The Month in Mines, January 2016

Already in 2016 the United States has signaled its intention to increase support to two of the most mine-affected countries, Colombia and Laos.  The increased investments will enable both of these countries to be mine and cluster munition-free in a few years (State Department; CNN).  There should also be consideration for increasing investments in African countries, many of whose contamination from landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) would be manageable with a long-term commitment of funding.

 

Angola

Provincial landmine clearance totals for 2015 were reported for several provinces.  2.14 million square meters of land in Cunene province, 5.4 million square meters in Lunda Sul province, 550 thousand square meters in Huambo province, and 750 thousand square meters in Kuando Kubango province were cleared of landmines by the National Institute of Demining, the Angolan Army, local government outfits and the HALO Trust (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa; All Africa).  Cleared lands will be available for agriculture, building of roads and hospitals, and safe access to water (All Africa; All Africa).  To maintain clearance capacity for 2016, the national demining association, Terra Mae, and a cadre of Angolan army sappers participated in separate training sessions (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Somalia

Two boys were killed and a third injured by a landmine that they found and tried to dig out.  The boys, all brothers, deliberately hit the mine, not realizing the potential consequences.  Local officials have called for the survey and clearance of all mines in the area to prevent more casualties (All Africa).

In the Boni Forest on the Kenya-Somalia border, a landmine attributed to Al Shabaab detonated under a Kenya Defence Force vehicle killing six or seven soldiers (reports differ) and injuring three others.  The continued insecurity around Boni Forest is keeping students and teachers out of school (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Namibia

A Soviet anti-tank landmine was found beside a newly refurbished road.  A country-wide explosive clearance campaign is underway in Namibia, but the area around the road was not surveyed prior to being tarred so the construction crew working on the road was lucky not to disturb the mine which dates back to the liberation war in Namibia (All Africa).

 

Egypt

A tenth of Egypt’s arable land is contaminated with landmines, most, some 17.5 million, dating back to the battle of El Alamein in World War II.  A second wave of mine-laying around the Suez Canal and Sinai Peninsula took place between 1956 and 1973 resulting in another 5 million mines on Egyptian soil.  In addition to preventing agriculture, the mines impede development and exploitation of Egypt’s natural gas reserves.  Since 1990, 3,200 people have been killed and over 4,700 have been injured by mines.  Egypt has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty for a variety of reasons and remains one of the most significant hold-outs to the Treaty (All Africa).

 

Sudan

The Italian government pledged 250,000 Euros for landmine clearance and mine risk education in Sudan.  The funds will support clearance of 900,000 square meters of land in Kassala province and educate 5,000 people on landmine risks (All Africa).  The contribution is part of the $12.4 million sought for mine action in Sudan by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).  If the mine action sector were to be fully funded, Sudan could be landmine free by 2019 (Star Africa).

 

Mali

Three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine when their convoy struck the mine near the northern city of Gao (Sahelien).

 

Mozambique

The HALO Trust, freshly off its role in creating a landmine-free Mozambique, has launched a modest victim assistance program focusing on providing prosthetic limbs to landmine survivors in Mozambique.  In October 2015, 14 survivors were taken to Zimbabwe for measurements for custom prosthetics.  The prosthetics were made by the Bulawayo-based prosthetist, Noordan Cassim, and then transported the hundreds of kilometers to Mozambique for fitting.  All 14 survivors have received their prosthetic limbs which would have cost hundreds of dollars had the survivors purchased them (TakePart).  While the program is commendable, I think it says a lot about the quality and available of prosthetics in Mozambique if survivors must travel to a neighboring country for measurements.

 

Tanzania

A Maasai herder was killed by a landmine near the military academy at Lesekekwa Meser.  The area around the academy is supposed to be a secure area, but Tanzania, as a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, should have cleared all anti-personnel mines that might have been near the training ground (IPP Media).

