict in Mali continued as French and Malian forces, supported by contingents from Chad and Niger, sought to clear the remaining Islamists from Northern Mali.  The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) were very active in releasing reports about the dangers from landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), pointing out the presence of new and old landmines and munitions.  All three agencies reported on their efforts to provide emergency relief (UNHCR), mine risk education (UNICEF) and training for Mali deminers (UNMAS) (All Africa; Voice of America; All Africa).  A touching story came from the Provincial council of Maine-et-Loire in Western France which voted to give a grant of 5,000 euros to a French demining organization to provide mine awareness comics to children in Mali (Angers Info ).  This grant is very important because almost 50 children have been killed or injured by landmines and ERW since the coup in Mali in March 2012 and even schoolyards have been contaminated by munitions in the fighting and UNCIEF estimates more than 200,000 children are at risk, but only 27,000 have received mine risk education (Voice of America; All Africa .

In what has turned out to be a sadly prescient statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned Mali and the international community about the safety situation in Mali.  “Terrorist groups and tactics, the proliferation of weapons, improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance and landmines are expected to pose significant threats” in Mali, Ban warned in his report which also called for more than 11,000 peacekeepers in addition to a sizable force tasked with actually combatting the remaining Islamists (All Africa).  On March 30, three days after Moon’s report, two Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine near Gao and on the 31st, a suicide bomber attacked Timbuktu killing himself and wounding another Malian soldier (Al Jazeera; France24).

Uganda

In Northern Uganda’s Gulu district, 21 landmines have been reported still in the ground despite the November 2012 declaration that the country was mine-free.  These reports are unverified, but if true, the landmines would have been placed during the 1990s and 2000s by the Lord’s Resistance Army or the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF).  The UPDF would also be responsible for clearing any found mines and local community members have marked the locations of the suspected mines (Sunrise News).

I bring this story up not just because of the incredible danger that landmines pose in places that have been declared mine-free, but also to highlight a very brave story from the other side of the world.  On the Thailand – Cambodia border, near where soldiers from the countries fought just two years ago, a Thai ranger on patrol stepped on a landmine and suffered catastrophic injuries.  11 other landmines were found in the vicinity. The Bangkok Post conducted an investigation and while they found the landmine were anti-tank mines and not anti-personnel mine, the mines were equipped with anti-handling fuses making them victim-activated booby traps and thus banned by the Mine Ban Treaty.  In an editorial, the Bangkok Post calls for a full investigation by outsiders, not the Thai or Cambodian militaries and says simply, “Ranger Niran has been crippled for life in an incident that should not have happened and must not happen again” (Bangkok Post).  My hope would be that if landmines are present in Uganda, the Ugandan press will be as forceful and direct as their Thai counterparts.

Somalia

The Japanese government provided US $4 million in March to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action in Somalia.  Japan’s support since 2010 has enabled UNMAS to provide mine risk education to 60,000 Somalis and destroy 7,000 pieces of ERW and the announced support will continue that work and allow displaced persons to return to their homes (Sabahi).

In the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, the HALO Trust has been working on mine clearance since 1999 and supports a demining team of 600 people. As part of a plan to expand that work, the Trust’s Director General, Guy Willoughby visited Somaliland and met with the region’s Vice President (and acting President).  On behalf of his country, the Vice President thanked Willoughby and the Trust but also said that Somaliland still needs the Trust’s services to clear minefields and reduce the danger to people and livestock (Somaliland Press).

The good news from Somalia does not continue.  In Kismayo, a young girl was injured when a command-activated landmine was detonated, targeting a government vehicle (AMISOM Media Monitoring, no link).  A couple days later, two landmines were discovered on the grounds of the city’s hospital as the local government prepared to re-open the hospital for medical services (AMISOM Media Monitoring, no link).  Near Mandera Town on the Kenya – Somalia border, a victim-activated improvised explosive device (essentially a home-made landmine), detonated and killed one Kenyan police officer while wounding two others (The Standard).  And in Galgadud region, a landmine exploded on the grounds of a Koranic school.  Two children were killed in the blast and three others were injured.  The report did not indicate if the mine had been found on the school grounds or if one of the children had brought it to the school (All Africa).

