The Month in Mines, December 2016

Many apologies for this one being so late.  Will try to do better for the rest of the year…

2016’s news that the number of landmine casualties had gone up severely is tempered only slightly by the fact that this news seems to have spurred some action in the international community.  At a meeting of the African Union in December, the countries that had joined the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions re-committed themselves to the goal of a mine-free world by 2025 and setting up mechanisms to create cross-border cooperation to help achieve that end (African Union).

 

Somalia

In the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, security forces fought militants aligned with the Islamic State for the first time in that region of the country.  The firefight began when Puntland troops were stopped by landmines placed in the road.  When the troops started to clear the mines, Islamic State fighters attacked.  No casualties were reported from the mines (All Africa).

In Hirshabelle, one of Somalia’s key agricultural regions, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) collaborated to rehabilitate major roadways to enable access and transport.  During the operation, the teams rebuilt a bridge near Jowhar town that had been destroyed by a landmine (UN Support Office in Somalia).

 

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Mine Action Center (ZIMAC) hosted a national mine action strategic planning workshop to develop the 2017 workplan and set up a long-term plan for clearing all remaining landmines in the country.  This plan will help to inform the expected extension request from Zimbabwe to the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).

 

Ethiopia

An India company, JMC Projects India, is building a hundred kilometer road between Kenya and Ethiopia and has pledged to provide prosthetics to members of the Tigray Disabled Veterans Association.  An estimate 100,000 people in Tigray Regional State have been disabled by landmines or the wars in Ethiopia (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

Last year Nigerian military engineers discovered multiple caches of cluster munitions in northeastern Adamawa state and a suicide attack in Maiduguri carried out by a female bomber is thought to have used similar munitions (The Daily Beast).

In December, a lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian army died when his vehicle struck a landmine buried in the road in Borno state; the mine was attributed to Boko Haram.  The lieutenant colonel is the fourth officer killed by Boko Haram in just two months (Naij.com).

To combat Boko Haram and the landmines, IEDs and booby-traps left by them, the Nigerian army acquired a Slovak-made mine-sweeper to clear the roads in Borno state (Naij.com).

 

Libya

The spokesman for the Libyan National Army’s engineering division was killed by a landmine in the Banfouda area of Benghazi (Libya Herald). As the army liberates more of the city, civilians are attempting to return to their homes and many have been killed or wounded by landmines and booby traps left by the fleeing Islamic State forces.  A Chadian national was injured by a mine on a farm just east of Benghazi (Al Wasat). Bobby traps have been found not only in the streets and fields but also in Benghazi’s main hospital where two mines exploded.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured (Libya Herald). As IS forces expand their asymmetrical warfare to include suicide car bombs and the use of weaponized drones, a brigade commander was killed by a landmine (Libya Herald) and a special forces soldier was killed and two other soldiers injured by a mine (Arab Today).

In the western city of Sirte, recently liberated from the Islamic State, residents and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) have called for assistance to clear the landmines left by IS. UNHCR and Mercy Corps are conducting a rapid needs assessment and have identified landmine clearance as the more pressing need (UNHCR). In partial response, army engineering teams from Misrata, Zliten and Tripoli are clearing the mines in Sirte and as they clear neighborhoods, alerting the residents so they can return. The engineering teams are also asking residents not to return to areas before those areas have been declared clear of mines to avoid further casualties. (Libya Observer). This message has been reinforced by the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, in remarks aimed at fostering national reconciliation (Press TV).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reported on its 2016 achievements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  In addition to clearing almost 175,000 square meters of ground and destroying over 26,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW), 8,000 Congolese have been sensitized about the dangers of landmines and ERW. The sensitization campaign included a pop song by a local artist and is available on YouTube. The current pace of clearance would allow DRC to meet its Mine Ban Treaty requirement of clearance of all known minefields by January 1, 2021 (UNMAS).

 

Tunisia

A shepherd lost his left leg to a landmine on Mount Semmama in the Kasserine region.  The right leg was also severely damaged and may also require amputation (Webdo). Two Tunisian soldiers were also injured in the Kasserine region in a separate incident (Direct Info).

 

Angola

In the northern Malanje province, Angola’s National Demining Institute handed over to the local government, a 2,500 square meter field that had been cleared of mines.  The local authorities plan to use the land for an electrical substation (ANGOP).

In Huila province, fears of a previously undocumented minefield were heightened when a farmer was injured by an anti-tank mined as he was plowing a field for a newly launched agricultural program.  This was the second such blast in the area in the last two years and the earlier explosion killed two people (ANGOP).

In its annual review of progress, the National Inter-ministerial Commission on Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH) reported 1.4 million square meters of land have been cleared of mines by Angolan military engineers.  CNIDAH also announced its intention to secure another extension for its Article 5 clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty with the extension period lasting until 2025.  CNIDAH calculates that US $275.2 million will be required to clear all known landmines and minefields (Prensa Latina).

