Blogging Angola: Why we are here – MAG and a school in a minefield

Demining allows development.  Before schools can be built or crops can be planted, the mines must be cleared.  MAG anticipates another 25 million square meters of land in Moxico province will still need to be cleared at the end of this year.  Until that work is done, Angola cannot fulfill its destiny.

In Maputo at the 2014 Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, the countries that have joined the Treaty, including Angola, committed to making a landmine-free world by 2025.  This would be a very good thing and in a future post I will explore what it will take for Angola to meet that target, but a mine-free world is not an end point in and of itself.  A mine-free world allows everything that we might take for granted in the United States to happen: houses to be built, land to be used, paths to be taken – life to happen.  And it starts with mine-free communities.

Our merry party has grown: the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy, Connie, and the Dutch Ambassador to Angola, Willem, have joined up and Connie will be with us for the rest of the trip.  Willem comes with a security detail provided by the Angolan national police which adds another four people (who come with a police truck and siren which they have mercifully not used yet).  We are in Luena, capital of Moxico province which had been a UNITA stronghold during the civil war and was where Jonas Savimbi was killed in 2002, effectively ending the conflict. Luena is a planned city which has never caught up to the plan, but the wide boulevards and Portuguese architecture are appealing for casual strolls.

Photo 4-01 MAP

From Cuito Cuanavale to Luena

MAG has been working in Moxico province since 1994 and done an awful lot in that time.  Like NPA and HALO, they are operating at lower capacity than in the past,  but with new leadership in country and increased attention from the headquarter’s fundraising team, they are hoping to turn it around.  And be able to hand over more cleared minefields to the community.

Today we are in Lingonga minefield and visiting the Calapo school which had been built on the minefield after MAG cleared.  Calapo is near a river and along the main road out of Luena.  During the civil war, the bridge was a strategic point and the Angolan army laid mines along both sides of the river.  In 2008, a government demining team cleared the roadway and the space for the bridge, but the minefields along the river were left mostly intact.  MAG started working on the site in 2014 as the river is a major water collection point and while we were there we could see several people washing their clothes in the river just a few yards from the bridge.  They were now safe to do as MAG had cleared all of the mines on the southern side of the river and had begun work on the northern side of the river.  The minefields on the south side of the bridge are called Lingonga East and Lingonga West.  Lingonga West had been further divided into the Alpha and Bravo minefields.  The Bravo minefield, where the Calapo school had been built, was handed over to the community in 2015.  Today we were handing over the Lingonga West-Alpha minefield and the Lingonga East minefield.

Photo 4-02 Panorama

Panorama shot of the Lingonga minefields

We did the usual minefield tour with MAG: briefing, don the PPE gear, walk the minefield  and blow some stuff up, but for the me the draw was to see the end product, what could be done once a minefield had been cleared.  Moxico’s vice governor told us that this area had been prioritized for clearance by the local government as the population was growing from refugees returning from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angolans returning to Moxico.  The Brigadier told us that in 1986, when he was serving in the army in this area, there were no people living here (the Brigadier was part of the engineering corps which laid the landmines in the minefields that MAG was clearing; the Brigadier was able to draw maps from memory that have proven useful to MAG).

After the tour, we headed to Calapo school.  The students and the community came out to greet us.

Photo 4-03 Handover

The community and students of Calapo school

The school has 6 teachers and 300 students who attend classes from 8 am to 3 pm with an hour’s break for lunch.  If the minefields had not been cleared and the school been built, those same children would have gone to a two-room school compared to the 14 classrooms they have now.  The local administration has also secured new school books and desks to fill the classrooms.

Photo 4-04 School

School supplies, a classroom full of students and the dedication plaque

And even though the landmines around the school have been cleared, the school bell – the back half of an air-dropped bomb that did not explode – is a constant reminder to the community that the school grounds were once a battlefield.  (Another school we saw nearby had its bell made from the metal rims of a truck wheel.)

Photo 4-05 Bell

Half of a bomb makes up the Calapo school’s bell

During the handover ceremony, MAG’s technical field manager, a burly South African who goes by “H” and lost an arm to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, recalled that when he and his team first came to the Lingonga minefields in 2013, “We promised you we will finish [demining] the area and today, I promise you we are finished with this side of the river.”  MAG cleared 110 anti-personnel mines from the grounds where the school stands, an area of 95,000 square meters.  H also told the assembled parents, community leaders and regional administrators, “We are now working to clear the other side of the river [of landmines].” The minefields on the north side of the river are well known to the community, a boy having lost his life in one of the fields a few years earlier.

In gratitude, the school children, dressed in their uniforms despite it being a Saturday, sang the welcoming song on our arrival and departure.  You can hear the song on YouTube here .

Photo 4-06 Next Generation

A generation I hope will never know the fear of landmines

This is why we clear landmines.  These children were born after the end of the war and they should not have to live with its after effects: Angola’s war should be part of its history, not its present.

Michael P. Moore

June 26, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, July 2014

In case anyone was expecting a lull in mine action news following the Maputo Review Conference, July’s stories from the continent confirm that despite the positive news and outcomes from the Conference, landmines continue to take lives.

 

Nigeria

They must have known that they were in for a long, protracted struggle because the Nigerian Police Forces have developed and unveiled a new landmine-proof vehicle for use in combating insurgents (All Africa).  Too late to #bringbackourgirls, but maybe the Nigerian police can prevent future kidnappings.