In the last story from Somalia, landmines revealed some of the continuing divisions and political in-fighting in Kismayo.  Kismayo is in the proposed region of Jubbaland and would likely serve as Jubbaland’s capitol should a semi-autonomous region (like Somaliland) be established.  Some members of the Kenyan government are pushing for the establishment of Jubbaland to create a buffer region between Kenya and Somalia while actors in Somalia are resisting attempts to carve up the country.  In March, the chief of security for Kismayo was arrested by local militia members.  The security chief claimed he was arrested because “he detonated and removed a land mine that was meant to harm the [Somali] prime minister” and the landmine had been placed by “members of the interim administration” (Mareeg).

Libya

Handicap International and the Libyan Ministry of Education launched a training of trainers program for Libyan teachers to spread the word about the threat of landmines and other ERW.  In total, 250 teachers will become trainers, but the program is already demonstrating success.  So far, 36 trainers have been able to train 121 teachers.  In addition to the training of trainers program, a teacher training kit will soon be released to provide teachers with additional materials to use when giving mine risk education (Libyan Herald).

Angola

The European Union has committed 20 million euros to demining in Angola in 2013.  The funding will allow the HALO Trust to clear minefields that have not been prioritized by the Angolan government and are being cleared by the national demining agencies like INAD and CNIDAH (Angola Press Agency).  CNIDAH, the government commission with oversight of mine action in Angola, continues to provide capacity building sessions to provincial mine action agencies and hosted a four-day training in Huambo province to “improve the staff’s knowledge of the types of the landmines and unexploded ordnances, types of demining operations, landmine risk education and assistance to victims.”  The training is intended to improve provincial coordination and strengthen the mine action focal points within local agencies (All Africa).

The result of the all of the landmine clearance in Angola has been an increase in the amount of land available for agriculture.  Currently 40% of Angola is under active cultivation and another 43% of the country is forested (Macau Hub).

After forty years of war, Angola had two million landmines that contributed to the deaths of one million Angolans and the maiming of 200,000 more.  In an address to the Pan-African Forum, Angola’s president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos declared peace to be “one of the most precious assets for the African continent” and certainly Dos Santos should know about precious assets as he governs and controls Angola’s tremendous mineral wealth.  As the father of Africa’s first female billionaire and Angola’s for the last 33 years, Dos Santos identified, without any apparent irony, “democracy as the only path that enables peoples to be the masters of their destinies and periodically choose their leaders in an environment of respect for others’ ideas and people’s will.”  And since he was giving the speech in Luanda, one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in due to the tremendous oil wealth concentrated there, at the expense of the rest of the country, Dos Santos also said “we must care about the material, moral and spiritual satisfaction of individuals, families and people” (All Africa).  Ahem.

Zimbabwe

The embassy of Japan in Zimbabwe announced a nearly US $900,000 grant to the HALO Trust for landmine clearance along the border with Mozambique.  These mines were placed by the Rhodesian government in the 1970s to prevent Zimbabwean liberation fighters from moving across the border from their camps and supply lines in Mozambique.  Since the end of the war in 1980, an estimated 1,500 people have been killed by landmines along the border, including 25 in 2012.  The Japanese Ambassador, Yonezo Fukuda, hoped “the area should completely be rid of land mines to allow local people, particularly children, to move freely without any fear” and that “Japan looks forward to a future where the production of indiscriminate munitions such as landmines and cluster bombs will be forever banned.”  The HALO Trust’s project manager in Zimbabwe, Tom Dibb, called on the government of Zimbabwe to prioritize landmine clearance and said this project was a demonstration of the benefits of demining.  Dibb said that in addition to directly employing 90 Zimbabweans, another 20,000 will have access to cultivable land and be able to move freely without fear of landmines (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Company; Bernama).

Egypt

26,000 acres of land, some 20% of the Egyptian Sahara Desert in the western region of the country has been cleared of landmines that back to the World War II battles of El Alamein.  A military spokesperson said “The landmines were hindering development projects planned for the area; they also led to the death of many Bedouins and shepherds” and with the cleared land, a planned city of 1 million people will be established (Daily News Egypt).

Eritrea

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRC-E), a United Kingdom based organization working on behalf of the human rights of Eritreans in Eritrea and around the world, reported that 76 Eritrean refugees in Sirte, Libya were being forced to clear landmines.  The refugees have received no training and are not supervised in their tasks.  HRC-E believes that “Libyans do not want to do it themselves, so they use refugees” and that the refugees are denied access to UNHCR representatives (Human Rights Concern – Eritrea).  This report is unconfirmed, but there is some historical background to suggest that this is not out of the ordinary and will be covered in a future blog post.