 

Mozambique

Just a little a year after declaring the country free of anti-personnel landmines, Mozambique has declared itself free of cluster munitions.  In 2015 Norwegian Peoples Aid, with support from UNDP, conducted a comprehensive survey of cluster munitions remnants and identified 4 provinces affected by cluster munitions. After the survey, NPA cleared 144 Rhodesia-made submunitions from multiple campaigns along the border leaving Mozambique cluster munition-free (Norwegian Peoples Aid).

 

Sudan

In the North Darfur region, two boys were killed and a third injured by an ERW that the boys found and played with (Radio Dabanga).

According to the Sudanese Defense Minister, 14 civilians were killed or injured by landmines in Sudan in 2016.  In response, almost 99 million square meters of land has been cleared of mines and other ERW (Sudan Vision).

 

Mali

Three French soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine.  The vehicle was in the lead of a convoy traveling to Tessalit from Gao (Africa News).

 

Algeria

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

 

Western Sahara

A man was injured by a landmine when he drove his Land Rover over it.  The injuries were not thought to be life threatening, but there is concern that recent floods in Western Sahara may have moved some mines causing areas that had previously been safe to now be dangerous (Dales Vozalas Victimas).

 

Michael P. Moore

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

February 27, 2017

 


Profile of Ethiopia’s Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization

Background

Founded by two landmine survivors, Mr. Bekele Gonfa and Mrs. Yemariamwerk Debela, the Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) seeks to provide peer support services to landmine survivors and other persons with limb loss and severe injuries.  As survivors, Mr. Gonfa and Mrs. Debela recognized the need to additional support beyond the standard medical and rehabilitative care available in Ethiopia.  They valued the peer support approach as a means of providing holistic recovery and reintegration support to survivors of severe and disabling injuries and in the absence of any other providers, created SRaRO which just became operational in April 2014.

 

SRaRO's Executive Director and Co-Founder, Bekele Gonfa, describes the work of the organization

SRaRO’s Executive Director and Co-Founder, Bekele Gonfa, describes the work of the organization

 

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization builds upon the peer support modeled implemented by Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) in Ethiopia and LSN’s former Ethiopia country director, Mr. Gonfa, will serve as SRaRO’s founding Executive Director.  Mr. Gonfa is also a researcher for the Landmine Monitor and an advocate for humanitarian disarmament as an active campaigner and victim assistance focal point, most recently participating in the meetings to ban nuclear weapons in Mexico earlier this year. Mr. Gonfa also serves as the board chair for Ketar Developmental Association (KDA), the board vice chair for the Ethiopian Center for Disability Development (ECDD) and as a board member for Cheshire Service Ethiopia (CSE). With the connections and knowledge from LSN as well as the support and guidance of a five-person Board of Directors, SRaRO is launching an ambitious program in Addis Ababa and Oromia to enable survivors practically back to life.

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization has applied for membership in the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network (ENDAN). SRaRO participates in relevant international coalitions including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munitions Coalition (ICBL-CMC) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  Bekele Gonfa is an active campaigner for the ICBL-CMC and frequently represents the landmine survivor community on behalf of the ICBL-CMC. He has been serving as a technical advisor for a government of Norway-funded Survivors Network Project being implemented by Yitawekilin Yeakal Gudatagnoch Mehiber (YYGM, “Recognize our Disability”).

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is a simple and effective way to empower persons with disabilities and provide psychosocial support. SRaRO’s peer support program connects recent landmine victims and other persons with traumatic limb loss with survivors who have had time to reflect, convalesce and reintegrate themselves as productive, contributing members of society. Recent victims share their stories, have their emotions validated, receive practical advice and, through their interaction with fellow survivors, realize that successful recuperation is possible. The peer support approach is efficient and broadly applicable across the Ethiopian context.

Peer support is not limited to counseling. In practice, peer support starts with the identification of persons with disabilities and landmine survivors who are traumatized and live in isolation, followed by provision of peer counseling. The number of peer counseling sessions depends on the condition of the beneficiary; a person who is newly disabled may need three to six peer counseling sessions and a person who was disabled many years ago and lives in isolation need over 10 peer counseling sessions to regain his/her self-confidence.  If necessary, SRaRO will refer survivors to professional psychological centers for treatment.  Once a beneficiary has received peer counseling and realized that reintegration into society is possible, he/she will be referred to available educational, vocational, health, orthopedic services based on the needs and demands of that beneficiary.  Recipients of peer support who themselves demonstrate successful rehabilitation and reintegration may be recruited as peer supporters for other persons with limb loss.

 

Rationale of the Project

Survivors Corps (originally, Landmine Survivors Network) closed its landmine survivor assistance project in Ethiopia in 2009.  The project enhanced the recovery and rehabilitation of hundreds of Ethiopian landmine survivors and amputees, through the application of a peer support approach, during its decade of operation. By bridging the gap between survivors and service providing organizations in Ethiopia, Survivor Corps provided Ethiopian amputees with links and referrals to services that would have otherwise been under-utilized.  When the project closed, no other entity was able to meet the demands of the amputee population for access to service providers.