 

Tunisia

Three different landmine incidents occurred in the first week of July in the restive Mount Chaambi area along the Algerian border, killing at least four people and wounding six.  In the first incident, four soldiers and two guardsmen were injured by a landmine when their vehicle drove over it near Kef (Tunisia Live).  In the second incident, a civilian entered a closed military zone and died after stepping on a mine. There was no explanation for why the man entered the zone (AFP).  In the third incident four soldiers, and maybe a civilian, were killed by a landmine, also near Kef (All Africa).  Tunisian authorities blamed all casualties on Islamist forces who have been using Mount Chaambi as a base from which to threaten the government.

 

Western Sahara

Vice magazine and the War is Boring blog both profiled the Moroccan berm that splits the Western Sahara territory with 7 million landmines and has caused hundreds, if not thousands of casualties. Both pieces addressed the ongoing conflict and how Islamists have been trying to recruit members from the youths living in the refugee camps on the eastern side of the berm.  Worth noting that Mohamed Abdelaziz, the President of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) which is the government in-waiting for Western Sahara, has been in power since 1976, trailing only Cameroon’s Paul Biya as the longest-serving leader of a country.

 

Angola

Angolan authorities reported out on landmine clearance progress in Cuanza Sul, Benguela, Cunene and Moxico Provinces.  Removing and destroying thousands of explosive remnants of war, the country continues to make slow progress towards becoming mine-free.  In Cuanza Sul, almost 8 million square meters were cleared of mines over 18 years and now the focus is shifting to secondary and tertiary roads (All Africa).  In Benguela, explosive items that had been stored for more than a year were finally destroyed.  Prompt (certainly more prompt than seen in Benguela) destruction of stockpiled munitions is necessary to prevent accidentally discharges of munitions (All Africa).  With the support of Mines Advisory Group, 1.5 million square meters in Moxico Province have already been cleared in 2014.  Landmine clearance tasks have focused on access roads to allow free movement and the proposed high voltage lines for a future hydroelectric dam (All Africa).  Cunene province’s agricultural outputs will be boosted by the clearing of farmlands and already half a million square meters have been cleared (All Africa).

 

Mozambique

The tensions between former rebel group RENAMO and the government of Mozambique continued in July which delayed landmine clearance in the Chibabava district of Sofala province.  The government of Mozambique had hoped to finish all landmine clearance in 2014 and RENAMO’s actions threaten that timeline which means that Mozambicans may continue to live with the threat of landmines longer than was necessary (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

The director of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZMAC), Col. Mkhululi Ncube testified before the Zimbabwean Senate’s Thematic Committee on Peace and Security, shortly after he participated in the Maputo Review Conference.  Col. Ncube told the Committee that over 3,600 people have been killed or injured by landmines since 1980 and some 800,000 people have been economically affected by the continuing presence of landmines along the country’s borders.  Landmines have hampered the tourism and agricultural industries in Zimbabwe as well as killing thousands of herd animals. Martin Rushwaya, representing the Ministry of Defence, said that as much as US $100 million may be needed to clear all of the landmines from the country.

In recent years most landmine injuries have been attributed to deliberate tampering with explosives by people trying to extract non-existent red mercury from the devices.  In response ZMAC has been incorporating messages about red mercury in its mine risk education materials.

On the positive side, the minefield surrounding the Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station, the very first minefield laid in Zimbabwe when it was still a British colony, has been cleared and thousands of landmines have been cleared since work resumed in earnest in 2012 (All Africa; News Day; Zimbabwe Mail).

 

Sudan

The Higleg area of Sudan’s West Kordofan state has been declared free of landmines.  Heglig was the site of fighting in 2011 between Sudan and South Sudan but has since been cleared of mines (Sudanese Online).

In North Darfur, heavy rains have exposed landmines laid by the government of Sudan according to one of the rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdel Wahid El Nur.  The landmines were spotted near Kutum town and were believed to be intended to “hamper movement of the Darfur resistance forces” (All Africa).

In response to the mine risk throughout the country, Sudan’s National Demining Center launched a mine risk education campaign in the five Darfur states and in Blue Nile state with the support of national and international organizations.  The campaign will integrate mine risk messages into school curricula (GM Sudan).

 

Somalia

The Development Initiative has delivered mine risk education messages to over 170,000 Somalis and in the process provided job skills and education opportunities for the Somali staff working for the project (Devex).

Towards the end of the month, Mogadishu’s mayor narrowly avoided a possible assassination attempt when his vehicle drove over a landmine.  The mayor and his security detail were protected from the blast by their vehicle but at least one passerby was killed and another injured by the blast (Sabahi).

 

Egypt

In late June, Stephen Beecroft was confirmed as the US Ambassador to Egypt.  While Amb. Beecroft will undoubtedly have his hands full with issues related to the US relationship with Egypt and the assaults on democracy and human rights emanating from the current regime, we ask the Amb. Beecroft remember his time served in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs where he was involved with landmine clearance.  Egypt has the greatest number of landmines of any country in Africa, almost as many as all other African countries combined, and could use additional assistance to clear this lingering threat (All Gov).

 

Mali

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been active in Northern Mali for some time, responding to the threats of landmines and ERW which did not exist prior to the Islamist takeover of the region.  Since March 2012, over one hundred civilians have been killed or injured by landmines and ERW, more than half of them children; almost 250 soldiers from the various national and international forces have been killed or injured since January 2013.  UNMAS recently trained explosive ordnance disposal companies from Cambodia and Nepal who are serving in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali (MINUSMA).  Two of the Cambodian peacekeepers were injured by an anti-personnel mine when their vehicle drove over the mine.  Because it was an anti-personnel mine and not an anti-vehicle mine, the injuries were severe but not life-threatening.  As the head of the Cambodian team in Mali put it, the driver’s “leg injury was not serious enough for it to be cut off and now he is in hospital in Mali” (Phnom Penh Post).

