The Month in Mines, November 2016

The release of the annual Landmine Monitor report included the shocking fact that landmine casualties had increased substantially in 2015 from recent years.  Whereas 10 people were killed or injured by landmines each day in 2014, 18 people were killed or injured daily in 2015. On the African continent, Libya had the most casualties, with more casualties than all other African countries put together.  I am hopeful that 2015 was an anomaly.

 

Nigeria

Five Nigerian soldiers were injured by a landmine during a patrol near Maiduguri, capitol of Borno state. Army official believe Boko Haram members planted the mine the previous night in expectation of the patrol (News 24).

Near the Chibok area of Borno state, a local militia patrol vehicle struck a landmine killing two militia members and wounding two others. Boko Haram members followed up on the blast with gunfire (Naij).

 

South Sudan

Despite the violence in South Sudan that erupted when the President, Salva Kiir, ousted his Vice President, Riek Machar, no evidence has been found of new landmine use in the country according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).  In this blog we have documented multiple accusations of new use, but cannot confirm those accusations.

The violence has not prevented UNMAS and its partners from continuing to map and clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). So far, 750 hazardous areas have been identified and UNMAS prioritizes clearance and assessment of schools and humanitarian access points.  Much of the country remains to be surveyed – the violence has made Jonglei and Upper Nile states inaccessible.

UNMAS maintains the South Sudan Mine Action hotline (+211 92 000 1055) and encourages all South Sudanese to use the hotline to report suspicious items (All Africa).

 

Sudan

The United Nations Security Council, in its re-authorization of the peacekeeping force in the disputed territory of Abyei, expressed concern about the continuing presence and threat from landmines and ERW which prevent the return of displaced persons (All Africa).

In Sudan’s South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern States, the Japanese NGO, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), is conducting mine risk education work.  These states are some of the most mine-affected in the country and the Japanese ambassador to Sudan led a delegation that included the State Minister of Defense, the Ambassadors from Italy and Sweden, and the US Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires (All Africa).

Sudan’s Foreign Minister repeated the government’s denial of possession or use of cluster munitions, claiming that international NGOs are making accusations for fundraising purposes. The minister also claimed that there was peace in Darfur (Morocco World News).

 

Libya

Conflict Armament Research published a report on weapons smuggling and trade in North Africa and the Sahel.  The report says that despite efforts by the United States and Europe to prevent the proliferation of small arms from Libya after Gaddhafi’s fall, many factions in the region possess anti-tank landmines looted from Libyan stockpiles (All Africa).

In Germany, an eleven year-old girl from the Libyan town of Sirte continues her recovery from a landmine blast that also killed most of her family.  Yaqeen Al-Hajali endured 17 hours of surgery in Libya, a medical evacuation to Tunisia and then onward evacuation to Germany. No word on Yaqeen’s brother and sister who also survived the blast (Libya Observer).

In Sirte, two members of the engineering brigade were killed and two more injured by a landmine attributed to the Islamic State (Al Wasat).

In Benghazi’s Al-Gawarsha neighborhood, a soldier in Khalifa Haftar’s army was killed by a landmine as Haftar’s army closed in on an Islamic State stronghold near the European Hospital (Libya Observer). A second soldier was killed by another landmine in the same area a few days later (Al Wasat). A few days later, Haftar’s army announced the liberation of the Al-Gawarsha district.  Once the army had captured the European Hospital, the Islamic State forces fled the neighborhood.  During the final approaches, a field commander was killed by a mine (Libya Herald).

 

Rwanda

Five young men were killed when they discovered a suspected landmine on former battlefield dating to the period before the 1994 genocide. The men were grazing cattle and, upon discovery of the explosive, began to play with it causing the blast (New Times).

 

Mali

A 60 vehicle convoy of the French army struck a landmine claimed by a rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda.  One soldier was killed and another wounded (The Local).

 

Egypt

During a visit of the International Cooperation Minister, a new prosthetic center was opened in the town of Masra Matrouh.  The center will support landmine survivors injured in the minefields of the World War II battlefield of El Alamein, which is nearby.  In addition to the prosthetic center, the Minister delivered a variety of economic and social supports to survivors and their families including water access, small business kits, agricultural inputs and sewing machines.  During the ceremonies, the British ambassador to Egypt also announced the handover of maps of the minefields laid by British and Allied forces during World War II (Because).

