I monitor Twitter on a daily basis for news about landmines. In the wake of Saturday’s massacre of 28 people riding a Nairboi-bound bus near the Kenyan border town of Mandera by members of the Al Shabaab militia (Reuters), I saw several posts on Twitter suggesting radical measures to close the border between Somalia and Kenya:
The anger of the writers and posters is understandable: many of their fellow Kenyans have been killed by a militia that is based in another country. The use of landmines to secure the border is an easy-sounding solution, but one that will result in many more civilian casualties and not protect Kenyans. As examples, the French and Rhodesian governments placed “cordon sanitaires” on the borders which, despite multiple layers of minefields, barbed-wire, machine gun emplacements and electronic monitoring, completely failed to prevent incursions by rebel groups which seized power in Algeria and Zimbabwe. Two modern minefields, on the Korean Peninsula and in Western Sahara, also fail to prevent people from crossing the borders or provide a lasting solution to the conflict between the peoples on either side.
Kenyans are not the only ones to suggest using landmines to protect borders. Others I have seen recently include Indians:
I doubt that those recommending the use of landmines are representative of their fellow citizens, but I do find it troubling to see any proposals to secure borders with landmines. Landmines are not the solution to any border issue. Civilians are inevitably the victims of these minefields and if anything, active minefields harden the conflict and make finding a permanent resolution more difficult (again, see Korea and Western Sahara). Fences and minefields do not make good neighbors. Communication and understanding make good neighbors while minefields make enemies.
Michael P. Moore
November 24, 2014
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org