 

Ethiopia is one of the mine-affected countries in the world with significant numbers of landmine survivors as well as other persons with disabilities from all other causes, especially traffic accidents, who are badly in need of support for recovery and rehabilitation. Cancer and infection are other major disabling factors whose survivors need access to rehabilitation services. In order to reach out and address the needs of these survivors and enable them stand on their feet we have established an organization, SRaRO, which promotes the recovery and rehabilitation of this group. Hospitals may provide necessary medical treatment and professional counseling, but we have found the peer support approach, one survivor teaching another, to be most effective for trauma recovery.

 

Goal and Objectives

SRaRO’s goal is to empower survivors of disabling injuries to be self-sufficient citizens of Ethiopia.

Specific Objectives

  • To increase awareness of the psycho-social needs pf survivors of traumatic limb loss;
  • To improve the recovery and rehabilitation of survivors through application of the peer support approach;
  • Facilitate hospital and home visits by peer support workers;
  • To increase the awareness of service providers about national and international laws and policies related to disability; and
  • To increase the capacity of some service providers in order to serve more survivors.

 

Criteria for Target Selection

Research will be conducted to identify service providers for persons with traumatic limb loss including hospitals that conduct orthopedic surgery, prosthetic and orthotic centers, micro-finance institutions and vocational training centers. Our assessment will determine which service providers reach the greatest number of target beneficiaries and which are receptive to partnering with SRaRO.  Expansion of activities will be based upon the ability of service providers to reach underserved groups of survivors.

Area of Operation

SRaRO will start its operation in Addis Ababa City Administration (with hospitals and other service providers) and Oromia Regional State. We hope to expand to other regions based on needs assessments and availability of resources. We have chosen Addis Ababa and Oromia to start with because of the presence of large numbers of survivors in these two places as well as the presence of referral hospitals and other hospitals in Addis Ababa and the high traffic density in Addis Ababa and Oromia that results in high numbers of disabling road accidents.

What We Do

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) uses four basic approaches to promote rehabilitation:

 

1)      Recovery and Role Modeling: SRaRO employs peer support workers who have faced trauma, recovered and are living independently.  Peer support workers have “been through it” and serve as role models to others and the co-founder, Yemariamwerk Debela serves as SRaRO’s first peer support worker.  SRaRO’s executive director, Bekele Gonfa, also serves as a role model and can share his experiences and success whenever appropriate. Peer support workers visit hospitals with orthopedic surgical units and offer peer counseling to patients who have recently suffered trauma or are facing surgical amputation. Once contact is made with the survivor, the peer support worker will conduct home visits after the survivor is discharged. SRaRO provides peer support workers with the necessary training and tools to provide peer counseling and referrals to psychological services if needed.

2)      Physical Mobility and Accessibility: The peer support worker the survivors with information on rehabilitation service providers and the types of service they render. Armed with this knowledge, the survivors can move forward to receive the necessary physiotherapy services and appropriate rehabilitative appliances which, depending upon the nature of the survivor’s injuries, could include prostheses, orthotics, crutches, wheelchairs, brace, neck collars etc.  SRaRO raises awareness among the service providers and encourages them to supply these appliances for free to the survivors but also hopes to have the funding to cover some or all of the cost depending on the income of the survivors and availability of funds.

3)      Economic Independence: For survivors to be self-sufficient, they must be able to support themselves financially, either through wage labor or the proceeds from a micro or small business.  SRaRO provides survivors with information about vocational training opportunities, microfinance institutions, and employers who have expressed an interest in hiring SRaRO’s clients. If possible, SRaRO will subsidize training fees for clients at vocational training centers and will organize self-help groups of clients with an interest in establishing their own businesses.  These self-help groups double as credit circles and serve as an informal peer support mechanism.

4)      Enabling Environment: In addition to the direct services provided to survivors through the peer support approach, SRaRO will increase awareness within the community and among the relevant service providers to educate about national and international laws and policies such as Ethiopia’s Employment Opportunity Proclamation and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

Expected Outputs

If successful, SRaRO expects to see the following changes in the working areas:

  • The Clients (survivors) will recovery from the trauma and be ready to reintegrated with the society.
  • Awareness of service providers increased and they have started proving service to the survivors
  • Survivors will be rehabilitated physically, empowered economically and strive to be a self-supporting and independent citizen.

 

At the ceremony celebrating the establishment of SRaRO

At the ceremony celebrating the establishment of SRaRO

Immediate Needs

As with all start-ups, Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization is seeking donations.  Members of the organization are expected to contribute 2,000 Ethiopia Birr (roughly US $100).  SRaRO’s management and board are sourcing office equipment and materials from partners and the Charity and Society Agency.  Otherwise, SRaRO has started its operation with the labor and financial generosity of the founders and volunteers. Once funds are available, experienced staff will be hired to conduct the activities described above.