The interventions were critiqued by several in Egypt who hold the position that because Germany and Britain laid the landmines, they hold all of the responsibility for their clearance.  According the head of the military engineering department, the British minefield maps handed over by the ambassador are “sketch maps” and most of the mines were buried randomly.  The prosthetic center was also critiqued as many of the survivors suffered loss of vision and / or hearing and will not benefit from prosthetic limbs.  Among the survivors, almost half (48%) suffered upper limb injuries which suggest that they might have been digging or farming at the time of their injury, not just walking through the mine-affected areas (Middle East Observer)

The International Cooperation Minister also met with the Swiss ambassador to Egypt to discuss support for landmine clearance (Daily News Egypt).

 

Angola

The Japanese ambassador to Angola confirmed his commitment to support landmine clearance projects in Angola during a visit to Japanese-funded development projects in Uige province (Relief Web).

 

Western Sahara

Recent flooding in the Western Sahara region of Saguia El-Hamra have displaced many landmines laid by Moroccan forces.  The displacement of mines by flooding can lead to additional injuries as areas that had previously been free of mines may be contaminated (Facebook).

 

Somalia

A child was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Galkayo in the Puntland region (Puntland Mirror).

In central Somalia, police forces located and cleared several landmines from busy roadways.  The mines were attributed to Al Shabaab and found on a road used for transport convoys (Goobjoog).

 

Senegal

The US Embassy in Senegal reminded citizens of the presence of landmines in the Ziguinchor and Sedhiou areas of Senegal’s Casamance region.  The notice said that landmine clearance efforts are reducing the threat, but caution must continue to be taken (Overseas Security Advisory Council).

 

Michael P. Moore

December 22, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

 

 

 

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The Month in Mines, September 2016

“Every time I get close to making ends meet, someone moves the ends.”

This is the story of mine action.  We celebrated the 20th anniversary of Lloyd Axworthy’s call for a global treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines (CBC), but we also see the new use of mines in Nigeria and Libya, Yemen and Syria.  The vision of a mine-free world is still possible by 2025, but only if we can stop new use.

 

Nigeria

Two soldiers were killed and six more injured when their truck struck a landmine attributed to Boko Haram. At the time of the blast, the soldiers were returning to their base (All Africa). Another four soldiers were killed and 19 others wounded during an ambush that began when two Nigerian army vehicles hit a landmine (The News Nigeria). In and around the Nigerian army barracks at Bama, which had been captured by Boko Haram but has since been liberated, Nigerian soldiers cleare some 67 landmines and improvised explosive devices (All Africa).

 

Angola

Angola’s new Social Welfare minister, Manuel Gonçalves Muandumba, pledged to continue landmine clearance programs (All Africa). Since the civil war ended in 2002, 3.4 billion square meters of land has been cleared of mines, with almost half a million landmines destroyed.  In addition to mine clearance, thousands of Angolan landmine survivors have benefited from rehabilitation and prosthetic services and 15 million people have received mine risk education (All Africa). In central Bie Province, 350 hectares of land has been cleared so far this year (All Africa). In Malanje province, the Baroness Northover, the British Trade Envoy to Angola, visited UK-funded landmine clearance programs to observe the progress and see the investment opportunities created by demining (British Embassy Luanda).

 

Rwanda

Rwanda cleared the last of its known minefields several years ago, becoming one of the first countries in Africa to be able to declare itself as mine-free.  However, like other mine-affected countries, Rwanda continues to face contamination from other explosive remnants of war (ERW). In southern Rwanda, four boys were collecting scrap metal and one discovered an old hand grenade.  One of the boys played with the grenade, detonating it, killing himself and insuring the other three (All Africa).

 

Sudan

In Darfur, two boys played with a piece of unexploded ordnance.  When the item exploded, one of the boys was killed and the other severely wounded (All Africa).

 

Somalia

A Ugandan soldier serving with the AMISOM peacekeeping mission died after medical evacuation to Kenya.  The soldier had been riding in a convoy that struck a landmine near the town of Barawe.  Three other soldiers were also injured and evacuated (The Nation).  North of Kismayo, a bus struck a landmine in the road killing three civilians (Garowe Online). In Somalia’s capitol, Mogadishu, a landmine placed near the central livestock market detonated killing another three civilians and injuring many more (Garowe Online).

