August 2011: The Month in Mines by Landmines in Africa

August started and ended with an anniversary.  August 1st marked the one-year anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Cluster Munition Coalition).  The day had a sports theme and was marked in Sierra Leone by an amputee football match hosted by teams from the Sierra Leone Single Leg Amputee Sport Club (August 1) among other events.  August 31st marked the 14th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana (MSNBC), one of highest profile supporters of campaign to ban landmines in the 1990s.  The anniversary recalled her visit to Angola in early 1997 and Bosnia later that year to raise awareness of the plight of landmine victims (YouTube, part 1 of 3).

In Sudan, four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and several others wounded when their vehicle drove over a landmine in the disputed region of Abyei (BBC News).  Only one of the peacekeepers died immediately, the other three died from their injuries whilst waiting for evacuation, an evacuation delayed by threats from the Sudanese army to shoot down the medevac helicopter (US State Department). 

In South Sudan’s Unity state, an oil-rich region on the border of Sudan and the new nation of South Sudan, landmines continue to kill and injure as rebel groups seek to disrupt communication and travel (Sudan Tribune).

In Somalia, the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab rebels withdrew from Mogadishu allowing humanitarian aid to be delivered into the famine-struck city (All Africa).  With the withdrawal, Mogadishu residents are now seeking assistance to clear the landmines and explosive remnants of war left in the city from decades of fighting (All Africa).

The rebellion in Libya reached a critical phase (off-topic: at what point do we stop referring to the rebels in Libya as “rebels”?) as NATO-backed rebels seized control of much of Tripoli (BBC News).  After numerous reports of the use of new landmines by both sides – but the vast majority of landmines were laid by forces loyal to Gaddhafi, volunteers from the rebel forces conducted demining activities to clear roads at great personal risk (CNTV).

In southern Africa, the Kavango-Zambezi Peace Park was confirmed during the SADC meeting in Luanda, Angola (National Geographic).  The park, the size of California and encompassing parts of five countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – contains mine-affected areas in the Okavango River basin in Angola, the demining of which was declared a priority at Angola’s Third National Meeting in Luanda in early August (All Africa).

Lastly, Angelina Jolie, actress and UN High Commission for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador, visited the headquarters of the HALO Trust in Scotland (HALO Trust). The HALO Trust has ongoing demining activities in Angola, Mozambique and Somaliland, but Jolie’s interests were reported as focusing more on Asia than Africa. 

Michael P. Moore

September 2, 2011