 

For more information, contact:

Bekele Gonfa Oba, Executive Director

Email: bekele818@gmail.com

Skype: Obabekele

 


The Month in Mines, April 2014

The annual observance of the International Day of Mine Action and Awareness on April 4th generates many news stories about the current conditions of mine-affected countries and this year was no different.  The April 4th stories tend to be positive in tone and so there is a striking discord between the stories about demining progress and reports of new mine accidents that occurred in April.  Especially troubling news came out of Mozambique where political tensions have spilled into violence that threatens the impressive gains there; in Tunisia where landmines are being used by insurgents on Mount Chaambi; in South Sudan where false accusations of landmine use were levelled against the United Nations mission; and Somalia where landmine casualties continue to mount.  Additional positive news was seen as Burundi declared itself landmine free (again).

 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s landmine clearance began soon after the new country emerged from the civil war with the former Rhodesia regime in 1980.  The clearance continues today after suffering numerous fits and starts.  The majority of the more than one million landmines lie along the borders with Zambia and Mozambique and were place by Rhodesian soldiers to prevent liberation fighters from entering the country.  The minefields were mapped by Rhodesian soldiers, but those maps were lost in the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, a loss that has hampered clearance and caused loss of life and limb.  Best estimates suggest almost 4,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines and over 120,000 cattle have been killed over the last three decades.  Even areas that were thought to be safe from landmines can become contaminated by the frequent flooding in the mine-affected regions which disturb and displace the mines.

Currently, three international NGOs, the HALO Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid and the International Committee of the Red Cross are assisting with the landmine clearance.  Mukumbura, the most mine-affected province in Zimbabwe was described by HALO as “resembling ‘a country in the immediate post-conflict phase,’ with mines found close ‘to houses, schools and clinics’” suggesting how little clearance has actually taken place. “The younger generations in Mukumbura area are victims of a war that ended years before they were born.”  The government of Zimbabwe frequently pleads poverty due to international sanctions (brought about because of Zimbabwe’s illegal farm seizures) and only allocates US $500,000 of the requested $2 million for mine clearance, reflecting the government’s “misplaced priorities.”

Zimbabwe has requested yet another extension, its fourth, of its Mine Ban Treaty-mandated deadline to clear the remaining minefields.  The current deadline in January 1, 2015, which will not be met, and the proposed deadline is January 1, 2018 and yet another extension request will be made once the full extent of landmine contamination is known (Southwest Radio Africa; Sunday Mail).

 

Mozambique

In June Mozambique will host the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty and the country is hoping to show off its best side at that time.  There is a strong push within the country to clear the remaining minefields which are mostly along the border with Zimbabwe.  With some 20,000 landmine survivors across the country, the scale of the landmine problem in Mozambique was once thought nearly insurmountable, but Mozambique and its donors feel that completion of all demining tasks is possible this year.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) took advantage of the April 4th observances to highlight to role of women deminers in clearing Mozambique’s landmines (All Africa) the director of Mozambique’s national demining institute, Alberto Augusto, highlighted the progress to date: 200,000 mines cleared and a casualty rate of only four persons in 2012.  However, Mr. Augusto also described one of the greatest challenges facing Mozambique’s landmine clearance program may not be the landmines or the terrain, but politics.  Because the opposition party RENAMO has returned to the “bush” and its roots as a rebel organization, violence in Sofala province, one of the few remaining mine-affected provinces, has halted landmine clearance there, especially after two deminers were injured.  Mr. Augusto said that if a ceasefire could not be agreed with RENAMO by May 1, then Mozambique would likely miss its clearance deadline of December 31, 2014 (Voice of America).

 

Western Sahara

The Saharawi Mine Actions Coordination Office (SMACO) hosted a mine risk education workshop in conjunction with the Saharawi Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims and Action on Armed Violence.  The workshop informed government and civil society leaders of the landmine risks in Western Sahara arising from the separation wall, the berm, erected by the Moroccan government (All Africa).  The need for such a workshop was unfortunately confirmed later in the month when a 29 year-old Saharawi was killed by a landmine outside of the city of Smara while he was herding camels (All Africa).

 

South Sudan

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was accused by the government of South Sudan of arming the rebels loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar with landmines and anti-aircraft weaponry. The accusation arose when South Sudan’s army seized a UNMISS convoy that was carrying weapons for the UN peacekeeping force in the country.  The convoy did have guns and riot suppression gear (tear gas and gas masks) but the accusation of landmines was completely false and reckless as was the accusation that UNMISS was arming the rebels (All Africa).  In fact, the United Nations has one of its largest landmine clearance programs in South Sudan and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been doing heroic work since the start of the civil war in South Sudan in December 2013.  UNMAS continues to clear mines from routes and has been investigating use of cluster munitions and new use of landmines by some of the rebels.  UNMAS has also provided safe haven for some displaced persons in its compounds (Relief Web).  The government of South Sudan does recognize the threat of landmines and has also been educating school children about the threat and has called on all parties to the current conflict to refrain from landmine use (eNCA).