 

Libya

Worth showing a map of Libya here:

libya-cia_wfb_map

There are two ongoing battles in Libya at the moment.  In the east in the city of Benghazi (“Banghazi” in the map above) four soldiers allied with Khalifa Haftar’s army were killed and others injured by a landmine placed by Islamist forces (Libyan Express). West of Benghazi, about half of the way to Tripoli, Haftar’s forces are also fighting Islamists in the city of Sirte (“Surt” in the map above).  Haftar’s demining and engineering brigades are busy trying to clear landmines and explosive traps placed by the Islamists to slow his advance (AAWSAT).  Five soldiers were injured by a landmine and have received treatment (AAWSAT) and the US special envoy to Libya has warned the residents of Sirte not to try to return to their homes until Haftar’s demining teams have cleared the city (Libyan Express).

Michael P. Moore

October 29, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, August 2016

Syria and Yemen deservedly get the majority of the news about use of cluster munitions and landmines, but North Africa has also seen fairly widespread use of these weapons in the last few years.  Beginning with the Gaddhafi regime’s use to try and hold off the liberation forces encouraged by Arab Spring, through current use by various Islamist groups, new landmine use can be seen in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria.  In Libya and Sudan, government aligned forces have been alleged to use cluster munitions.  The use of these weapons in these ongoing conflicts means that their effects will be felt for years to come, in countries which already faced substantial burdens of explosive remnants of war.

 

Egypt

During World War II, British and German armies laid some 17 million landmines in the western deserts of Egypt, an area that became famous as the tank battle of El Alamein.  Most of those landmines remain in the deserts and until recently have only been a threat to the nomadic communities who make the desert their home.  Two people were killed and three injured by a mine in the Wasy el-Natroun area.  Egypt now has plans to development much of the western desert to take advantage of the natural gas deposits that lie below the surface and has cleared 155 square kilometers of desert of mines (Daily News Egypt), but another actor has also emerged with plans for the minefields: the Islamic State.  According to the former director of Egypt’s Mine Action Center, Fathy el-Shazly, there have been at least ten confirmed reports of jihadists digging up old landmines and repurposing them as improved explosive devices, the first coming in 2004.  The March 2016 landmine blast in the Red Sea area was attributed to repurposed landmines. Newsweek’s story about ISIS using World War II mines is a bit breathless and sensationalized, but points to another danger of abandoned ordnance. To its credit, Newsweek also highlights the poverty of the nomadic communities in the western desert and notes that some of the nomads are tempted to dig up the old mines and sell them as they have no other form of income (Newsweek).

In the Sinai region, where the Egyptian government is fighting a separate Islamist insurgency, a policy captain was killed while chasing insurgents following a firefight and an attempted bombing of an Al-Arish police station (Ahram).

 

Rwanda

When Papias Higiro stepped on a landmine shortly after the genocide and civil war in Rwanda, his life prospects were bleak.  21 years later, Papias has received his first prosthetic leg and can fulfill his dream of walking again and will attend vocational training to become a hairdresser.  This intervention was made possible by the charitable arm of AirTel, a mobile phone company (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

The government of Zimbabwe has accused three Zimbabweans living abroad of trying to destabilized the government.  One of the men is accused of threatening to plant landmines on the roads to kill a thousand people (The Herald).

In recognition of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, recognized the landmine clearance efforts of the Zimbabwean army, the HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

Nigerian soldiers are clearing landmines and other explosives left by Boko Haram and have arrested five members of the group who are suspected of planting some of the mines (All Africa).  The local Nigerian commanders boasted of a massive demining effort covering the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, an effort made possible by the purchase and delivery of demining equipment (Vanguard).

 

Chad

Nigeria is not the only country affected by Boko Haram.  Four Chadian soldiers were killed by a Boko Haram landmine near that country’s border with Niger (Reuters).

 

Libya

In Libya, the army under General Haftar, has ousted Islamic State forces from the city of Sirte, but Islamic State laid many landmines and booby traps.  Deminers from the army and from Libya’s intelligence services are now tasked with clearing mines and explosives which have killed over 300 soldiers and injured another 400.  At least four deminers have been killed and another injured trying to clear Sirte.  Five months of clearance work remains in Sirte according to a military spokesman (IRIN News).  To assist the Libyan forces, the Italian government is believed to have deployed special forces to the country to train Libyan deminers (Sputnik News; Ahram).