International

March 2013 saw the start of the annual awareness campaign by landmine activists that spans the six weeks from March 1st to April 4th, the International Day for Landmine Awareness.  In the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, authors reminded the health community of its “major role to play in matters pertaining to landmines” and the need to “address the social determinants of health” including landmines.  The global health community was among the early leaders and champions of the ban landmines movement and its continued engagement is needed (WHO).

In Addis Ababa, experts from the African Union and member states met to “share experiences and tackle obstacles to freeing the continent of this scourge [landmines].” The need to share expertise and information is acute in Africa since several African states have had to request extensions to complete their mine clearance obligation under the Mine Ban Treaty so the meeting had the intention to “find ways to clear affected land faster and more effectively” (All Africa).

Jody Williams, the Nobel Laureate who served as the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, release her memoir, “My Name is Jody Williams,” describing her life activism which has continued since her departure from the ICBL (Boston Globe; book available from Amazon).

In addition to the previously mentioned contributions, Japan gave US $18 million to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action to support mine action in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan.  The funds will “help the United Nations survey and secure huge swaths of territory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to provide risk education to people exposed to explosive hazards. In Libya and Somalia, it will provide support for operations and training for explosive ordnance disposal and clearance. In South Sudan it will allow on-going work, surveying and securing at risk areas, to continue and will expedite clearance of the most contaminated areas.”  The contribution confirms and continues Japan’s status as the largest contributor to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action (UNMAS, pdf).

Prince Harry, the third in line (for another four months) to the throne in the Great Britain made two major landmine related announcements in March.  First, he agreed to serve as the patron of the HALO Trust’s 25th anniversary appeal.  His mother, Princess Diana, supported the HALO Trust in Angola shortly before her death in 1997 and Harry’s patronage provides a direct link to that work.  Prince Harry had already been supportive of the Trust and visited Trust projects in Mozambique.  As part of his patronage work, Harry’s second announcement was a trip to the United States to promote the HALO Trust at a Washington, DC exhibition, in addition to promoting his other charitable interests (The Express).

Just as I was writing this, I saw the news that the Arms Trade Treaty has passed in the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of 154 countries for, 3 against and 23 abstentions.  Congratulations to the campaigners who worked so hard for this moment and shame on the 26 states that did not vote yes.

Michael P. Moore

April 3, 2013


2013 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects

Each year, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) publishes the Portfolio of Mine Action Projects, a compilation of mine action activities that require funding.  The projects fall into several broad categories of mine action, e.g., mine clearing, stockpile destruction, etc., and are listed by countries.  One of the interesting (or at least I think it’s interesting) aspects of the Portfolio is that it shows both the cost of the project (supported by a very basic budget) and the shortfall of funding that is needed to fully support the project.  In light of the 2012 Landmine Monitor’s finding that funding for victim assistance (VA) projects are at their lowest level since tracking began and that VA funding declined 30% from 2010 to 2011, let’s take a closer look at the victim assistance projects in the 2013 Portfolio for Africa.

To date, donors have committed more than US $52 million for projects in the 2013 Portfolio.  The majority of that funding, approximately US $33 million will go towards mine clearance projects and another US 18 million will support projects that fulfill multiple pillars of mine action.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, these commitments represent only 14% of the US $361 million requested.  Less than US $450,000, or 3%, of the US $12.6 million requested for victim assistance has been committed to date.  Also, not all mine-affected countries submit projects to the Portfolio so the actual amount of funding needed for mine action and victim assistance in 2013 is probably much higher.

In Africa, only 7 countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Western Sahara, South Sudan and Sudan, submitted victim assistance projects to the 2013 Portfolio.  The total value of these projects is US $5.5 million and to date, no funds have been committed in support of these projects.  This is not good because, as UNMAS says in its own application for funding, landmine “survivors’ needs are not yet fully addressed and a significant number of them are not fully enjoying their human rights” (UNMAS).  Part of the reason that survivor needs are not addressed is due to the enormous cost of victim assistance relative to other mine action projects.  For example, the Rufaida Health Foundation of Sudan is requesting US $278,710 to provide just psycho-social support, no physical rehabilitation, surgical or socio-economic services, to 250 direct and 750 indirect beneficiaries; or $279 per beneficiary (UNMAS). To compare, JASMAR for Human Security of Sudan is proposing to provide mine risk education to 30,000 beneficiaries for $258,456, or less than $10 per beneficiary (UNMAS).  Also, if successful, the mine risk education would hopefully eliminate the need for victim assistance thus avoiding that potential future cost.  If you are a donor looking at the metrics, you would fund the mine risk education to get the greatest “value” for your contribution. Victim assistance is costly, the most expensive pillar of mine action on a per beneficiary level, but it is also absolutely necessary for survivors. The projects seeking support, by country, are as follows.