 

Sudan

While three-quarters of the minefields of Sudan have been cleared so far, much work remains to be done both in terms of clearance and assistance to survivors because “the number of victims is underestimated in Sudan.”  Some 35 million square meters of land, mostly in Sudan’s eastern states, have yet to be cleared and ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan States prevents access to clear minefields there.  Sudan’s current landmine clearance plan places work in those two states on hold until the security situation permits access and instead focuses all efforts on other areas.  That plan, approved by the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty requires additional support from the international community as Sudan estimates the cost of mine action at $10 million per year for each of the next three years (All Africa).

In an interesting comment by Sudan’s vice president, Hassabo Mohamed Adbul Rahman, Sudan reiterated its commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty but called on “signatories to stop landmines manufacturing due to their hazardous effects.”  I’m hoping something was lost in translation or the Vice President was insufficiently briefed before his remarks because banning manufacture of landmines is one of the most basic requirements of the Treaty (Sudan Vision Daily).

 

Tunisia

Tunisia Map

Tunisia has seen a large number of artisanal or home-made landmines being used in the vicinity of Jebel (Mount) Chaambi on the Algerian border.  Islamist rebels have used the mountain as a base and placed landmines to kill or injure Tunisian soldiers who are trying to dislodge them.  At least 16 mines have exploded over the last year including several in April.  On April 10th and 11th, three mines exploded and according to official reports, the first and third mines damaged military vehicles but did not injure the soldiers riding in the vehicle.  The second mine injured a civilian when his tractor struck a mine (All Africa; All Africa).  In addition to the mines on Mount Chaambi, two mines on nearby Mount Alhaanbe injured eight soldiers, two severely on April 11th and the Tunisian army appears to have tried to minimize the coverage of the incident (All Africa).  A week later, a soldier was killed and two more wounded when their vehicle struck a mine on Mount Chaambi (All Africa; Reuters; All Africa).

 

Somalia

In the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, three people were killed and two other injured by an anti-personnel landmine in Qorilugud.  The mine was attributed to forces loyal to Somalia’s former dictator Siad Barre and dated to the 1980s (Somaliland Sun).

Somalia’s prime minister, Adbiweli Sheikh Ahmed declared the capitol, Mogadishu, free of landmines, saying, “we must have the ability to give our youth a better life towards greater accomplishments. We also have a responsibility to clean up and eliminate destructive items” (All Africa).  Mine clearance is urgently needed in other parts of Somalia.  In Dhobley district in the south of the country, a landmine killed three people and injured others when an AMISOM vehicle struck a mine (Somalia Focus).  In Galgadud, four people were killed and three injured by a mine (Radio Barkulan).

 

Libya

In Ajdabiya, a man was injured by a landmine, losing his leg and damaging his pelvic bone (Libya Herald).  To address the extensive landmine contamination in Libya, civilian volunteers have taken on the dangerous job of minefield clearance.  As one of the volunteers noted, the location of minefields is not known, instead “We discover them when a landmine explodes.”  The volunteers have formed an organization, “No to Landmines and War Debris,” and received some training from mine action operators through observation and assistance.  Now then, I have a very hard time faulting these unbelievably brave men who are doing this work, but they need to be following International Mine Action Standards and accurately documenting their work.  Unfortunately, several of the volunteers have been killed in the line of work, two as recently as March, but they have cleared over 23,000 landmines.  If there are mine action operators who can help these volunteers out, please do so (All Africa).

 

Angola

As part of the April 4th observances, Angola reported that is has cleared over seven billion square meters of landmines since 1996 (All Africa).

 

Burundi

Burundi declared itself free of landmines and will make the formal announcement at the Third Review Conference.  In 2011, Burundi declared itself mine-free but discovered some additional, previously undocumented minefields after that declaration and so, per the Treaty’s requirements, Burundi had to complete its landmine clearance again.  Burundi is the 11th African country to complete its demining obligations (Xperedon).  In addition to clearing mines within its own territory, Burundian soldiers have been trained on landmine clearance in advance of their deployment as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.  With support and expertise from the US African Army Command, Burundian peacekeepers will be prepared to sweep a road suspected of landmines or improvised explosive devices (Defence Web).

 

Mali

A French soldier serving in Operation Serval in northern Mali was slightly injured by a landmine near the town of Tessalit (Mali Web).  Two weeks later, seven Malian soldiers were injured by a mine in the Gao region of northeastern Mali.  The mine was recently laid and blamed upon Islamist fighters who had been ousted by the French forces (AFP).

 

Ethiopia

The United Kingdom used April 4th to highlight their policy paper on landmine clearance, “Clearing a Path to Development,” and described how the UK is helping to clear landmines from Ethiopia.  According to the UK, some 2 million landmines pollute Ethiopia with mines dating back to 1935’s invasion by Italy with the worst contamination along the borders with Eritrea and Somalia (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

 

Egypt

Also related to the United Kingdom, a lawyer in Egypt has filed a complaint against the UK for refusal “to pay Egypt over 100 billion British pounds in compensation for landmines planted in the Alamein area of the Western Sahara to target German tanks, which ultimately led to the deaths of thousands of Egyptians.”  The landmines in Egypt’s western desert “impede the opportunities of development in the area.”  Any response to the complaint from the British government or the office of British prime minister David Cameron who was named in the complaint was not reported (Cairo Post).