General Haftar’s army, while calling for assistance with landmine clearance, has also not helped its own cause by using banned cluster bombs.  In official photos published by the Libyan National Army (LNA), army helicopters are shown carrying the munitions, which challenges the LNA’s denial of use of such weapons in Derna and Benghazi (War is Boring).

In addition to the LNA’s cluster bombs, the Islamic State left landmines in Derna city, one of which killed a leader of the Shura Council of Mujahideen, an Islamist group that ousted Islamic State before being besieged by the LNA (Libyan Express).

In Benghazi two soldiers were killed and two more wounded at a checkpoint in the Al Gawarsha district (Libya Observer).  And in Misrata, the local hospital reported three soldiers killed in two separate incidents, both attributed to Islamic State landmines (Libya Observer).

Of course, the extensive use of landmines can also backfire as seen in Sirte when an Islamic State member tried to drive an explosive laden car into Al Bunyan Al Marsoos positions and struck a landmine laid by Islamic State forces, destroying the car and causing no casualties beyond the driver (Libyan Observer).

 

Tunisia

Three Tunisian soldiers were killed and seven more injured by an anti-tank landmine in the western region of the country, near the Algerian border.  The mountainous region has been a hideout for militants since the start of Arab Spring in 2011 (Press TV).

 

Algeria

The Algerian army cleared 866 landmines dating back to the liberation war against the French.  This was part of the ongoing clearance work along the borders of the country.  Algeria is also facing a current threat from Islamist groups that are fighting against the government and the army.  In the last year and a half, Algerian has killed or arrested hundreds of suspected Islamists and the government claims that the Islamists have mostly been defeated and the government is now trying to consolidate its position and make the affected areas safe for the population.  The government reported the seizure of two landmines that were believed to have been intended for use along the country’s roads.  In just such an incident, four civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a mine attributed to Islamist groups (Strategy Page; Defence Web).

 

Michael P. Moore

September 26, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, February 2016

I think it’s the little touches in landmine stories that really get to me.  In this month’s news, the fact that the reporter felt the need to confirm that when two herders were killed by a piece of unexploded ordnance, “their animals did not survive the explosion either.”   In Morocco the fact that a young man’s “kicking” of a landmine set it off, provides a visual.  Or in Zimbabwe, a young survivor and his girlfriend cannot marry because he lacks the money to pay for the wedding.  These small flourishes show the humanity and the human tragedy of landmines.

 

Nigeria

In response to the Boko Haram insurgency, several vigilante groups emerged from the local populations in northeastern Nigeria to support the Nigerian army in the campaign against the Islamist group.  In February, five members of the one vigilante group, euphemistically called the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), were killed and another four injured when their truck struck a landmine left by Boko Haram (All Africa).  Four Nigerian soldiers were also injured in a separate incident (All Africa).  Cameroonian soldiers are also active against Boko Haram and while Cameroon’s forces have been clearing mined roads and dismantling suspected bomb-making facilities, one Cameroonian soldier was killed and another eight injured when their truck struck a mine on patrol in Nigeria (All Africa).

 

Angola

In 2015 the HALO Trust cleared and destroyed more than 4,000 mines and 25,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the southern town of Cuito Cuanavale (All Africa). In Bie Province, landmine clearance is preparing some 250 hectares of land for industrial development and economic diversification (All Africa). In Cuando Cubango, the deputy governor witnessed the destruction of several explosive devices and noted how demining enables agricultural expansion and market access (All Africa).

 

Mali

Two members of the Islamist group, Ansar Dine, were killed when they drove over a landmine planted by other members of the group.  The vehicle was headed towards Kidal and had four pieces of ordnance in the back which might have contributed to the deaths of the occupants (Mali Web). In northeastern Mali, Malian soldiers were victims of a landmine and firearms attack which killed four – it is not clear from the report how many casualties are attributable to either the mine or the guns (The Chronicle). In Mopti in central Mali, three Malian soldiers were killed and two more wounded by a landmine (BBC). Near Gao, another Islamist was killed by the mine he was trying to plant with the intention of attacking a Malian army convoy (Mali Actu).

 

Morocco

Five people were injured, one seriously, when a Moroccan man kicked a landmine in the southern city of Laayoune (Morocco World News).

