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, March 2016

Bear with me, folks: this is going to be a long one.  In March we have landmine-related stories from 15 countries and areas, with good and bad news to report.  In the stories below, I report on over 150 landmine and ERW casualties, the deadliest month of the year so far.  The positive news includes continued mine clearance in Angola and Algeria and Japan’s support for mine action in several countries.  The glass is never more than half-full.

 

 

Western Sahara

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights produces a biannual report on violations of the human rights of the Sahrawi people.  In their report for the period July – December 2015, they noted one landmine injury in addition to multiple other violations (All Africa).

During March, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Western Sahara and observed the landmine clearance projects managed by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) (All Africa).  During that visit, Ban referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara by Morocco which led the Moroccan government to call for the expulsion of the UN mission in Western Sahara, including the UNMAS staff.

Also in March, Western Sahara registered its first landmine fatality of the year when a shepherd’s truck struck a probable anti-vehicle mine west of the berm, near Smara (Remove the Wall).

 

Sudan

The government of Japan pledged US $2.1 million in support of UNMAS’s work in Kassala, Red Sea, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  The donation will support clearance of 1.5 million square meters and risk education for 100,000 Sudanese (All Africa).  At the same time, a rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), accused the government of Sudan of using cluster munitions in the ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains region, which includes South Kordofan (Sudan Tribune).

In North Darfur’s Tawila area, two UXO incidents were reported.  In the first, two men were killed by a UXO blast as they were collecting firewood (Radio Dabanga).  In the second incident, six gold miners were killed and three more injured when their vehicle struck a piece of UXO (Radio Dabanga).

 

Mozambique

Even though the country has been declared landmine free, Mozambique is still plagued by other explosive remnants of war so the national police are being educated on explosive ordnance disposal (Star Africa).

 

Morocco

In addition to training Senegalese forces, the US Marines have been training Moroccan soldiers to build the demining capacity of the Moroccan army.  Starting in 2007, the Moroccan military has cleared some 564 square kilometers of land, and the goal is for Morocco to be able to train its own forces on explosive ordnance disposal.  In April, Morocco will launch a new effort to clear the landmines from the eastern side of the berm that divides Western Sahara into the Moroccan-controlled area and the Polisario-controlled area (Camp Lejeune Globe; Sahara Question).

 

Angola

The governments of Japan and Norway provided US $ 203,384 for landmine clearance in Malanje province.  With the funds, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) will be able to clear 117,000 square meters (All Africa).

The National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH) has called on the population to report suspected minefields to the Commission.  At the same time, CNIDAH’s representative announced plans for clearance of 3.1 million square meters of land in Cunene province and that over 546,000 square meters had been cleared in 2015 (Angola Press).  In Lunda Norte province, the National Demining Institute (INAD) reported the clearance of 2.2 million square meters of land in 2015 (All Africa).  As part of the national infrastructure plan, INAD has finished the clearance of the high voltage lines in Cabinda Province which was accompanied by some clearance activities to enable small scale cultivation (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603170842.html).  In Zaire province, construction of electrical lines is pending the demining of some 189 kilometers of line (Angola Press).  In Uige province, the Angola NGO, Terra Mae, cleared over 300 landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in March (Angola Press).

The uncertain financial support for mine action globally continues to have very real, local impacts.  The HALO Trust, which has cleared over 51 million square meters and 65,000 mines and ERW in Bie Province since 1995 have shuttered their operations in that province.  INAD and the Angolan army will be responsible for surveying and clearing the 300 suspected hazardous areas that remain in the province (Rede Angola).

 

Egypt

Egypt’s northwestern deserts are polluted with mines leftover from the World War II battles around El Alamein and the modern city of Matrouh.  The European Union supports a large demining project there which is in its third year.  Sahar Nasr, the Minister of International Cooperation, during a visit to the program called on the EU to extend the project (All Africa; State Information Service; El Balad).

Even though the minefields of El Alamein are more famous, two landmine incidents in Sinai and one on the Red Sea coast highlighted the fact that Egypt’s landmine contamination is more widespread.  Five soldiers were killed and seven more injured by a landmine near the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada (Egyptian Streets).  In Sinai, seven police were killed and nine injured in one landmine incident and one Bedouin was killed and another injured in a second incident (Al Bawaba; Al Bawaba).  The Red Sea mine likely dates to World War II and the first Sinai mine is from the conflicts with Israel in the 1950s and 1970s.  The Bedouins were victims of a recently laid mine that detonated when struck by their tractor.