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Four separate agencies, UNMAS and three non-governmental organizations, submitted VA projects for DRC to the Portfolio.  UNMAS is seeking support for national level coordination of victim assistance including developing a registry of all landmine survivors and building the capacity of national service providers to meet the needs of survivors.  The UNMAS project also provides support for all aspects of victim assistance, from emergency care to socio-economic reintegration (UNMAS).  Eglise du Christ au Congo’s (ECC) project is similar to UNMAS’s in that it seeks to provide comprehensive care and covers many of the aspects of victim assistance, but it is limited geographically to service areas in the district of Tanganyika, Fizi-Baraka territory, District of Kabinda and the city of Kinshasa.  ECC also identifies a goal of 120 survivors participating in income generation activities (UNMAS).  Afrique pour la Lutte Antimines submitted a project to provide socio-economic support to survivors in Orientale province, around the city of Kisangani (UNMAS) and Synergie pour la Lutte Antimines en Equateur Sud proposed the same for Equateur province (UNMAS).  In total the 2013 request for DRC is US $1.45 million.

 

Egypt

Egypt has not signed or ratified the Mine Ban Treaty so many donor countries may be loath to support mine action projects there, but both of the victim assistance projects are worth a look.  The Executive Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the North West Coast submitted a project to support local NGOs and associations to develop income generation projects for landmine survivors from the Bedouin communities around the WWII battlefield of El Alamein.  The project includes setting up businesses, government purchasers of products produced by landmine survivors and conducting vocation training over a four-year period.  If combined with demining in the region, the proposed agricultural and pastoral products (olives and wool) could provide sustainable incomes to landmine survivors living on cleared land (UNMAS).  Without more context, I cannot comment on the specifics of the other project submitted to the 2013 Portfolio , but there is some interesting ideas in it.  The second project involves the development of a complete Bedouin village and community on land that has been cleared of landmine in Alamein.  5,000 individuals would be re-settled into 1,800 housing units supported by government services and infrastructure to create a new urban area out of what was once a desert minefield.  Sounds cool, but can they get the buy-in from the Bedouins?  If so, this might be an interesting prototype for future development of cleared lands (UNMAS).  The total amount requested for 2013 is US $1.1 million with another US $1.035 million sought for 2014.

 

Eritrea

The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare has submitted a US $500,000 project for comprehensive victim assistance services.  Focusing on psycho-social and socio-economic reintegration services, the program will reach 60% of mine-affected communities and provide community-based reintegration services “in-line with UN policy on victim support and human rights declarations.”  Eritrea is proposing a decentralized program with a centralized monitoring and data collection system (UNMAS).

 

Mali

UNICEF in Mali submitted a multiple pillar project, of which only a small (US $100,000 out of US $757,560) portion of which is for victim assistance.  The VA activities consist of providing “access to emergency” services through referrals rather than direct provision of support and focuses on women and children, consistent with UNICEF’s mission (UNMAS).

 

Western Sahara

Similar to the Egyptian proposals, the 2013 Portfolio submission for Western Sahara seeks to reclaim cleared land and use it for agricultural purposes.  Working with the POLISARIO administration, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) will provide training on agricultural techniques, improve access to water for drinking and irrigation, and encourage the development of farmers’ cooperatives.  This is a two-year project, budgeted at US $500,000, the majority of which will fund the purchase of agricultural equipment needed to raise crops in the desert (UNMAS).

 

South Sudan

In Sudan, UNMAS proposes to “support landmine survivors and persons with disabilities through the provision of socio-economic empowerment activities” through grants for small businesses and other income generation projects and business skills trainings.  Combined with a broader proposal to provide mine risk education, the project will offer US $300,000 for socio-economic reintegration support and advocacy on behalf landmine survivors and improved data collection to understand the population of survivors.  UNMAS will work through government ministries as well as the official mine action authority for South Sudan and local and international NGOs (UNMAS).