One point to make about the peacekeepers: Nepal and Cambodia, especially Cambodia, suffer from contamination from landmines and other ERW.  Shouldn’t these trained deminers be working to clear their own countries of landmines before assisting others?

 

Uganda

Landmine survivor, advocate and director of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA), Margaret Arech Orech was selected by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego as a 2014 Women PeaceMaker.  As one of four such PeaceMakers, Ms. Orech will serve a three-month residency at the University and contribute to conversations about the role of women in international peacebuilding.

 

Zambia

Zambia has declared itself to be free of landmines, but the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recently updated its travel advice for Zambia saying “There is a risk of landmines in remote areas near the borders with Angola, Mozambique and [the Democratic Republic of Congo].”  The FCO is not clear about whether or not it believes the landmines are in Zambian territory or if it is just warning travelers about the presence of landmines in the neighboring states along the border.  If the FCO has evidence of landmines in Zambia, the FCO should share than knowledge so the government of Zambia can respond (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

Because of Zambia’s experience in clearing its territory of landmines and ERW, the Foreign Minister, Harry Kalaba, offered his nation’s assistance to Vietnam to help Vietnam address its own landmine and ERW threat.  The announcement came during Kalaba’s visit to Hanoi and is part of an effort to expand cooperation between the two countries (Vietnam News).

 

South Sudan (via South Africa)

South Africa’s parastatal company, Mechem, is one of the largest demining firms in Africa.  In an article describing Mechem’s growing portfolio, the company’s general manager reported that Mechem provides bomb disposal services for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) beginning July 1 and Mechem’s teams are destroying an average of a ton of ERW in Libya each month.  However, Mechem also reports that the civil war in South Sudan has severely restricted activities there and Mechem is only able to do emergency work at the moment.  Mechem also warned of the “strong possibility” of new landmine usage in South Sudan (Defence Web).

 

Norway

In a bit of irony, Norway, a leader in mine action around the world and a strong champion of the Mine Ban Treaty, twice evacuated a kindergarten in Karmøy in southwestern Norway after two landmines, presumably leftover from World War II, were discovered on the nearby beach in separate incidents in the same week.  Both mines were quickly destroyed, but their presence serves as a reminder that landmines are a global issue (The Local).

Michael P. Moore

August 20, 2014

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


This Frisbee Clears Landmines Tournament 2013

Every year, thousands of men, women and children are killed or injured by landmines in dozens of countries around the world. The only way to ensure that these injuries and accidents stop is to completely remove all landmines from the ground, an expensive and time-consuming process. Well, we’re going to help get a few more landmines out of the ground and hopefully have a little fun doing it.

In honor of International Mine Action and Awareness day, I’m happy to announce that on Thursday, July 4th 2013, Landmines in Africa will host the second annual “This Frisbee Clears Mines Tournament,” an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, with support from the Washington Area Frisbee Club to benefit MAG America‘s landmine clearance activities. Last year, Team Libya (pictured to the right) won the tournament while raising almost $750.  This year’s Tournament will take place at Anacostia Park in Washington, DC; all participants should arrive no later than 9:30 am for registration and team assignments.

The tournament is open to all and will follow a “Hat Tourney” format. What’s a Hat Tourney, you say? In a Hat Tourney, all the participants show up at 9:30 am, put their name in a hat and from that hat, names will be drawn to form 15-person teams. Those teams will then be put into groups and play three games each. If there are enough teams, we’ll have a final championship match.

Since the Tournament is on the Fourth and what’s the Fourth without a barbecue, we’ll have some grills going for lunch and snacks. MAG will have a table in case you want to learn more about landmines and their work.

To register, you can either show up on the Tournament day with your $20 donation to MAG America, or you can pre-register by making your $10 donation via Tournament’s dedicated First Giving page. You should feel free to donate more, if you so choose or if you can’t make the tournament, but want to contribute, your support would be welcome.

For more information about the tournament, please email me at michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com.

To register, please visit our First Giving page.

For more information about MAG America, please visit their webpage.

For more information about Ultimate Frisbee and the Washington Area Frisbee Club, please visit WAFC’s webpage.

For more information about landmines and mine action, as well as information about other landmine awareness raising activities, please visit the US Campaign to Ban Landmines webpage and the Lend Your Leg campaign website.

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you on the 4th!

Michael P. Moore

www.LandminesinAfrica.org

michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com

Follow us on Twitter: @minesinafrica

Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LandminesinAfrica


Where to find the (Unfiltered) Survivor Voice

In the modern world of internet, telecommunications, mass media and whatnot, the ability for individuals to find platforms to express themselves is simply astonishing.  However, one group I keep looking for and have some difficulty finding is landmine survivors.  There are many, many landmine survivor stories available on line, but many of them are filtered through one of the many (worthy) organizations working in mine action.  The survivors’ voices are selected for their ability to convey the message the mine action organization needs to communicate, often related to fund-raising.  The opportunities to hear directly from survivors in an unfiltered manner are few, but notable.  What follows is a non-exhaustive list of survivor voices which provides some sense of the breadth of landmine survivors who are telling their own stories, on behalf of themselves and their peers.

 

Associations and Organizations

Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (www.uganda-survivors.org): Founded in 2005 and led by survivor and International Campaign to Ban Landmines ambassador, Margaret Arach Orech, the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA) is a national organization focusing on advocacy and victim assistance.  The Association’s members are locally-based survivor associations that strive to serve the needs of landmine victims in their areas through a range of victim assistance programs, including psycho-social support and economic empowerment.

Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (www.afghanlandminesurvivors.org and www.facebook.com/afghanlandminesurvivorsorganization): Founded in 2007 the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO) provides peer outreach, vocational training, and advocacy for landmine victims.  On behalf of all persons with disabilities, ALSO works on issues of inclusion and accessibility and uses social and traditional media (check out their Flickr page in addition to their Facebook page) to get their message out.