The enormous scale of landmine contamination in Egypt has drawn the attention of NATO which is trying to address issues related to the fact that at least 10% of the mines in Egypt are at least 1.5 meters underground as a result of shifting sands in the desert.  Traditional detection systems, specifically metal detectors and dogs, are not reliable at such depths and many minefields are also full of other metal fragments.  Egyptian and NATO scientists have been experimenting with ground-penetrating radar and dual-sensor technologies to increase the accuracy of mine detection systems.  This will lead to better, safer and faster demining of the mine-affected areas in Egypt (NATO).

 

African Union

As part of the African Union’s observance of April 4th, the AU donated “55 handheld mine detectors, 55 protective aprons and 55 visors to Ethiopia, Mauritania, Sudan and Zimbabwe” is support of the AU’s goal of a landmine-free Africa (Defence Web).

Michael P. Moore

May 23, 2014


Coalition Against Landmines (CALM) and Child Survivors of War

In 2012, Dessu Sam, a trained physical therapist from Ethiopia who had been studying and living in the United States since 2001, traveled to South Sudan.  In the 1990s, Sam had worked at clinic in Addis Ababa, treating child landmine survivors, an experience that inspired him to work on awareness raising in Ethiopia and direct advocacy.  Through Sam’s efforts and the efforts of Landmine Survivors Network, the International Committee for the Red Cross’s Special Fund for Disability expanded its services in Ethiopia to include civilian victims of landmines and not just military victims.  In the United States, Sam re-connected with Shumye Gebrehiwot who had been the Director of Landmine Survivors Network in Ethiopia and had also emigrated.  Together, they founded the not-for-profit Coalition Against Landmines (CALM) to provide support to child landmine survivors in Ethiopia.  As a student at George Washington University, Sam often spoke of his work with CALM and the impact of landmines on Ethiopia.  Until one day, a fellow student, Makwei M. Deng from South Sudan, asked Sam, “Why don’t you do something about South Sudan?” That question led to Sam’s 2012 trip.

Sam quickly saw that the victim assistance need for landmine survivors in South Sudan was huge and the national capacity to respond to that need was minimal.  In Ethiopia, the infrastructure and rehabilitation services exist to provide assistance to survivors, along with transport mechanisms to make those services accessible.  In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, the services are lacking and reports and Sam’s own experience suggest that landmines continue to be laid in Unity and Jonglei states.

Working with volunteers from Juba University, Sam set out to create an entity that could provide some assistance to landmine survivors in South Sudan and provide mine risk education to prevent new injuries.  Even with a focus on host-country ownership and volunteer labor, Sam has found South Sudan an expensive country to operate in and because the country is so new, NGO registration laws are complicated.  However, after a “nightmare” process, Sam and a local Director, Robert Oketta, established Child Survivors of War (CSW) as a locally registered and operated NGO.  Office space, because there is so little of it, is very expensive, so to save money CSW shares space with other organizations.  CSW’s volunteers go to universities and public institutions throughout South Sudan to educate people about the risks of landmines and other explosive remnants of war and for child survivors who cannot access formal education, those volunteers also provide tutoring.

Tutoring in progress in Child Survivors of War's Juba Office

Tutoring in progress in Child Survivors of War’s Juba Office

 

Sam’s focus on child survivors is based on his belief that adult survivors are “conscious” of what has happened to them.  Adults possess the self-awareness and understanding to understand their injuries and actively participate in their own rehabilitation and recovery.  Children lack this awareness and may not fully comprehend their new reality.  Child survivors as they grow, frequently grow out of their prostheses and require a new one every year in order to be able to more fully participate in life.

The establishment of Child Survivors of War and political realities in Ethiopia have led to a re-thinking about the future of the Coalition Against Landmines.  With the support of CALM’s board of directors, CALM has become a fund-raising mechanism for CSW while continuing to provide direct support to two landmine survivors in Ethiopia, Genet and Tekle.  The new NGO registration laws in Ethiopia limit the amount of support an organization in Ethiopia can receive from international sources, like CALM, so CALM has not been able to expand its efforts there, however, CALM has made a commitment to Genet and Tekle and will continue to support them until they are adults and able to live independently.  Genet is currently in the 10th grade and has plans to attend a technical school to study business, after which she would be able to get a job and support herself.  A one-year program at the technical school costs US $1,000 and CALM is actively raising funds to cover the tuition and associated expenses.  Tekle is in the 6th grade and CALM expects to support his schooling for another six or seven years.

Tekle, a landmine survivor from Ethiopia

Tekle, a landmine survivor from Ethiopia

Genet, a landmine survivor from Ethiopia.

Genet, a landmine survivor from Ethiopia.