 

Sudan

As a former employee of Landmine Survivors Network whose peer support methodology has been advanced to great success by Cameron Macauley and the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR, http://maic.jmu.edu/), it warns my heart to see that the Rufaida Health Foundation has submitted not one, but two projects to the 2013 Portfolio for landmine survivor peer support.  The first project is a training of trainers program that will establish 20 peer supporters in mine-affected states of Sudan.  These peer supporters will then help their fellow landmine survivors to reintegrate into society and be aware of their rights and the availability of rehabilitation services (UNMAS).  The second project complements the training of trainers program and is the actual implementation of a peer recovery model in three states, Khartoum, Kassala and Blue Nile.  In addition, Rufaida is proposing to provide medical and psychotherapy services through mental health professionals (UNMAS).  The total cost of Rufaida Health Foundation’s two projects is US $320,000.  Also in Sudan, UNMAS proposes a more comprehensive victim assistance program in Sudan, combining the psychosocial support with socio-economic interventions such as vocational training and seed funding for small businesses (UNMAS).

 

One last point, all of the victim assistance programs proposed in the 2013 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects focus on psycho-social support, income generation activities, data collection and / or advocacy and awareness of rights; there are no prosthetic services, surgical services or physical rehabilitation programs.  Such services would be part of a country’s health care infrastructure, but they are also necessary for landmine survivors to be able to take advantage of the services being offered by the proposed projects.

 

Michael P. Moore

January 7, 2013


Demining Extensions Granted to Eritrea and the Republic of Congo

On December 2, the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty approved Article 5 extension requests to Eritrea and the Republic of Congo, giving both countries additional time to complete their Treaty-mandated demining obligations.  Eritrea’s request was an interim one, seeking additional time (until February 1, 2015) to fully assess the extent of anti-personnel landmine contamination in the country and develop a comprehensive plan to eliminate that contamination through demining.  The Republic of Congo’s request was for two years and would cover demining of suspected areas; however, Congo’s original Article 5 deadline was November 1, 2011 and the extension was not approved until December 2.  Therefore Congo was in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty for the entire month of November 2011, the first violation of the Treaty’s Article 5 obligations by any state.

 

Eritrea

I discussed Eritrea’s extension request in an earlier post (Landmines in Africa), but it’s worth describing in full again.  Eritrea’s anti-personnel landmine contamination was first documented in a 2002-2004 Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) conducted by UNDP with the support of the Survey Action Center.  More than 900 suspected hazardous areas were identified by the LIS, areas which need to be re-surveyed by technical and non-technical means to confirm the presence or absence of anti-personnel mines.  Eritrea’s extension request assumed that a great many of the suspected hazardous areas identified by the LIS are in fact contaminated by other explosive remnants of war (not anti-personnel mines) or not contaminated at all.  The extension request therefore sought the time needed to obtain a precise picture of the anti-personnel landmine contamination, and then before the end of the extension period, Eritrea would submit a comprehensive plan for demining all mined areas.  Thus, the approved extension request represents an interim request.

During the initial extension period, Eritrea will engage in manual demining activities of already identified minefields and some of the minefields that are confirmed during the survey process.  The cost of survey and demining in the extension period is $8.5 million for all activities throughout the period, of which Eritrea will provide $4.8 million and the international community has been asked to provide the balance.  This leads to the main concern about Eritrea’s extension request: the fact that international operators have been absent from Eritrea since 2005 (AP Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, pdf).  

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in their commentary on the extension request refers to the expulsion of mine action operators from Eritrea after 2005 (the AP Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit [ISU] was more politic and merely referred to the “absence” of international mine action operators). ICBL considers the expulsion of international mine action operators – granted, many of whom are members of the ICBL – as an area of concern for Eritrea in its ability to obtain the needed funds from the international community to complete the interim extension period, as well as the fact that mine action standards and best practices have changed since 2005 when Eritrea last had the opportunity to learn from external actors.  Specifically, ICBL questions Eritrea’s land release methodology since land release is a relatively new technique, not one that Eritrea has ever demonstrated facility with (ICBL).

In approving the extension request, the Meeting of States Parties encouraged Eritrea to seek out the assistance of international mine action operators to build the technical capacity of the Eritrean Demining Authority.  The States Parties also encourage Eritrea to develop its fundraising plan as soon as possible to secure the needed funds from the international community to cover the extension period and to set up the funding for the next extension period (AP Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, pdf).

 

Republic of Congo

I had also discussed Republic of Congo’s extension request in a previous post (Landmines in Africa), and won’t go into the details of the request here, if only because Republic of Congo (Congo) didn’t bother to go into much detail themselves.  The 11MSP approved a 14 month extension, until January 1, 2013, but that just papers over the following facts:

  1. Congo’s request failed to adhere to the standards or format for Article 5 extension requests as established at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties.
  2. Congo is the first state to violate the Article 5 demining obligations mandated by the Mine Ban Treaty. 
  3. The previous fact is worth re-iterating: Congo is the first state to violate the Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty.