Landmine Survivors Initiative (www.ipm-lsi.org): Founded by the former employees of Landmine Survivors Network’s Bosnia-Herzegovina office, Bosnia’s Landmine Survivors Initiative (“Inicijative preživjelih od mina” in Bosnian) continues to provide peer support and advocacy leadership for landmine survivors in Southeastern Europe.

Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims (www.facebook.com/ASAVIM): The Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims (Asociación Saharaui de Víctimas de Minas, ASAVIM) provides victim assistance and mine risk education services to Saharawi living in refugee camps in Algeria.  The Director of ASAVIM participated in the 2012 “Lend Your Leg” campaign.

 

Individuals

Firoz Alizada (Twitter: firozalizada): Firoz is the Campaign Manager for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (www.icbl.org) and a landmine survivor from Afghanistan.  Firoz lost both legs in 1996 when he was 13 and on his way to school.

Giles Duley (Twitter: @gilesduley, www.gilesduley.com): Giles is a photographer focusing on humanitarian projects after working in fashion and music.  In 2011, he lost both legs and an arm whilst on patrol with the US Army’s 75th Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan.  He describes his experience in a TED Talk and in the Channel 4 feature, “Walking Wounded: Return to the Frontline.”

Stuart Hughes (Twitter: @stuartdhughes): Stuart is a news producer for the BBC.  He lost a leg in an explosion in Iraq during 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In 2012, he carried the Olympic Torch as part of the relay prior to the London Olympics.

 

Channels

The Advocacy Project (www.AdvocacyNet.org): The Advocacy Project (AP) works with human rights and advocacy organizations to build their capacity to advocate for themselves.  AP volunteers establish blogs and social media channels for partner organizations and then trains them on their use.  In Vietnam, AP supports the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and in Uganda, AP supports the Gulu Disabled Persons Union which has links to the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association.

Landmine Victims Speak Up (www.Landmine-Victims.org): Created by a high school senior in North Carolina, Landmine Victims Speak Up provides a forum for Bosnian landmine victims to tell their stories.  I love that this site exists.

 

Video

YouTube (www.YouTube.com): YouTube is a video sharing site that has been extensively used by mine action organizations for awareness-raising and publicity efforts.  While the videos are produced by the organizations, the videos provide survivors with the (edited) opportunity to describe their lives, hopes and needs.  Some channels worth checking out are:

Another video-sharing site is VIMEO but many of the videos available on VIMEO are also available on YouTube (although there may be some deterioration in quality in the conversion from the higher-resolution, better produced material on VIMEO, to the lower-resolution, more accessible YouTube).

If you know of other Survivor Voices in the Internet, please let me know and I will update this list.

 

Michael P. Moore

February 25, 2013


Movie Review, “Surviving the Peace: Angola”

Last night I attended the United States premiere of the documentary, “Surviving the Peace: Angola,” produced by MAG America. The film, created by the firm Media Storm, demonstrates the impact of landmines on Angola and MAG’s efforts to rid the country of this scourge. Through three characters: Eron, a former soldier and now a deminer; Minga, an eight year-old girl who had been injured by a mine three years before the film was made; and Minga’s grandmother who raises her, the film shows hope (in the form of Eron), but also the terrible toll landmines can take on individuals (Minga), their families (her grandmother) and communities. The filmmakers inter-cut scenes of Minga and her grandmother with scenes of Eron working in the minefields.

In the scenes with Minga and her grandmother, we watch as Minga learns to read and write despite having been blinded by a mine. We hear how Minga’s grandmother fears for Minga’s future (she tells Minga that one day Minga will be on her own and have to care for herself), but also how Minga’s grandmother has lost her livelihood having to look after Minga full-time. Minga tells us how she was injured: in an all-too-frequently-told-story, Minga came upon a “tuna can” in a field and poked it with a stick. For dramatic effect, the filmmakers have been showing scenes of explosive disposal as Minga talks, culminating with the detonation of several shells and landmines, just as she tells us she poked the can with a stick. We see the blast of the unexploded ordnance as we are forced to think of a five-year old girl setting off a landmine in a field.

The film is part of a new campaign by MAG America to raise US $100,000 to support mine-risk education in Angola to help prevent future injuries like those Minga experienced.  In a brief segment of the film, we see MAG staff teaching a classroom of children from Minga’s village about the dangers of landmines and specifically using Minga’s experience as a cautionary tale.

Michael P. Moore

February 7, 2013


Beating the Better Mousetrap, Part 2

In 1997, a scientific meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology agreed that “the most reliable demining method” was the use of a metal detector by a human operator.  However, the meeting also noted that metal detectors were subject to very high rates of false positives, with as many as one thousand false positives for every real landmine discovered.  The meeting also raised the fear of all-plastic mines which would be undetectable by even the most sophisticated metal detector (MIT Technology Review).

There have been two lines of response to these concerns: legal and technical.  The legal response is housed in the Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  The Protocol states, in its technical annex, that all anti-personnel landmines produced after January 1, 1997 must be detectable by “commonly-available technical mine detection equipment,” such as a metal detector through the use of materials that would produce the same or stronger response as 8 grams of iron.  Any anti-personnel mines produced before January 1, 1997 must be retrofitted with materials or a device that would produce the same or stronger response as 8 grams of iron.  Unfortunately, states could defer compliance with the directive to retrofit pre-1997 mines for 9 years after entry into force of the Protocol, which meant that states had until December 3, 2007 to retrofit their plastic mines and states were only required “to the extent feasible, minimize the use” of plastic mines until that date (United Nations, pdf).  Therefore plastic anti-personnel mines could easily have been used for many years despite the legal response (and plastic anti-tank mines have never been regulated).