 

Uganda

The Gulu Landmine Survivors Association (GLSA) in Northern Uganda has petitioned the government for victim assistance support.  Most survivors are living in poverty and prosthetics are prohibitively expensive.  Monica Pilloy, the chair of the GLSA, notes that Ugandan soldiers are entitled to pensions and compensatyion for injuries, but civilian victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army, despite the international attention and support for reconstruction, have received little (Uganda Radio Network).

In western Kasese district, the Kayondo Landmine Survivors Association called on the government for amendments to national legislation to reflect the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Uganda has ratified (Crooze).

One child was killed and eight others injured when they played with a piece of unexploded ordnance in Kampala.  The football pitch where the boys were playing is opposite an old military barracks (News 24).

 

Zimbabwe

The 426 kilometer stretch of Zimbabwe’s northwestern border with Mozambique, from Mukumbura to Rwenya, is labelled as “minefield # 2.”  130 kilometers have been cleared, removing over 162,000 anti-personnel landmines.  The balance remains to be cleared with the HALO Trust and Zimbabwe’s National Mine Clearance Squadron splitting the duties (Zimbabwe Nation).  The presence of the landmines means that the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border hasn’t been formally fixed and efforts by the African Union Border Commission have been stymied (The Chronicle). The HALO Trust’s work is supported, in part, but the Japanese government and during a visit to the minefield, the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe called for more awareness of the landmine problem in Zimbabwe and more support from the donor community. Literally putting his money where his mouth is, the ambassador also announced an additional US $635,281 for the project (News Day).  The Zimbabwean parliament has recognized that demining is underfunded and the committee responsible for defense activities has called for additional funds.  With only US $100,000 provided by the government, some members of parliament have suggested taking up a collection among themselves to support the work (News Day).

“Minefield # 1” is near Victoria Falls in the northeast of the country and the National Mine Clearance Squadron had sole responsibility for its clearance.  Declared clear in 2015, over 26 thousand mines were destroyed (Harare 24). The third major minefield (not sure if it is formally known as “Minefield # 3”) is along the southern border, near Sango Border Post, where Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa share a border.  One area of the minefield, Gwaivhi community, is a place “where you can hardly find a family that has not been affected in one way or the other by the landmines. Some families lost their members while others have been maimed. Other families lost their livestock. The area is not suitable for human habitation and therefore has no settlements but those on the periphery of the area have been affected.”  Zimbabwe army engineers are clearing the minefield and in 2015 the Defence Minister provided 15 artificial limbs to survivors from the community (Sunday News). 

 

Tanzania

The US Army’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) sent two US Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) trainers and a corpsman to work with and train Tanzanian soldiers on EOD techniques as part of the regional command’s capacity building program (AFRICOM).

 

South Africa

A South African man was seriously injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance that he had somehow acquired from an army training ground near his home.  The range is well marked and fenced, but still poses a danger to local residents (Defence Web).

 

Libya

The Libyan army has liberated areas of Benghazi and has warned local residents about the possibility of landmines and other explosive devices.  The army’s engineering teams were sweeping the Laithi neighborhood and asked residents to accompany engineers in order to access homes and secure personal possessions (Al Wasat).  The dangers from ERW were made clear when one soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Benghazi, the second such incident in less than a week (Arabs Today).

 

Sudan

Two herders were killed along with five of their camels by a piece of unexploded ordnance in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra (Radio Dabanga).

To combat landmines and ERW elsewhere in Sudan, the government of Italy donated 250,000 euros to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) program in Sudan.  the funds will be used to clear 900,000 square meters in Kassala state and provide mine risk education to 5,000 people (United Nations).

 

Burundi / Rwanda

Both Burundi and Rwanda have declared themselves to be anti-personnel landmine free after completing clearance.  Neither army should have these weapons in their arsenal, but allegations that surfaced this month should raise questions about their use.  Some Burundian rebels were interviewed by United Nations monitors in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The rebels claimed that they had been trained in the use of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines by Rwandan army regulars to be able to overthrow the government of Pierre Nkurunziza, the Burundian president who recently ran for a third term in violation of the constitution (Voice of America).

 

Somaliland

In Somaliland, a young man who overcame the loss of both arms and his sight to a landmine explosion to attend college and complete his degree has resorted to asking for charity in a newspaper article (Somaliland Informer).