By approving the extension request, the States Parties have created a dangerous precedent and recognized it.  In their approval the States Parties declared, “In the context of the seriousness regarding non-compliance by the Republic of Congo with respect to its obligations…, the States Parties agreed to work collectively in a spirit of cooperation to correct this situation and prevent it from occurring again” (emphasis added) (AP Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, pdf).   

The ICBL noted the violation, calling it “deeply regrettable” noting that Congo “failed to confirm the nature and extent of antipersonnel mine contamination let along to start clearance” (ICBL). However, unlike the response to the Treaty violations of Belarus, Greece, Turkey and the Ukraine when those states failed to destroy their stockpiles of mines as mandated by Article 4 (ICBL 2009; ICBL 2010; IRIN News; The Monitor), the response to Congo’s violation was muted.  My question to the States Parties is this: why not let Congo be in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty?  Why not hold Congo up as an example to other states as Belarus, Greece, Turkey and Ukraine were?  In the most recent Landmine Monitor report, the continued noncompliance of these states was repeated and highlighted (The Monitor, pdf); then, Turkey’s announcement at the 11MSP that it had completed its stockpile destruction and was now in compliance with the Treaty was “welcomed” (ICBL).

It seems to me that Turkey positively responded to the criticism it faced from being in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty and sought to avoid further stigma by destroying its stockpiles.  Why not do the same with Congo?  Reject the half-hearted attempt at an extension request and declare Congo in violation of the Mine Treaty.  The States Parties could then offer the financial and technical assistance Congo needed to get back in compliance with the Treaty, rather than approving a flawed extension request, opening the door for more such violations and requests.

In general, I am opposed to any extension of the demining deadline.  The ten year limit was agreed upon as being long enough to address the most contaminated states (e.g., Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia), while also short enough to force countries to act in an expeditious manner.  As ICBL has noted, “only those States Parties facing exceptional circumstances should be seeking an extension” (ICBL), but most of the extension requests I have seen have been requested because the requesting states have delayed the start of survey and demining activities (this is the case for Algeria, Eritrea and the Republic of Congo).  Except when ongoing security concerns prevent demining (as has been the case in the eastern districts of the Democratic Republic of Congo or throughout Afghanistan), any delays in demining will lead to preventable, foreseeable and unconscionable injuries and deaths.  All landmine casualties that occur after the expiration of the initial ten-year mine clearance period are avoidable tragedies.  Granted, a state like Angola has such a degree of anti-personnel mine contamination that the process of demining could take longer than ten years (hence the extension process), but the act of marking and defining the contaminated areas should be possible in much less than ten years, preventing any new casualties after the deadline.  I would have let the Republic of Congo languish in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty and use them as an example to others: do not delay or every new casualty will be on your hands and conscience.

Michael P. Moore, December 8, 2011


September 2011, the Month in Mines

Libya dominated the landmine headlines in September, but news also continued to come out of Somalia (mixed) and Angola (good).  The second meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions was held in Lebanon with the participation of several African states, including Swaziland – a party to the Mine Ban Treaty since June 1999 – which acceded to the Convention during the meeting.  Eritrea and Sudan also appeared in landmine-related news stories this month.

I think the biggest story of the month is the slow realization of the scale of the landmine problem in Libya.  Two United Nations Inter-Agency Missions, one to Brega (UNOCHA, pdf) and the other to Ra’s Lanuf (UNOCHA, pdf), provided some information in the broader context of the emerging humanitarian crisis in the country.  The NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre published a landmine-specific background paper on Libya documented the widespread use of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines by forces loyal to Gaddhafi (Civil-Military Fusion Centre, pdf).  There was some early usage of landmines by rebels in Libya before they disavowed any further use (BBC News), but there have been no recent reports of use by forces loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC). 

The landmines that have been laid in Libya number in the thousands, possibly the tens or hundreds of thousands and clearance will take years.  Mines Advisory Group has destroyed 8,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (Mines Advisory Group) and Danish Church Aid is active in Misrata which was struck by cluster munitions (Danish Church Aid), but the NTC estimates that at least 40,000 landmines were laid around Brega alone (Reuters) and the Gaddhafi regime possessed thousands more mines in warehouses that have since been looted (Time).  The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), responsible for securing and overseeing the removal or destruction of conventional munitions “is woefully understaffed” in Libya (Time). 