The technical response has been varied.  In our last post we covered some of the proposed solutions (bees, mice, nanofilms, oh my!), but other developments have also emerged.  The United States Navy has issued a call for prototypes of handheld landmine detectors capable of locating mines with little or no metallic content, basically plastic landmines.  The Navy feels that currently available landmine detectors “could be redesigned with lower size and weight with no loss in capability.”  The Navy wants these prototypes for use by Special Forces and not for the general public (Military & Aerospace Electronics), but if the technology is effective, I would hope it becomes available to humanitarian demining.  This call also made me curious about the current state of the art in metal detectors, so I did what anyone would do: I went to the local arms show.

Last year, I went to the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) exposition which is one of the largest arms shows in the world.  There I checked up on the new spider mine system designed as an alternative to persistent, victim-activated landmines. This year, I wanted to see the mine detection tools on offer and visited two vendors, CEIA-USA and Foerster. Both make similar devices that are widely used within the humanitarian demining community.

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining profiles the Foerster MINEX 2FD 4.530 metal detector (pictured below) (GICHD) and notes that it (or its variants) have been used in 30 countries, including Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Tunisia in Africa.  According to GICHD, “No significant limitations [have been] reported to date.”

 

Photo courtesy of the Author

The GICHD also profiles CEIA’s MIL-D1 which has 16,000 units in the field in many countries including Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan.  Giovanni Giustino, the Sales Manager at the AUSA exposition, told me that CEIA’s products are used by Mechem, the South African demining organization and Mines Advisory Group has co-sponsored a Death Valley Challenge, a 200 mile cycling trip, with CEIA to raise funds (Mines Advisory Group).  Giustino was also kind enough to invite me to CEIA’s Italian headquarters for training in the use of their detectors, an offer I would love to be able to accept one day.

In addition to the MIL-D1, CEIA also showed me their MIL-D1/DS (pictured below) which is specially designed to locate unexploded ordnance like cluster munitions and is being used by Mines Advisory Group in Laos (Mines Advisory Group).

Both CEIA’s and Foerster’s metal detectors are “smart” machines with built-in electronics to adapt to, or “learn” the local soil conditions.  If the local soil is high in iron ore, the detectors will adjust and compensate to the background level rather than give off a continuous indication of the presence of metal.  Both manufacturers’ detectors can locate the minimum metal mines required under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and their widespread usage and lack of known faults suggest that these and similar products will continue to be the basis of humanitarian demining.

One final note, barely 100 feet away from Foerster’s booth at the AUSA expo one could find Textron Systems booth; Textron being the manufacturer of the new alternative anti-personnel landmine system.  So within a few steps you could see the latest landmines and their detection systems.

 

Michael P. Moore, November 2, 2012


This Frisbee Clears Landmines Tournament, Wednesday July 4th, Washington, DC

Every year, thousands of men, women and children are killed or injured by landmines in dozens of countries around the world.  The only way to ensure that these injuries and accidents stop is to completely remove all landmines from the ground, an expensive and time-consuming process.  Well, we’re going to help get a few more landmines out of the ground and hopefully have a little fun doing it.

In honor of International Mine Action and Awareness day, I’m happy to announce that on Wednesday, July 4th 2012, LandminesinAfrica.org will host the “This Frisbee Clears Mines Tournament,” an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, with support from the Washington Area Frisbee Club to benefit Mines Advisory Group‘s landmine clearance activities.  The Tournament will take place at Anacostia Park in Washington, DC; all participants should arrive no later than 9:30 am for registration and team assignments.

The tournament is open to all and will follow a “Hat Tourney” format.  What’s a Hat Tourney, you say?  In a Hat Tourney, all the participants show up at 9:30 am, put their name in a hat and from that hat, names will be drawn to form 15-person teams.  Those teams will then be put into groups and play three games each.  If there are enough teams, we’ll have a final championship match.

Since the Tournament is on the Fourth and what’s the Fourth without a barbecue, we’ll have some grills going for lunch and snacks.  MAG will have a table in case you want to learn more about landmines and their work.

To register, you can either show up on the Tournament day with your $10 donation to Mines Advisory Group, or you can pre-register by making your $10 donation via Tournament’s dedicated First Giving page.  You should feel free to donate more, if you so choose or if you can’t make the tournament, but want to contribute, your support would be welcome.

For more information about the tournament, please email me at michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com.

For more information about Mines Advisory Group, please visit their webpage at www.maginternational.org/usa

For more information about Ultimate Frisbee and the Washington Area Frisbee Club, please visit WAFC’s webpage at www.wafc.org

For more information about landmines and mine action, as well as information about other landmine awareness raising activities, please visit the US Campaign to Ban Landmines webpage at www.uscbl.org, and the Lend Your Leg campaign website at www.lendyourleg.org

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you on the 4th!

Michael P. Moore

www.LandminesinAfrica.org

michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com

Follow us on Twitter: @minesinafrica


Football and Landmines, Part 2: Why I Won’t Support Everton Anymore

Football has long had a positive role in advocating against landmines and for the needs of landmine victims.  David Ginola, a Frenchman who played for Tottenham Hotspur, took on the role of being the public advocate for landmines on behalf of the Red Cross, a role that had previously been fulfilled by Princess Diana (The Independent; The Guardian). The 2008 UEFA European Championship sponsored the “Score for the Red Cross” campaign which provided victim assistance support to landmine victims in Afghanistan (Kick It Out).  In Sierra Leone, the Single-Leg Amputee Soccer Club serves as a role model for the ability of persons with disabilities and landmine survivors (The National).  Most recently, Sir Bobby Charlton, a legendary player for Manchester United founded the charity, “A Better Way,” with Mines Advisory Group to raise funds to support the development of new landmine detection technology (MarketWatch).  