 

Nigeria / Cameroon / Niger

The Boko Haram insurgency is affecting all three of these countries, and Chad, as the group shifts its tactics territory-holding to asymmetrical warfare.  Following a similar playbook to that of Al Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram is using improvised explosive devices and hit and run tactics to sow chaos and confusion.  In partial response, the United States government has granted 24 used Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles to the Nigerian army.  Coming from Afghanistan and Iraq, the MRAPs are part of the same program leading to the militarization of domestic police forces in the United States. Of course, had the Nigerian army checked the warranty before accepting delivery, they would have noticed that some of the MRAPs are not in usable condition and replacement parts will need to be ordered and purchased from manufacturers in the States (All Africa).  However, the need for mine-resistant vehicles for use against Boko Haram is clear.  Five members of the a local security force in northeastern Nigeria were killed by a landmine and four others injured when their pick-up truck struck a landmine believed to have been place by Boko Haram (Today).

In neighboring Cameroon, the Minister of Communication reported that there had been at least 12 landmine attacks by Boko Haram in Cameroon in 2015 (Business in Cameroon).

In Diffa, Niger, six Nigerien soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine (Med Africa Times).

 

Libya

Two Libyan soldiers were killed and a third injured by a landmine in Benghazi (Arabs Today).  In Kikla, about 50 miles southwest of Tripoli, a civilian was injured by a landmine placed in the city’s center.  Other mines remain in the city and the local governing body has warned displace residents from returning until they are cleared (Libya Observer).

 

Senegal

Handicap International has resumed its landmine clearance program in the Casamance region of Senegal after a three-year suspension of work.  The group aims to clear 55,000 square meters by August 2016 (ReliefWeb).

 

Tunisia

A member of a military engineering group was injured by a landmine during clearance and destruction near Jebel Ouergha in Kef (Mosaique FM).

 

Western Sahara

Two Sahrawis were seriously injured by an anti-tank landmine near the berm separating Western Sahara into the western, Moroccan-controlled region and the eastern, Polisario-controlled region.  Two other passengers in the car escaped unhurt (MAP Independent News).

 

Algeria

By the end of 2015, the Algerian army had managed to clear its one millionth landmine.  Since 2004, almost 10 million hectares of land have been cleared (All Africa).

 

Michael P. Moore

February 16, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

 


Points of Interest at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty

Frequent readers of Landmines in Africa will be interested in several items at next month’s 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty being held in Geneva.  For those that cannot attend, information and documents can be found on the Implementation Support Unit’s website: www.13MSP.org. In addition to the specifics highlighted below, many countries will provide updates about landmine issues and comments on issues of interest to the community as a whole.

 

Demining Progress

Four African states, Chad, Mozambique, Niger and Sudan, will be requesting additional time to complete clearance of anti-personnel landmines in their territory.   We’ve covered the Mozambique situation elsewhere (After the last mine is cleared) and that request is almost certain to be approved, so let’s focus on three Sahelian states.  Niger had previously declared itself to be free of anti-personnel landmines but recently discovered a previously unknown minefield and four possible minefields.  Per the Treaty’s requirements, Niger has brought this discovery to the attention of the Meeting and requests two years to complete the survey and clearance work.  There are two possible complications which would impede Niger’s ability to complete the work: first, sandstorms have and possibly will move landmines from their current location; and second, the security situation around some of the suspected minefields is poor as a result of ongoing instability.  The total anticipated cost of the work in Niger is US $800,000 of which about a third will come from the Nigerien government; the balance will be raised from international donors.  Barring any unforeseen issues, this request is likely to be approved.

Sudan has requested a five-year extension to complete its demining work with several caveats.  To date, Sudan has cleared almost 2 billion (yes, with a “b”) square meters and destroyed 450,000 pieces of ordnance.  Another 40 million square meters of land remains to be cleared and while the actual amount of land to be cleared sounds low relative to the amount already cleared, the concentration of ordnance in the remaining minefields is believed to be very high.  Also, of the known minefields that remain, half lie in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states which are in a state of near-civil war and completely inaccessible to deminers.  Sudan’s plan to complete demining assumes that the conflict will abate, but the work will begin in areas that are currently peaceful and as soon as is possible, demining assets will be transferred to the restive states.  Sudan also recognized that most international demining organizations had withdrawn from the country (TDI, The Development Initiative, is doing great work still) and so the national mine action authority intends to train several national organizations to conduct survey and landmine clearance work.  Sudan would also welcome other international operators, but could not guarantee the safety of their staff.  Sudan appears to be able to support a significant portion of the cost of the remaining work, but would not commit to a figure; the total estimate cost is US $93 million and historically Sudan has provided $7.5 million annually.  Recognizing the security issues and the possible additional delays should the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue, this request is likely to be approved.