In addition to the immediate need for mine clearance, Libya’s hospitals are already overwhelmed by the number of persons – many of whom are civilians and children – who have been injured in the fighting. “The most common injuries now are amputations and ‘open fractures’, which are bones literally shattered and sometimes jutting out of the body from high-velocity wounds” and one author estimated the number of amputations performed in Misrata as almost 5,000 (The National).  Libya lacks the rehabilitation infrastructure to adequately respond to such injuries with no prosthetic centers or wheelchair manufacturers; in addition to the absence of physical rehabilitation facilities, Libya also lacks the ability to provide emotional, psychological and socio-economic assistance to those disabled by their injuries (The National).

Efforts in Libya have already begun to try and get the oil and petroleum industries back on-line.  While still mostly intact, the oil wells and refineries are currently off limits due to severe landmine contamination.  Thousands of mines were laid by Gaddhafi’s forces around oil facilities and until those are removed, a process that will take many months, Libya’s ability to rely on its oil revenues, estimated at $176 million per day (Reuters).

Outside of Libya, Somalia and Angola featured regularly in the news with stories about landmines.  After Al-Shabab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu (a tragically short retreat as today’s – October 4th’s – news shows: BBC News), the Transitional Federal Government’s forces, supported by international peacekeepers, sought to clear the streets of the city.  The security crackdown found many landmines and improvised explosive devices in areas formerly held by Al-Shabab (Mareeg; All Africa; and All Africa).  Those seizures of explosives led to the unfortunate death of Mustafa Mohamed Da’ud, an employee of the United Nations Mine Action Service in Somalia.  Mr. Da’ud apparently died whilst unloading ordnance from a truck in preparation for destruction (All Africa).  In Angola, continued progress was made on demining activities in the country, led by the National Institute for Demining (INAD) (All Africa; Angola Portal; All Africa; and All Africa).  INAD’s work was recognized with the Diamond Trophy of the Business Initiative Directions for the socio-economic benefits of demining (All Africa). 

Brief mentions were also made of landmine incidents in Eritrea where seven people died and dozens more were injured when the bus they were riding in struck a landmine (All Africa; and Assena); in South Sudan where Mines Advisory Group destroyed a large stockpile of arms belonging to the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (Mines Advisory Group); and Sudan where United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers have expanded their mine risk education activities in response to several recent incidents involving children in Darfur (United Nations). 

Lastly, although not in Africa, a twenty-two year old elephant, now-named Pa Hae Po, wandered from Thailand across the border into Burma where he stepped on a landmine severely injuring his front left foot (The Guardian).  Pa Hae Po’s injury was reported, among other sources, by the Associated Press  and Official Wire globally (AP; and Official Wire); by the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle in the United States; by the Guardian, Telegraph, Edinburgh Evening News and Birmingham Mail in the United Kingdom; and by 3 News in New Zealand.  All told, Pa Hae Po’s story was carried by 144 news outlets (Google News Search).  If Pa Hae Po had been a child in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Chad instead of an elephant in Thailand, how many stories would have been written about him?

Michael P. Moore, October 4, 2011


Eritrea’s Article 5 Extension Request: The Responsibility of Approval

In Eritrea, there are an estimated 1.5 million landmines and more than 5,000 survivors of landmine injuries.  Nearly an eighth of the population (655,000 individuals out of 5.2 million in 2010) lives in a community affected by landmines.  For comparison purposes, one-in-eight Americans live in California so imagine if all of California was to be mine-affected.  Eritrea is, by any measure, one of the most mine-affected countries in the world and earlier this year, Eritrea submitted a request for an extension of its Article 5 mine clearance deadline under the Mine Ban Treaty.

Eritrea’s Article 5 Extension request, to be considered for approval by the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (11MSP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November of this year, is a bit unusual. Instead of asking for an extension of time to complete demining activities, Eritrea requests a three-year extension (until February 2015) to determine the full extent of landmine contamination in the country.  In 2004, the Survey Action Center completed a Landmine Impact Survey of Eritrea that provides the baseline for all mine action in Eritrea, but the authors of the extension request believe that the information from the LIS needs to be refined and improved.  Eritrea’s extension request is essentially a request for time to re-assess the LIS findings; eliminate suspected hazardous areas through non-technical survey and land release; and survey areas that had not been covered by the LIS due to dangerous conditions at the time of the LIS. If this extension request is approved, then Eritrea will submit a second extension request in 2014 with a detailed plan for demining all remaining mine-affected areas.