 

 

Sam and CALM’s board are contemplating changing CALM’s name to Child Survivors of War – International to formalize the relationship between the organizations in the United States and South Sudan.  Sam’s immediate plans are to travel to South Sudan and spend a year, developing the structure of CSW to build the capacity of the local director and take advantage of the energy and passion of the volunteers.  He wants to build CSW’s network to include local informants in the mine-affected states through churches and other formal and informal associations.  These expansion plans would likely require additional fund-raising, beyond the US $300 per month that is currently needed to support CSW’s activities in South Sudan, but Sam is confident that the opportunity is there.

More information about the Coalition Against Landmines is available on their website, www.calmint.org, and for more details about either CALM or Child Survivors of War, please contact Dessu Sam at dessusam@gmail.com.  In Juba, CSW can be contacted via the national Director, Robert Oketta, at cswssudan@gmail.com.

 

Michael P. Moore

May 20, 2013


Battles over Beledweyne and the Ethiopian Occupation

As the final assault on the Al Shabaab stronghold of Kismayo is underway, I’d like to re-focus the attention further inland, to the town of Beledweyne.  Beledweyne is about 30 kilometers from the border with Ethiopia, is the capitol of the Hiraan district, and has been the base of operations for Ethiopia’s army after it invaded Somalia in November 2011.  Ethiopian troops seized Beledweyne from Al Shabaab on December 31, 2011 and have held it ever since. This week the new President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, visited Beledweyne as fatal floods struck the city.

 

A few important background items to keep in mind: First, there are at least four separate armies operating in Somalia allied to the internationally recognized government; they are the Somali Army, the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers (the backbone of which is formed by Ugandan and Burundian soldiers with some Sierra Leonean and Djiboutian soldiers mixed in), the Kenyan Defence Force (officially part of the AMISOM force, but operating fairly independently it seems) and the Ethiopian army.  There are several clan-based militias that are allied with these forces, but the command and control structures are not very clear.  In theory, the Somali army and two wings of the AMISOM force (one under Ugandan control and focused on security in Mogadishu and central Somalia, the other under Kenyan control and focused on southern Somalia) are allied and operating under United Nations and African Union mandates.  The Ethiopian army has refused to “re-hat” and join the AMISOM command structure.

Second, Ethiopia invaded and occupied large portions of Somalia from 2006 to 2009.  Ethiopia’s goal was to displace the Islamic Courts Union from control in Somalia and return power to the United Nation’s-backed Transitional Federal Government which controlled only small portions of Baidoa at the time of Ethiopia’s invasion.  Ethiopia was very successful in driving out the Islamic Courts Union, but its occupation of Somalia created tremendous ill will within the populace, ill will that gave rise to a guerrilla war against the Ethiopians and led to the rise of the Al Shabaab militia.  Al Shabaab’s opposition to the Ethiopians made it very popular at first and when the Ethiopians withdrew under pressure from the insurgents, Al Shabaab was given a free hand to act in Somalia.  Until Kenya and Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2011, Al Shabaab controlled all of Somalia except for the couple square miles of Mogadishu protected by AMISOM forces. 

Third, Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor and former ally, has been accused of providing logistical, financial and material support to Al Shabaab, and before Al Shabaab to the Islamic Courts Union.  Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a vicious border war in 1998 and have routinely engaged in brinksmanship over a contested piece of blighted and deserted land.  For over a decade, Eritrea has been subject to brutal economic and political sanctions and rather than engage Ethiopia in direct conflict, Eritrea has sought to support various militias that are arrayed against the Ethiopian government, including some active within Ethiopia’s borders.  This support has led to the impression that Ethiopia and Eritrea are fighting a proxy war in Somalia. 

Fourth (and somewhat linked to the third point), southern Ethiopia is primarily made of up of ethnic Somalis.  When the border was drawn, it split the Somali population along both sides of the border and the demarcation of that border led to a war between Somalia and Ethiopia in the 1970s. Ethiopia has been wracked by conflicts organized along ethnic lines and Ethiopia’s desire for political stability in Somalia is tied to its own internal interests. A lawless Somalia allows a safe space for rebels against the Ethiopian government to organize and train; however, it also creates the perception among Ethiopian soldiers (especially those with memories of the last invasion), that all Somalis are enemies or providing comfort and refuge to enemies. 

So, background out of the way…

 

Since the Ethiopian takeover of Beledweyne, there have been numerous attacks against Ethiopian and civilian targets.  These attacks have primarily used landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and those are what I have been tracking. In press reports, the explosives used have been described as “roadside bombs,” “remote-controlled landmines,” “IEDs” and “landmines.”  I have not bothered to try and distinguish between them, only to compile a list of such events:

Table 1: Insurgent attacks using Explosives against hard and soft targets in Beledweyne