 

Algeria

Algerian counter-terrorism forces destroyed four bunkers and 16 anti-personnel landmines in Boumerdes (Ennahar).  In ongoing operations, the Algerian army cleared almost five thousand landmines from the borders that date back to the French colonial period.  Through February 2016, Algeria has destroyed 831,017 landmines (Ennahar).

 

Zimbabwe

The anti-poaching unit operating near Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls park arrested 300 poachers in 2015 and recovered 10 kilograms of elephant ivory from three dealers.  In the process, the unit also found a cache of 50 landmines leftover from the liberation war in the Zambezi National Park and called the Zimbabwe army to destroy them (Radio VOP).

 

Nigeria & Cameroon

Vigilantes, operating under the more benign name of “civilian self-defense groups,” have been important actors in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon.  However, these vigilantes lack the necessary equipment – they have appealed for bicycles to assist in their operations – and have been victims of the very landmines and explosives they are trying to find.  In five days, seven landmine blasts killed 34 people and injured 40 more. The Cameroonian army has received technical advice and equipment from the US government and trainers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the French army are educating Cameroon soldiers on landmine and explosive clearance (Voice of America; African Press Organization). Cameroon’s soldiers have also been landmine victims with one killed and four more injured in two separate blasts in Amchide-Gance and Zamga (Simon Ateba).  The explosions and other war-related injuries have stretched Cameroon’s health system beyond its capacity (All Africa).

In Nigeria, 15 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram landmines in Nussa village in Borno state (Channels TV).  On the road from Chul to Huyum, also in Borno, three Nigerian vigilantes were killed and seven injured by a landmine (Press TV). In addition to soldiers and vigilantes, hunters from Nigeria’s indigenous groups have also sought to join the fight against Boko Haram.  Acknowledging the landmine risks, these hunters have “super natural powers” which they will use “to assist the military in crushing Boko Haram” in addition to their extensive knowledge of the Sambisa forest which Boko Haram is using as a refuge (TVC News).  Two Boko Haram members were killed by their own landmine as they fled from Nigerian soldiers in Kumala area of Borno (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603180337.html).

The US government provided 24 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) to the Nigerian army to assist with the fight against Boko Haram.  However, most of the vehicles require maintenance and servicing before they can be used and have been referred to as “carcasses.”  The Nigerian army has been able to deploy some mine-clearance machines, but the available machines are insufficient for the vast area of the Sambisa forest (All Africa).

 

Tunisia

One soldier was injured by a landmine in the Kasserine region during a counter-terrorism operation (All Africa).

 

Senegal

Under the auspices of the State Department’s Humanitarian Mine Action program, a US Marine contingent led a six week training session for Senegalese soldiers in demining and explosive ordnance disposal. Other partners in the training program include the Vermont National Guard and the Austrian Armed Forces (Defence Web). In addition to the national army, Handicap International is clearing landmines in Senegal’s Casamance region.  In 2016, HI plans to clear 55,000 square meters, the equivalent of 8 football pitches (Relief Web).  HI’s partner, the Senegalese Association of Mine Victims (ASVM) is leading a mine risk education campaign in Casamance with survivors directly participating.  In the current campaign, ASVM hopes to reach 60 schools and 65 villages (Relief Web).

 

Somalia

The European Union and UNMAS donated bomb disposal equipment to the Somali Police force which will outfit five bomb squad units that will also be trained (Relief Web).  A line of landmines placed in the center of Bardhere town in southern Somalia killed two people and injured several others when an Ethiopian army vehicle drove over them. In the aftermath of the blast, the Ethiopian soldiers fired indiscriminately injuring some bystanders (Goobjoog News).  In Bakol, three Al Shabaab members were arrested and charged with planting landmines (News Ghana).

 

Mali

Six peacekeepers with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured at the start of the month when their vehicle struck a landmine on the Aguelhok – Tessalit road (MINUSMA).  Three days later an unknown number of casualties occurred when another MINUSMA vehicle struck a landmine near Kidal (Desert Media). At the end of the month, two Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine on the Mopti – Timbuktu road (Desert Media).