Chad is submitting its third request for an extension.  Chad’s second extension, which expires on January 1, 2014 allowed for the development of a national strategy to address the landmine contamination.  That strategy has now been developed and serves as the basis for the current request.  Chad is requesting a five year extension that will cost US $40 million of which the Chadian government will contribute almost 60%.  Chad believes that surveys conducted during the previous extension periods provide a reliable estimate of the remaining contamination, although areas along the border with Libya and in the southern region of Moyen Chari on the border with the Central African Republic require further evaluation.  246 areas covering over 61 million square meters are known to be contaminated by explosive remnants of war and of those a quarter or 65 have landmines.  Technical and human capacity in Chad is being increased with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and Chad should be able to meet its obligations within the requested time frame.  This request is likely to be approved.

 

Third Review Conference

If everyone knows that the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty is to be held in Maputo in June and July of 2014, does it really need to be approved?  Yes, yes it does.  So one of the easier decisions in Geneva will be to confirm Maputo as the site of the Review Conference and Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mozambique, Henrique Banze, will be appointed to preside over the Conference.

 

Side Events

On December 2nd, the major findings of the 2013 Landmine Monitor will be discussed.  The Monitor is the most comprehensive monitoring and verification tool for the Mine Ban Treaty and its findings and reports are usually taken as gospel within the community.  A couple of things to look for in the briefing: 1) Are casualty figures going up, going down or holding steady?  2012 saw a lot of conflict in the aftermath of the Arab Spring which may have driven the casualty numbers up.  In 2010 and 2011, casualty figures crept up from 2009’s low of just under 4,000 casualties. 2) Has the funding for mine action gone up, gone down or held steady?  Mine action funding in 2011 was at its highest ever, but support for direct victim assistance programming was down. 3) Has the number of rebel groups using landmines gone up, gone down or held steady?  The number of states using landmines is down to a handful, so most new usage is by rebels.

On December 3rd, the Government of Sudan will host an event to discuss the mine clearance progress to date and share information about its request for an extension to complete the remaining clearance work.

On December 5th, the United Nations Mine Action Service and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo will discuss the DRC landmine survey and its findings.  DRC will be preparing an extension request for submission and review at the Third Review Conference and this event will be an opportunity to initiate conversations about that request.  DRC will also discuss the impact MONUSCO’s intervention or “peace-making” brigade will have on mine action in the country.

Also on the 5th, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines will host a session on US government’s landmine policy review and hopefully be able to present the outcome of that review and discuss next steps.

On the 6th, the last day of the Meeting, Handicap International will present the findings from its nine-month survivor assessment in Mozambique, conducted in partnership with the Mozambican survivor association RAVIM.  The assessment documents the needs and living conditions of survivors and their families and will present recommendations for how to meet those needs.

Two non-country specific events will cover operations and outcomes measurement within mine action.  Similar themes were covered in our survivor assistance thought-piece, so we’re glad to see these initiatives moving forward. In the first event, on December 4th, the Implementation Support Unit will present its findings from research sponsored by Australia around the sustainability of survivor assistance programming with a focus on mainstreaming survivor assistance into other frameworks (like disability programming or poverty eradication schemes).  On December 6th, Mine Advisory Group, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Danish Demining Group and Danish Church Aid will launch the Outcome Monitoring Initiative, a collaborative project to unify indicators for mine action and shift to an outcome-based monitoring system.

Michael P. Moore

November 22, 2013


The Month in Mines, September 2013

Some months, we’ll see many landmine incidents and reports from a handful of countries (e.g., Somalia, Angola and the Sudans) and then there are months like September where we saw one or two incidents or reports from many countries.  Months like September, with stories from 10 countries, are a reminder that landmines are a continent-wide problem and not limited to just a handful of countries that make the news repeatedly.  As always, we see good news and bad in the stories from the continent.  Of global note, Zambia hosted the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which we won’t cover below, but if you are so inclined, you should visit the dedicated website for the Meeting here: http://www.clusterconvention.org/meetings/msp/4msp/

 

Western Sahara (Morocco)

A Saharawi man was injured by a landmine some 350 km south of the city of Dahkla.  He was transferred to a civilian hospital in Dahkla after being discharged from a Moroccan military hospital despite being in “serious condition.”  The landmine was just one of the millions that Morocco uses to divide the Western Sahara territory (All Africa).