Date of Story Target Type of Attack Casualties Source
Sept 26, 2012 Ethiopian Military Convoy Landmine 1 dead http://allafrica.com/stories/201209261409.html
Sept 8, 2012 Somali troops IEDs Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201209080523.html
July 17, 2012 Ethiopian & Somali troops Roadside Bombs Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201207180090.html
July 8, 2012 Somali troops Guns, RPGs 3 killed, unknown wounded http://allafrica.com/stories/201207090135.html
June 28, 2012 Ethiopian & Somali troops Roadside Bomb Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201206290029.html
June 14, 2012 Ethiopian Military Convoy Roadside Bomb Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201206140566.html
May 14, 2012 Ethiopian Military Convoy Landmine Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201205141167.html
April 23, 2012 Ethiopian Military Convoy Roadside Bomb 2 Killed http://allafrica.com/stories/201204231397.html
March 8, 2012 Ethiopian Military Convoy Landmines Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201203080218.html
Feb 21, 2012 Ethiopian troops Landmine Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201202210269.html
Feb 5, 2012 Ethiopian troops Guns and RPGs Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201202050021.html
Jan 24, 2012 Gov’t HQ and Ethiopian soldiers Vehicle-borne suicide bomb 33 killed http://allafrica.com/stories/201201250865.html
Jan 19, 2012 Ethiopian troops Landmine Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201201191316.html
Jan 17, 2012 Ethiopian tanks Landmines None http://allafrica.com/stories/201201170244.html
Jan 6, 2012 Ethiopian troops Roadside Bomb Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201201061131.html
Jan 5, 2012 Military convoy Grenade Unknown http://allafrica.com/stories/201201061055.html

 

Al Shabaab promised to engage in an insurgency campaign after withdrawing from Beledweyne (All Africa); similar promises were made after Al Shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu and can be expected if Kismayo falls.  In Beledweyne, the insurgency campaign, highlighted by the explosive attacks listed above and several targeted assassinations not listed, has sparked brutal reprisals from the occupying Ethiopian soldiers.

In March, Human Rights Watch reported that Ethiopian troops and their allied militia, the Shabelle Valley State group, committed summary executions in response to insurgent attacks.  Human Rights Watch also accused Ethiopian troops of arbitrary detention and beatings of those detained.  A representative of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the State Minister for Internal Affairs Dr. Ali Hassan, denied the charges saying, “human rights violations involving TFG authorities on the ground in those regions has not occurred” (All Africa).  Of course, since the Ethiopian troops are not part of the TFG and the militias are not under any formal command mechanism, Dr. Hassan was sort of telling the truth, if one parses his statement.  But even beyond the reports compiled by Human Rights Watch, the dispatches compiled above provide a more chilling document.  Human Rights Watch did not accuse the Ethiopian troops of killing civilians, but there is compelling evidence that Ethiopian soldiers in Beledweyne have fired indiscriminately into crowds after explosive attacks:

September 26, 2012: One innocent passerby was killed instantly and one other was also seriously injured in an indiscriminate fire by Ethiopian troops. (All Africa)

July 18, 2012: Witnesses said Ethiopian troops have killed at least 10 innocent civilians, including women and children and wounded 9 others, some of them seriously, after opening fire indiscriminately on crowd near the bomb site at a village in eastern Beledweyne town on Wednesday. (All Africa)

July 17, 2012: [L]ocal sources on the ground in Beledweyne say that the [Ethiopian] troops fired indiscriminately after the attacks and that there is a possibility of civilian casualties. (All Africa)

June 28, 2012: Following the attack which was used a remote-controlled {land] mine, Somali and Ethiopian forces opened fire at nearby civilians, but no deaths reported so far. (All Africa)

May 14, 2012: I don’t know the exact number of casualties, but Ethiopian soldiers shot dead two civilians following the blast. (All Africa)

April 23, 2012: According to local sources in Beledweyne Ethiopian troops killed another 3 civilians who were near the site of the explosion. The three men were gunned down following the blast, one was chased down and killed just as he approached his house.

Two other men living in the neighborhood were also executed. “Two men were gunned down in the neighborhood of Baladul Amin, the two of the men were taken out of their homes and executed.” (All Africa)

January 24, 2012: Ethiopian soldiers have separately killed on Tuesday afternoon three persons, including teenagers and a well-known businessman, whom they blamed to have links with Al-shabab militants. (All Africa)

January 19, 2012: Witnesses indicated that the blast did cause any casualty but fire shots by Ethiopians claimed the death of two nearby civilians and five others who have been rushed to the hospitals in the town of Beldweyn for treatment. (All Africa)

These killings have taken place as the Ethiopian government and AMISOM have made repeated promises to withdraw Ethiopian troops and replace them with peacekeepers.  This promise was first made in January 2012 (All Africa) and reiterated in April (All Africa), but the first peacekeepers did not arrive until June (All Africa).  In recent days, after the death of longtime Ethiopian leader, Meles Zenawi, the new Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said “Ethiopia would reinforce the support it has been providing to Somalia in its effort to be a peaceful and stable country,” while the Somali prime minister requested “Hailemariam to continue the full support of Ethiopia to Somalia,” suggesting that Ethiopian troops will remain in Somalia for some time to come (ERTA TV). 

As long as Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia, they will be targets for insurgent and explosive attacks and the Ethiopian troops have demonstrated a callous disregard to the Somalis living in areas they have occupied.

Michael P. Moore, October 3, 2012