 

South Sudan

The government of Japan contributed US $2.3 million to UNMAS for mine action in South Sudan.  Over 110 million square meters of land in South Sudan is contaminated by landmines and ERW affected almost eight million people.  New mine usage during the current civil war compounds the problem (Modern Ghana).

 

Michael P. Moore

April 18, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

 


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

 


The Month in Mines, December 2015

As we close out another year, there are reminders of how far mine action has come and of how much is left to be done.  We like to keep a “glass half-full” attitude, but admit some days that’s harder than others.  However, there are lots of good bits of news this month from Mozambique, South Africa and Senegal and elsewhere.

 

Mozambique

Once more with feeling: Mozambique is landmine-free.  Taking advantage of the annual Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Mozambique confirmed its September announcement that all known anti-personnel landmines have been cleared from the country.  In addition 2015 was the first year in four decades in which not a single Mozambican was killed or injured by a landmine (All Africa).  However, other unexploded ordnance does remain in Mozambique and only now are the final steps being taken to clear the ammunition dump in Maputo that erupted in 2007 killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more.  APOPO, the Belgian charity that employs rats to detect landmines and other explosives is clearing the former dump and the government plans to turn the area into a park once all hazards have been removed (Treehugger).

 

Nigeria / Cameroon

We’re putting these two countries together as their current landmine issues arise from the concerted efforts against Boko Haram, an Islamist militia that is operating in the area where the borders of the countries come together.  A Boko Haram landmine was blamed for the deaths of two Cameroonian soldiers in the northern region of that country (All Africa).  In parts of northeastern Nigeria, landmines are threatening displaced persons who fled Boko Haram’s violence. According to sources, there have been “many” explosions as displaced persons return to their homes and try to plant crops.  In response, the Nigerian army is clearing mines, but is focusing on “schools, [health] clinics and roads” which leaves farmers in danger (All Africa).

 

Somalia / Kenya

The government launched a national plan, the “Badbaado Plan,” to address the explosive remnants of war and landmine contamination in the country.  The Plan will also help the country fulfill its clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty.  Currently, a HALO Trust implemented program on the border with Ethiopia and supported by the Government of Japan and the United Nations Mine Action Service is being held up as the model program to build the Plan around (All Africa).  The extent of contamination is great and due to the continuing conflict with Al Shabaab, is in constant flux.  Three landmines were cleared from the market in Bulo Burde town (Mareeg). Of course, Al Shabaab members are also often victims of their own explosives and five Al Shabaab fighters were apparently killed in southwestern Somalia by a landmine they were planting (Puntland Post).

In Kenya’s Lamu East sub-county, a Kenyan soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine blamed on Al Shabaab (Citizen TV).

 

Angola

Landmines were among the 395 explosives collected and destroyed from Uige by the National Demining Institute (All Africa). Another 200 explosive items were cleared by the newly-created national NGO, Terra Mae, from 121,000 square meters in Cunene Province (All Africa). In addition to the work of Terra Mae, the Angolan army cleared 341,000 square meters in Cunene Province in 2015.  Three landmine incidents were reported – with no mention of how many casualties – and almost 2,000 people participated in mine risk awareness sessions (All Africa).

Three high profile visitors to Angola, US Under Secretary of State, Rose Gottemoeller, and professional climbers Alex Honnold and Stacy Bare, helped to highlight the continuing landmine problem in the country (All Africa; Discovery).

 

Western Sahara

The annual meeting of mine action operators and stakeholders for Western Sahara was held at the UN mission in Tindouf.  Participants discussed ways to combat the threat of landmines from the 2,700 kilometer berm in the face of limited funding (All Africa).

 

South Africa

Much like in Mozambique above, a former munitions test site in the South African capitol Pretoria is to be re-developed.  The site, home to as many as 9,000 squatters, was the site of a World War II test site and munitions dump. Mechem, the South African demining firm associate with the national army, took responsibility for the clearance of the site and started with a visual inspection.  Mechem hired 20 individuals, provided them with training and then had them conduct a visual inspection of the site.  Those same individuals will be trained on demining procedures and be part of the team that allows the site to become a housing development (Defence Web).  The dangers from the estimated 10 tons of ordnance are well known; as recently as 2011 a father and his son were killed by a mortar detonated during a bonfire (All Africa).