 

Somalia

Somalia National Army and AMISOM forces foiled a planned landmine attack in Beledweyne city early in the month.  A suspected Al Shabaab member sought to plant the landmine on a main road, but was caught in the act (All Voices).

In Mogadishu, an immigration department official was killed by a landmine that detonated when he drove past it (All Africa).

Also at the start of the month, Al Shabaab claimed an attack on Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s convoy as it drove to through the Lower Shabelle region of the country.  The government denied the attack, but person’s in the vicinity reported hearing a landmine explosion (All Africa).

Other landmine attacks targeted AMISOM troops traveling in a convoy in Mogadishu (All Africa) and government forces in Afgoye Town in Lower Shabelle (Shabelle Media).  Casualties in Mogadishu were unknown but the AMISOM troops opened fire immediately after the blast, endangering civilians.  In Afgoye, as many as six soldiers were taken to hospitals for treatment.

The constant barrage of landmine and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks has spurred the US Africa Command to provide explosive ordnance training to AMISOM forces.  US Navy ordnance specialists spent three weeks training soldiers from Burundi in reconnaissance, demining and disposal procedures for explosive devices in advance of the Burundians deployment to Somalia as part of the AMISOM contingent (UXO Info).

 

Egypt

Following the military coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi’s government in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula has become increasingly restive.  Long a home to Islamists supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s ouster seems to have given new life to elements fighting against the current regime.  Egypt’s state television aired a report claiming that Hamas, the Islamist group in charge of Palestine’s Gaza Strip and itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, provided 400 landmines and training in bomb-making to militant Islamists in the Sinai.  Hamas has denied the charge (Jerusalem Post).   Landmines, whether from Hamas or from Egypt’s own stockpile of landmines, are being planted along the roads in Sinai and one blast injured at least nine people including soldiers, police and civilians.  After the blast, the Egyptian soldiers chased attackers (All Africa; Bloomberg).

 

Zambia

Zambia’s hosting of the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lusaka led to some articles in the local newspapers about landmine and cluster munitions survivors.  One story, profiling some of the African survivor advocates in attendance at the meeting was very positive, demonstrating the resilience and strength possessed by some survivors (All Africa).  Another story was much less so, describing the lives of two survivors, one a former soldier in the Zambian army and the other government civil servant, whose injuries had dramatically changed their lives for the worse.  The former soldier has had to rely on support from his local church to receive a prosthetic limb and the civil servant is unable to pay his children’s school fees despite working as a carpenter.  Both men complained about a lack of support from the Zambian government.  Their experiences are confirmed by Yona Phiri, the executive director of the Zambia Foundation for Landmine Survivors, whose organization has only been able to support 16 survivors from across the country thanks to funds from the Norwegian government.  Despite an allocation for survivor assistance in the Zambian government’s budget, “the funds are not being utilized” and Mr. Phiri called on the Cluster Munitions Coalition, the civil society organization mobilized around a ban on cluster munitions, to urge the Zambian government to support landmine and cluster munitions survivors (All Africa).

 

Angola

Every month, and I do mean *every month*, there is a story about capacity building for Angola’s deminers and armed forces.  This month, 59 officers received training on the supervision and quality control of demining programs.  The participants represented 16 different provinces of the country (All Africa).  One question I would have about these trainings is how well they mesh with similar trainings hosted by international mine action operators and whether the skill sets of Angolan government deminers are the same as those of the internationals.  They should be and I would hope that at some level, probably the national mine action center, lessons are shared and standards harmonized.