More broadly, football has been involved in anti-racism campaigns (Kick It Out) and football stars have served as spokespersons for various causes, like Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast and Chelsea Football Club has done for malaria (The Independent) and Barcelona Football Club did for UNICEF, the United Nations children’s charity (UNICEF).  However, there is a seamier side to football; including accusations of exploitation of young men from developing countries, corruption within the game’s national and international associations and the encouragement of gambling on games and the attendant match-fixing scandals.  I would like to call attention to the role of money in the game and specifically ask the question of whose money is funding certain teams.

At the 1:14 mark in this video, please note the name of the sponsor on the boards behind the goal, “Hanwha SolarOne” (and remember this is mere seconds before Everton scores the opening goal of the game, a true rarity).The game is between Everton and Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League and was played at Goodison Park on Saturday, January 21st.  I am personally an Everton supporter and have been since attending the Boxing Day match between Everton and Manchester United in 2001 (I think) where, despite the presence of my namesake, Joe-Max Moore, Everton lost 2-nil.  Since that game, I have dutifully followed Everton’s ups and downs and rooted for my countrymen, Brian McBride, Tim Howard and Landon Donovan when they wore the blue jersey.  I personally own three Everton jerseys and a scarf and have proudly worn them on four continents, receiving a few cheers and many more jeers for my choice of team.  This year, Everton has been spectacularly poor, losing to good teams and bad teams at the same pace and normally I would be saying things like, “they’ll turn it around” or “Everton will beat the drop” or “they’re my team, I’ll live and die by them in the Premiership or the Championship.”  However, I stopped being an Everton supporter the moment I saw the Hanwha SolarOne advertisement and realized that Hanwha SolarOne sponsored Everton. 

Hanwha SolarOne is a Korean company that produces photovoltaic cells (solar cells) and is part of the Hanwha Group.  As part of its marketing strategy, Hanwha SolarOne has deliberately targeted European football clubs, including Hamburg SV in Germany, Bolton Wanderers in England and Juventus in Italy, for sponsorship and partnerships (Hanwha SolarOne; Football Marketing). Hanwha Group has entered an exclusive relationship with Bolton Wanderers, but that relationship does not preclude Hanwha SolarOne and other Hanwha Group companies from entering into relationships with other football clubs.  Globally, Hanwha Group, a Korean company, has assets of $83 billion and in 2010 generated more than $26 billion in revenues from its 56 Korean and 69 global corporate members active primarily in the manufacturing, finance and service sectors (BusinessWire).   One of Hanwha Group’s subsidiaries, Hanwha Corporation, makes landmines.

In 2007, Hanwha Corporation produced 10,000 self-destructing anti-personnel landmines, and an unknown number of Claymore-type landmines.  The Republic of Korea remains outside the Mine Ban Treaty and reserves the right to produce more landmines so it is entirely possible that Hanwha Corporation has fulfilled additional orders for landmines since 2007 (The Monitor). Hanwha Corporation’s defense business and products are detailed on their website (Hanwha Corporation) and the following screenshot from the electronic brochure shows some of Hanwha Corporation’s products and some possible victims of those products.

From Hanwha Corporation's Electronic Brochure

Hanwha Corporation’s sponsorship of Bolton Wanderers Football Club was covered by a fan website which also pointed out the connection to landmine production (Manny Road Blog).  At the time, I mentioned the link between Hanwha and Bolton on Twitter, but I did not pay attention to who else Hanwha sponsored in England – although I had noticed that Hanwha sponsored Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in Germany.  Had I followed the story, I would have seen the comment on the Just Another 606 page which pointed out that Hanwha also sponsored Everton (see comment from “exiledboltonian”). 

Knowing what I know now, I simply cannot support Everton any longer.  I understand football teams seek out sponsorship, but I refuse to be associated with a team that takes money from a known landmine manufacturer. Period. Full-stop.  I’ve seen what these weapons can do to children the same age as those in Hanwha’s brochure and am disgusted that the team I’ve supported for a decade is in bed with these butchers. 

I own four items of Everton gear, three shirts and a scarf which I’ve posted to eBay.  Any money I make I’ll give to Handicap International through my FirstGiving.com page. If you are curious, here are the listings: 

Home Short-Sleeve Shirt, Medium, with Chang Beer sponsor and made by Umbro: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120849156159

Home Short-Sleeve Shirt, Large, with One-2-One sponsor and made by Umbro: http://www.ebay.com/itm/120849159124?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649

Away Short-Sleeve Shirt, Extra-Large, with One-2-One sponsor and made by Puma: http://www.ebay.com/itm/120849159698?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649

Scarf: http://www.ebay.com/itm/120849161199?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649

Goodbye, Everton.  You disappointed me; not as a fan, but as a human being.

Michael P. Moore, January 25, 2012.


Weapons of Potential Destruction vs. Weapons of Actual Destruction

In Libya, forces loyal to the Transitional National Council have announced discoveries of mustard gas (The Guardian) and uranium yellowcake (Reuters). The presence and location of the mustard gas (yes, the same stuff used by German forces in World War 1) was known to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knew the location of the uranium yellowcake.  In addition to the monitoring by these international organizations, the United States was using “national technical means” (i.e., drones and spy satellites) to monitor the security of these weapons of mass destruction (WMD) (State Department).  The US did not believe these WMD posed any immediate danger because Libya lacked the means to deliver the WMD; the State Department, through spokesperson Victoria Nuland, even deplored “fear mongering” in the media about the delivery of Libya’s potential WMD by missiles and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction from Libya generally.