 

Western Sahara

Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), which has been conducting mine risk education programs in Western Sahara for many years, has recently commenced landmine clearance activities in the region.  With two teams now working in the country, NPA is hoping to contribute to a mine-free Western Sahara (NPA).

 

Egypt

Two archaeologists were killed and third wounded at the Tel al-Dafna site near the Suez canal.  The area had been subject to extensive landmine use in the Egypt-Israel wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973 and the archaeologists apparently set off a mine during their excavations (Mada Masr).

 

Michael P. Moore

March 28, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, February 2015

The multinational offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has uncovered the possible extensive use of landmines (mostly in the form of victim-activated improvised explosive devices [IEDs], or “artisanal landmines” as we have referred to them in these pages) by the Islamist group.  Action on Armed Violence has tracked the damage done by IEDs over the last several years noting the increase in the use of these weapons.  Boko Haram, like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred in Mali and Al Shabaab in Somalia and the as-yet-unnamed Islamists in Tunisia, appear to be using artisanal landmines to disrupt travel and deny entry to areas under its control.  Prior to the offensive, rumors abounded about Boko Haram’s use of landmines, but several incidents in Nigeria and neighboring countries prove the rumors true, making Nigeria join Mali and Tunisia as countries that had been free of landmines, but are no longer so.

While Boko Haram was the big story regarding landmines on the Continent, mine clearance progress continued elsewhere and several unfortunate reminders were to be found of the need for more efforts.  Landmines continue to plague more than twenty African countries and despite the pledges made at the Third Review Conference in Mozambique last June, much remains to be done.

Western Sahara

Two men were injured by an unexploded cluster bomb in the Polisario-controlled region of Western Sahara (All Africa) and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights released a report critical of Morocco’s activities in Western Sahara including reports of “unmonitored landmine blasts” (All Africa).

Angola

As amazing as this might sound, after 20 years of mine action, the government of Angola recently asked for assistance from the residents of Cunene province in identifying mine affected areas.  We agree that residents of an area are likely to have the best knowledge about the location of suspected minefields, but the government should complete all survey work to determine the extent of the landmine problem with all haste (All Africa).  Also in Cunene province, which borders Namibia, the government destroyed 130 pieces of unexploded ordnance cleared form the border region (All Africa). In Bie province, almost 600 explosive devices, including 42 landmines were detonated after clearance by the National Demining Institute (All Africa) and the HALO Trust reported clearing some 315,000 square meters of land in 2014.  In addition to mine clearance, HALO Trust also provided mine risk education to over 5,000 individuals (All Africa).  Cuanza Sul province, in central Angola, saw the clearance of 11.7 million square meters by government, NGO and private demining operators (All Africa).

All told, Angola has cleared more than 5 million pieces of explosive ordnance from an area equivalent to 500,000 football fields.  This includes almost 450,000 antipersonnel mines and roughly 45,000 anti-vehicle or anti-tank mines.  There are about 2,000 more areas suspected or confirmed to contain landmines and clearance of those areas may not be finished until 2028 (Ango Noticias).

Tunisia

The World War II minefields of El Alamein in Egypt are some of the most famous, but the landmine contamination in North Africa from World War II extends far beyond Egypt. As a reminder, a World War II mine was found in Tunisia this month during a routine security sweep (All Africa).

Rwanda

Several years ago, Rwanda declared itself landmine-free, but survivors of landmine injuries continue to live and work in the country.  Rayisi Kwizera lost his leg in 1997 when he was eleven years old.  Seven years later Kwizera received a bicycle from the Japan One Love project which works in Rwanda producing prosthetic devices and providing rehabilitation services.  Kwizera soon was biking 30 kilometers a day along the hills of Kigali, Rwanda’s capitol.  Now, Kwizera is a bicycle racer who dreams of participating in the Paralympic Games on behalf of his country.  To keep in shape, he has been riding along with the cyclists participating in the Tour of Rwanda as there are no specific races for paralympians in Rwanda (All Africa).

Nigeria

Nigeria postponed its presidential elections which were supposed to take place on February 14th as the military launched an offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency which had declared a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria, near the borders with Chad and Cameroon on the banks of Lake Chad.  Boko Haram has been operating freely in the region for years, killing and abducting people with little resistance from the government, including the abduction of over 200 school girls from the village of Chibok, an event that launched the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.  Prior to the postponement of the elections, the candidates barely mentioned Boko Haram and President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign managers had the tone-deaf idea to use #BringBackGoodluck as a campaign slogan when Jonathan had ignored the Chibok abductions for months.