As Eritrea’s extension request is reviewed by the 11MSP, I think the reviewers must consider the following points.  First, an approval of this request implies a tacit approval of the second request that will be submitted in 2014.  Second, that other countries with pending mine clearance deadlines might mimic Eritrea’s request, submitting extension requests without detailed implementation plans.  Both of these are important issues, but not nearly as important as the third: Eritrea will need help from the international community to meet its mine clearance obligations and that assistance may be difficult to obtain.

Eritrea has come to be seen as a pariah state, a long cry from Bill Clinton’s laudatory claims of its place as part of the “new breed” of African states and leadership.  Recent stories have focused on Eritrea’s plans to bomb the African Union meetings in Addis Ababa in January 2011, its support for the Al Shabaab rebels in Somalia and its expulsion of non-governmental organizations (full disclosure: my former employer, Landmine Survivors Network, was also forced to terminate operations in Eritrea in the early 2000s).  In the last couple of weeks however, Eritrea has sought to mend fences and the president, Isaias Afewerki traveled to Kampala to meet with Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, to build goodwill in advance of Eritrea’s efforts to re-join the East African political alliance, the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought (IGAD).  The thaw in Eritrea’s relations with its neighbors comes in the wake of new sanctions against Eritrea for use of child soldiers, in the face of East Africa’s crippling famine and just as Eritrea is seeking international support for mine action.  I think it is highly likely that Eritrea is starving and needs the assistance of the international community to survive. Eritrea will also need significant assistance to meet its mine clearance obligations and that need should be considered as Eritrea’s Article 5 extension request is reviewed.

Since the mid-2000s, when it expelled the last of the humanitarian and development NGOs working in the country, Eritrea has received less and less foreign aid.  According to the World Bank, aid to Eritrea has stagnated at around US $150 million per year since 2006, levels last seen during Eritrea’s 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia.

In addition to the decline in overall foreign aid to Eritrea, international assistance for mine action has collapsed almost entirely.  When Eritrea acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty in 2001, significant assistance was made available to Eritrea for mine action.  That assistance has declined dramatically as seen in the chart below from data provided by United Nations’ Financial Tracking Service.

Eritrea complains in its Article 5 extension request that the actions and funding provided to international mine action NGOs in the early 2000s were unknown and the inability of the Eritrean government to control those organizations – and perhaps more importantly, control their funding – led to their expulsion. 

Eritrea proposes to have all of the demining be done by its own mine action authority and pledges to contribute almost $5 million to cover the demining and mine-risk education between 2011 and 2015.  An additional $3.5 million is sought from other sources to fully fund the mine action plan.  With recent international support for mine action in Eritrea negligible, the 11MSP reviewers of Eritrea’s extension request will need to consider whether or not the $3.5 million is forthcoming.  More importantly, Eritrea will need tens of millions of dollars to conduct demining once the scope of contamination is known (with 1.5 million mines and a cost of $100 to clear each mine, Eritrea may need as much as $150 million to completely demine the country). 

The 11MSP reviewers cannot guarantee mine action funding for Eritrea, but the reviewers will need to provide more than just platitudes about the need for the international community to support Eritrea’s mine action efforts.  The reviewers should take the temperature of the donor countries to determine the donors’ ability and willingness to commit the long-term funding needed for demining in Eritrea.  In addition, the reviewers should question Eritrea’s ability to match international contributions.  According to the LC3 Dataset from the World Bank (when Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded), donor countries provide 60% of the funding for mine action and affected countries provide the remaining 40%.  Can Eritrea pledge to commit this level of funding in its second extension request?  If not, will donors be willing to make up the difference? 

One area that will help the reviewers in their decision-making will be to observe the current relations of Eritrea with its neighbors and monitor donor pledges to Eritrea.  If Eritrea re-joins IGAD, that would represent a significant thaw in its relations with other East African states; if UN sanctions against Eritrea are lifted (or lessened), that would suggest that international aid to the country may increase; if Eritrea accepts the assistance of international NGOs, that would increase the capacity of the country to engage in mine action.  Equally important to monitor would be the famine assistance Eritrea receives.  According to the World Food Programme, more than 35% of Eritrea’s population is undernourished, but WFP does not work in Eritrea and the full impact of the East African famine on Eritrea is unknown.  If Eritrea asks for and accepts WFP assistance, that might be the most telling indicator for the 11MSP reviewers; it might be the only good thing to come out of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Michael P. Moore

August 29, 2011