However, not seconds later, Ms. Nuland started to stoke the fires of fear herself by expressing concern about the proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).  Small Arms Survey describes MANPADS as “short-range surface-to-air missile systems intended for attacking and defending against low-flying aircraft… Today’s most advanced MANPADS can effectively engage aircraft at ranges up to 8,000 m[eters] (5 miles)” (Small Arms Survey, pdf). Between 2002 and 2007, thirteen incidents of MANPADS attacks on aircraft have been identified; nine against military targets, four against civilian.  Ten events occurred in Iraq and one each in Chechnya, Somalia and Kenya.  The four attacks on civilian aircraft resulted in one plane crashing with 11 fatalities, another making an emergency landing after being severely damaged and two misses (Small Arms Survey, pdf).  Perhaps the most famous incident involving MANPADS is the 1994 shooting down of the plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents that sparked the genocide in Rwanda (Small Arms Survey, pdf). 

According to Ms. Nuland, the United States’s main proliferation concern from Libya’s military stockpiles is MANPADS.  The extant of possible MANPADS proliferation is unknown, Libya’s stockpile of the weapon “was not something that Qadhafi was in the business of publishing, and he was… good at hiding stuff;” but Nuland was clear that the US does not have any concerns about hidden chemical weapons or radiological materials.  The US’s concern about MANPADS proliferation comes from “scattered intelligence indicating that weapons stolen from Gaddafi’s stockpiles may have made their way to insurgents or militants in nearby countries, such as Niger, and North African nations” (Reuters).  Those “insurgents or militants” includes Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Al Qaeda branch active in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Tunisia (Council on Foreign Relations) raising the spectre that terrorists could start to target commercial aircraft flying over North Africa.

In response to these concerns, the US has provided $3 million to Mines Advisory Group and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action to train Libyans in the dismantling and destruction of MANPADS.  Mines Advisory Group has so far destroyed 8,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance since March 2011, including “anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, sub-munitions and surface-to-air missiles” (Mines Advisory Group).  Overall, US-funded mine action has “cleared over 450,000 square meters of land and destroyed over 5.8 tons of munitions, including five MANPADS” (State Department).  Please re-read that statement.  Five MANPADS, each of which weighs about 50 pounds, out of almost 12,000 pounds of explosive material.  In sheer weight, number and explosive capacity, other pieces of ordnance exceed MANPADS by several orders of magnitude.  Despite the high level of fear about MANPADS, as expressed by the US State Department, the reality on the ground is this: landmines are the greater threat right now.

According to one blogger:

“The number of landmines planted by Gaddafi troops in the district between Ajdabiya and Sirte towns, is estimated at 60 thousand anti-personnel and anti-armour landmines. The engineering corps of the Libyan NTC national army has cleared 21 thousand of them up to the present. The district around al-Brega is the largest land-mined zone in Libya, where many army and civilian victims were hit by landmines” (Live Libya Updates, February 17th).

The distance, by road, between Ajdabiya and Sirte is 409 kilometers, so there are almost 150 landmines per kilometer between Ajdabiya and Sirte, one every 20 feet.  Although NTC forces have cleared more than 21,000 mines (again, compared to five MANPADS), another 40,000 remain just along Libya’s coastal highway.  One estimate suggests that 18 months will be needed to clear all of the mines from around Libya’s oil infrastructure, but that would leave other minefields untouched (The Energy Report). 

Prior to the current conflict, “Gaddafi’s regime placed millions of land mines along Libya’s eastern and southern borders with Egypt and Chad… There are also millions of unexploded remnants still leftover from World War II on Libya’s northeast coast” (The Global Post).  For comparison, Sri Lanka, with half a million landmines from its decades of civil wars will require a decade or more to clear (Times of India).  Clearing Libya’s minefields could take generations.  Casualties from landmines in Libya have yet to be compiled, but the Global Post reported three civilian casualties near Ajdabiya and five deminer casualties near the Tunisian border; the Landmine Monitor recorded “over a period of six weeks in 2011, there were 13 reported casualties from ERW in Misrata alone.”  In 2009, the last year for which data was available, only a dozen landmine and ERW injuries were reported (The Monitor).

Despite the imminent and very real hazard from landmines, the United States is focused on MANPADS. Reporting on information from an anonymous State Department source, the Washington Post said “MANPADs pose a serious danger. While many of the aging rockets may not work, the Soviet-era man-portable air defense systems require no special training to operate and officials say prices have fallen on the regional black market, suggesting some of Gadhafi’s stores have been sold… [A] U.S. official said the terror threat was related to weapons such as MANPADs may have been obtained by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (Washington Post, emphasis added).

Aviation Week discounts the threat from MANPADS, saying “A top official from Russian KBM Machine-building design bureau confirmed it was his company that supplied the Libyan government forces with the truck mounted short-range anti-aircraft Igla-S (SA-24 Grinch) missiles recently spotted by the international media… He explained that the Libyan Strelets fire Igla-S missiles but they can not be used as man-portable air defense (manpads). ‘To fire Iglas as a man-portable weapon you need a separate trigger mechanisms that were not supplied to Libya’” (Aviation Week).  CJ Chivers of the New York Times continues: “there is no known evidence that the manufacturer’s claim is false, or that Libya possessed the so-called “grip stocks” that would allow a shooter to fire these missiles from the shoulder, which would make these weapons, once loose, a much more worrisome bit of post-conflict contraband” (CJ Chivers). 