Of course, once the offensive got underway, the Nigerian army has been reported to have made great progress in defeating and driving out Boko Haram.  Nigerian forces stormed Baga town and Boko Haram posts in the Sambisa forests.  The liberation of Baga was preceded by the clearance of some 1,500 landmines planted by Boko Haram around the town (Eye on Nigeria) and in Sambisa Forest, the Nigerian forces used mine-sweeping tanks to clear the mines that had previously stalled efforts in the Forest (All Africa).

The offensive against Boko Haram has been joined by troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon.  In retaliation, Boko Haram placed mines in Niger and Cameroon.  In the Nigerien region of Diffa, near the Nigerian border, two soldiers were killed and four other wounded by a landmine placed in a roadway (Reuters).  Also in Diffa, two civilians were killed when their horse-drawn cart ran over a landmine (All Africa).  In Cameroon, an officer and an enlisted man were killed by an artisanal landmine, suspected to have been made from explosives seized from a Chinese workers’ camp in May 2014 (Reuters).  No reports of Nigerian casualties from landmines have been seen.

Somalia

One person was killed by a landmine in Mogadishu thought to be targeting Turkish workers building a road.  Turkey has been a key supporter of reconstruction in Somalia (RBC Radio).

In the semi-autonomous Puntland region, security forces have been fighting Al Shabaab members in the Galgala mountain range. Along a feeder road to the main highway in the area, a Puntland soldier was injured when a troop transport vehicle drove into a minefield laid by Al Shabaab (Garowe Online, no link).

South Sudan

A naturalized United States citizen was injured by a landmine in Upper Nile state, losing his right leg in the explosion.  The rebel group Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition, which the survivor had joined and is loyal to ousted South Sudan vice president Riek Machar, accused the South Sudan government of using anti-personnel landmines in and around Nasir town (Sudan Tribune).

The Development Initiative (TDI) continues to support the United Nations Mine Action Service’s program in South Sudan with survey and clearance work.  An estimate 40 clearance personnel will be dispatched to respond to the extensive landmine contamination in the world’s newest country (Devex).

Mali

A spokesperson for a Tuareg (or Azawad) coalition accused militias loyal to the government of Mali of placing landmines in northern Mali where Tuareg separatists sparked an Islamist uprising that required French forces to quell (Reuters).  Near Timbuktu, a Malian army vehicle struck a landmine that had been placed by a motorcyclist who rode a few kilometers ahead of the vehicle.  No injuries were reported and the attack was blamed on Islamists (Daily Mail).  Two weeks later, seven United Nations peacekeepers were injured, four seriously, by a landmine near Tabankort (Agence France Presse).

Algeria

In Algeria, 2,929 mines, including anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, were cleared from the border regions.  These mines were part of the French defensive operations from the Algerian liberation war of the 1950s and 1960s (Ennahar Online).

Sudan

Three herders and five camels were killed by a piece of unexploded ordnance in East Jebel Marra in Sudan’s Darfur region (Radio Dabanga).  In North Darfur, two children were killed when they picked up and played with a piece of unexploded ordnance (All Africa).

In the disputed Abyei region on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, a mine risk education campaign has been launched to ensure local residents are familiar with landmines and other explosive remnants of war and know who to contact if such items are discovered (Radio Tamazuj).

Chad

Handicap International has launched a landmine survey and clearance project in Chad.  Over the course of several days, the survey team met with residents and elders to ascertain the location of possible minefields as no records were kept of mine-laying in the southern regions of the country. Along the way, the team delivered mine risk education lessons to thousands of students.  The team also worked to educate fishermen after learning of several accidents along the rivers (Handicap International).

Handicap International’s survey team was delayed by threats made by Boko Haram to invade Chad.  Two women were arrested near the country’s capitol, N’Djamena carrying anti-personnel landmines and grenades.  The women were believed to be members of Boko Haram intending to launch suicide attacks against Chad in retaliation for Chad’s supporting the Nigerian Army’s assault against Boko Haram (Alwihda Info).

Michael P. Moore

March 12, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org