 

Niger

As Mali faces the prospects of demining in the northern regions after the ouster of the Islamist militias there, neighboring Niger offers a model for how mine action can be a tool for peacebuilding.  In the wake of its own Tuareg uprisings in the 1990s and 2000s, Niger launched a humanitarian demining program that government soldiers and former rebels together to form demining brigades.  Encouraged by the efforts of Geneva Call which had reached out to the rebels about the humanitarian impact of landmines, the Nigerien government was able to create the National Commission for the Collection and Control of Illicit Weapons (CNCCAI) which disarmed the rebels and provided jobs in the form of demining and mine risk education to former rebels.  Geneva Call served as a mediator and broker for the CNCCAI.  The rebels brought their knowledge of the mine-affected regions and the government brought the resources.  To date, some 744 kilometers of roads and over a million square meters of land have been cleared of mines (All Africa).

 

Libya

In Misrata, the heart of the revolution that overthrew the Gaddhafi regime, one can find the “Martyrs’ Museum,” dedicated to the fighting that took place in the city in 2011.  The Museum displays arms and weapons used by the regime against the people of Misrata and receives 1,500 visitors each week.  However, many of the items on display posed an enormous risk to the museum’s visitors and host.  Live ammunition, rockets, missiles and a 400 kilogram bomb were among the 363 items identified as dangerous by a team from Mines Advisory Group.  Fortunately no one was injured, but the presence of these items in a museum is a reminder to all not to tamper with explosive items, no matter how inert they may seem (All Africa).

 

Sudan

Since South Sudan’s emergence in July 2011 as the world’s newest nation, a civil war has been brewing in Sudan’s now southernmost states of Blue Nile and South Khordofan (and possibly the states of Darfur).  The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), a rebel group fighting against Khartoum, was once part of the movement that now rules South Sudan, but the partition between the Sudan’s isolated the SPLM-N.  Khartoum insists that South Sudan continues to support the SPLM-N whilst engaging in regular bombing raids against populated areas in Blue Nile and South Khordofan.  Under this backdrop, the SPLM-N has been trying to raise its profile internationally and has signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment, committing itself to a ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines and to assist in the clearance of mines in areas under its control.  According to the SPLM-N, what few anti-personnel landmines it has were captured from Sudanese forces.  The reports about the SPLM-N don’t ask the question, but where would Sudan’s army have gotten anti-personnel landmines from since Sudan supposedly destroyed its stockpiles in 2007 and 2008?  To meet its obligations under the Deed of Commitment, the SPLM-N will create an organization to clear landmines and provide survivor assistance.  Geneva Call and the SPLM-N will continue to work together to develop and implement a child protection program and the SPLM-N will work with the International Committee of the Red Cross to arrange for the release of prisoners of war.  These steps are helping to legitimate the SPLM-N and build confidence in the organization for possible future peace negotiations with international mediation (Radio Dabanga; Radio Dabanga).

Outside of Blue Nile and South Khordofan landmines continue to threaten the lives of Sudanese people.  The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has cleared thousands of landmines from Sudan, but mine-contaminated areas remain in Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile, the three Darfur states and Blue Nile and South Khordofan.  The fighting in Blue Nile and South Khordofan led to higher numbers of landmine casualties in 2011 compared to the years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.  Despite the thousands of survivors living in Sudan, only two thousand have received support from survivor assistance programs (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

 

Mozambique

As Mozambique makes its final push to clear all anti-personnel landmines within its territory, the donor community has stepped up to provide assistance.  The Government of Sweden provided a  Mini Minewolf landmine clearance vehicle along with a year’s worth of spare parts and training for the MineWolf operator.  Mozambique’s National Demining Institute plans to deploy the MineWolf to Sofala Province, the most heavily-mined in the country (Defence Web).  The Norwegian government provides funding for mine clearance in Mozambique and a representative from the embassy, Clarisse Barbosa Fernandes, visited the Norwegian People’s Aid field site where she met a female demining team of nine Mozambican women from Tete Province (Norwegian People’s Aid).  In the coming months, after the interior of the country is cleared, mine clearance assets and personnel will transfer to the border with Zimbabwe to finish the mine clearance work by the end of 2014.

 

Algeria

The government of Algeria is working to clear all of the landmines planted during the French colonial period and the conflicts of the 1960s and 1990s.  In August, over 4,000 mines were cleared mine the national army for a total of almost 700,000 cleared to date (Algerie Soir).

 

Michael P. Moore

October 24, 2013