Therefore, the possible proliferation of looted weapons from Gaddhafi’s stockpiles does not constitute an imminent threat to civilian or military aircraft.  The explosive material from the looted stockpiles can be converted into improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but the very real and current threat of landmines in Libya exceeds the potential threat from MANPADS.  The reason for the US State Department’s focus on MANPADS instead of landmines is simple: landmines in Libya are only a threat to Libyans and persons on the ground in Libya.  MANPADS pose a potential threat to people outside of Libya (or flying over Libya and Libya’s neighboring states at less than the cruising altitudes used by civilian aviation) and that potential threat is enough to create media attention and provide funding for MANPADS destruction in Libya.  My ask to the State Department is this: even if all of Libya’s MANPADS are found, secured and destroyed, continue to fund and support demining and destruction of landmines in Libya. 

Michael P. Moore, September 27, 2011.


Inspired by a Photo: Female Deminers in Africa

At the Empty Quarter Gallery in the United Arab Emirates, a new show “Sahara Surreal” (open from September 7 to October 14, 2011 in Dubai) “trails the bandwidth of 21st century life in the Great Desert, unhinging stereotypes along the way.” 

The Empty Quarter Gallery describes the Sahara Surreal show in its September 2011 newsletter (Empty Quarter) and Christopher Lord, in a review for The National describes one of the artists’ contributions as follows:

“Northern Irish photographer Andrew McConnell documents refugee camps in Western Sahara, creating a subdued, intimate portrait of an underreported struggle… McConnell’s portraits have been shot at a bewitching hour of the night – lit by dim campfires and the stars. Accompanying each image is a story about its subject. Mariam Zaide Amar, for instance, is a 24-year-old woman undertaking a perilous landmine-clearance operation.” (Christopher Lord, “Sahara Surreal,” The National).

“Mariam Zaide Amar.” © Andrew McConnell, Photo Courtesy of the Empty Quarter Gallery.

(Hint, when looking at the photo, if I shift my position relative to the monitor, the background becomes clearer. Try looking down on the photo from above).

The photo of Mariam Zaide Amar Lord describes was graciously shared with me by the exhibit’s curator, Elie Domit and Andrew McConnell has also given me permission to post the photo here.  Mr. McConnell further describes his work in Western Sahara on his website (Andrew McConnell) and I will try to discuss the landmine problem in Western Sahara in a future post.

I found the photo Mariam Zaide Amar striking.  She looked so small in the immensity of the image, a decent metaphor for the scale of demining required in Western Sahara.  I was inspired by Andrew McConnell’s photo to learn more about how landmines affect women and about female deminers specifically to understand the woman in the photo a bit better. 

 

Source: LC3 Dataset, World Bank

African women and girls make up 17% of landmine casualties according to the UNMAS and the World Bank’s LC3 Dataset. The gender mainstreaming guidelines for mine action (in addition to featuring NPA’s all-female demining team in Lebanon on the cover of the 2010 publication) recommend “Ensur[ing] that all individuals, regardless of age and sex, enjoy the same level of access to, and benefit equally from, demining activities (including training and employment opportunities) (UNMAS, emphasis added).  Several demining organizations have met this challenge by hiring women as deminers in all-female and integrated demining teams.

Female Deminers: A Brief Introduction

“With regards to mine clearance and female deminers, the resistance is strong in some countries, usually based on the cultural argument that this is not meant for women. Culture and religion is frequently mentioned as an excuse for hiring women. However, where empirical research is conducted, the results seem to support the opposite, and, generally speaking, demining seems to benefit from involving women. Some organisations that successfully employed female deminers claimed that they were more productive than their male counterparts; others reported success and community approval.” (WikiGender)

Norwegian People’s Aid was the first demining organization to employ women deminers back in 1999 and since then HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group and Swedish Rescue Services, among other demining organizations, have employed women as deminers (Journal of Mine Action).  Of the 13 countries I could identify with female deminers, five (including two non-state regions) were in Africa.  All female demining teams have been used in South Sudan (Journal of Mine Action), Sri Lanka (Al Jazeera), Jordan (IRIN News), Laos (IRIN News), Cambodia (Mines Advisory Group), Mozambique (AlertNet) and Lebanon (The Daily Star).  Integrated teams, with men and women working alongside each other can be found in Somaliland, Laos, Lebanon, Cambodia (Journal of Mine Action) and Croatia.  The United Nations guidelines on gender mainstreaming in mine action describes female deminers working in Albania, Nepal and Western Sahara (as the photo of Mariam Zaide Amar  so clearly demonstrates) (United Nations).  The World Bank’s Landmine Contamination, Casualties and Clearance (LC3 Dataset) also reports at least one female deminer injured in Mauritania in 2005.  The push for female deminers was part of broader efforts within the mine action community to incorporate gendered approaches to the work and some studies suggested that female deminers were more effective than male deminers, clearing 10% more land per working day (Journal of Mine Action). 

All-female demining teams have proven useful in promoting the work of mine action organizations, but the increased awareness may not have translated to long-term impacts.  In 2006, Landmine Survivors Network honored Mines Advisory Group’s Cambodia all-female demining team with the Niarchos Prize for Survivorship (Survivor Corps), but that team has since been disbanded and the members laid off due to funding shortfall.  In Laos, female demining teams “double[d] press coverage of demining and UXO clearance activities in Laos” and increased the number of foreign visitors to demining sites but funding for demining in the country declined (IRIN News). 

Currently in Africa, female deminers work for the HALO Trust in Somaliland and Mozambique, for Action on Armed Violence (formerly Landmine Action) in Western Sahara, and for Norwegian People’s Aid in South Sudan.  Kenya’s army engineering corps has trained women to be deminers (IRIN News) and it is likely that other operators and national armies employ women deminers (e.g., Mauritania’s Army Engineering Corps).  If you know of any such operators, please let me know and I will update this post accordingly.

Michael P. Moore; September 19, 2011.