 

Sudan

CNN profiled the trainer of mine detection dogs in Sudan, Dr. Muiz Ali Taha, and gave a nice description of how the dogs work.  Sudan’s mine contamination dates back to World War II and includes use in recent conflicts (CNN).

Geneva Call announced the destruction of the anti-personnel landmine stockpile held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).  The SPLM-N signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment and has pledged not to use anti-personnel landmines in its conflict with the government of Sudan, currently raging in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.  One issue that the article does not address is the origin of the SPLM-N’s mines as both Sudan and South Sudan have declared that all stockpiled mines have been destroyed (Geneva Call).  It is possible that the SPLM-N’s stockpile is a remnant from long ago conflicts and as it was not in the control of the government, would not have been included in Sudan’s stockpile destruction.  But if that is the case, are there other such stockpiles in the country needing to be destroyed?

In Darfur, two men were killed while trying to collect firewood when their pack animal triggered an explosive device near Jebel Marra (Radio Dabanga).

 

South Sudan

The Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan visited an UNMAS project site, south of the capitol Juba, where UNMAS is using support from the Japanese government to clear minefields and raise awareness of the dangers of explosive devices.  Plans for the site, once clearance is complete, include agriculture and development (ReliefWeb).

 

Zimbabwe

Since the start of its program in November 2013, the HALO Trust has cleared 10,000 landmines from Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique.  While progress is excellent, roughly one kilometer of border is cleared of mines every month, HALO’s demining team would need to be increased to 600 from its current workforce of 150 if the entire border is to be cleared by 2025 (HALO Trust).

 

Mali

Mines Advisory Group has launched a mine risk education program in the Gao region of northern Mali with the support of the UN peacekeeping mission (Mikado Radio). In addition, the Mission facilitated the training of over 30 Malian security personnel on explosive risk and emergency first aid (MINUSMA).

 

Algeria

In 2015, Algerian authorities seized 123 landmines as part of the country’s ongoing efforts against terrorism (Global Post).  In addition, the country is facing a large smuggling and trafficking problem and two mines were seized along with substantial amounts of cannabis (All Africa).

 

Senegal

And to close out the year on some very good news, Handicap International has re-launched its landmine clearance program in Senegal’s Casamance region.  Though the program is starting small, HI expects to clear enough land to allow 60,000 Casamancais to live free of the fear of landmines (Handicap International).

 

Michael P. Moore

January 28, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, September 2015

The brotherhood of mine-free countries has now increased by one: Mozambique.  In September, after two decades of work, the last of Mozambique’s 171,000 landmines has been cleared from what was once thought of as one of the five most mine-affected countries (along with Egypt, Cambodia, Angola and Afghanistan).  When mine clearance first began, Mozambique was thought to have millions of mines to be cleared after the wars of liberation in the 1960s and 1960s and the civil war from 1975 to 1992 and clearance would take centuries, not decades.  Many organizations, including the HALO Trust, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Handicap International and APOPO, took part in the clearance work alongside the National Demining Institute, whose director proudly announced “Now I am jobless.” (All Africa; All Africa; The Guardian; Storify).

Despite this very good news, Mozambique continues to face a problem of unexploded and abandoned ordnance.  In Manica province, a building company discovered a cache of explosives during a construction project and deminers from the HALO Trust were called to dispose of the items (All Africa).

And Mozambique was not the only landmine-related news on the continent:

Somalia

The Al Shabaab militia, which has been pushed out of much of Somalia in the last few years, has found a new haven in Kenya’s Boni Forest, just across the border from Somalia.  To protect their base, Al Shabaab members are alleged to have laid landmines on the roads used by Kenyan security forces (All Africa, All Africa).

In Somalia proper, Al Shabaab continues to use landmines and explosive devices as part of its asymmetrical strategy.  In the coastal town of Merca, four civilians were killed by a landmine that was intended for a convoy of African Union peacekeepers (All Africa).  A Swedish mine clearance expert working on assignment for the United Nations was injured by a landmine that detonated under the armored vehicle he was traveling in. No word on other casualties (Radio Bar Kulan).  A Somali deminer was killed by a landmine he was trying to clear in Bardere town which had recently been liberated from Al Shabaab (Mareeg).  Unexploded ordnance claimed the lives of two children in the Middle Shabelle region and injured at least two others (Garowe Online, no link).  The commissioner of El-Ade was wounded by a landmine that was reportedly placed within his residence.  This was the second assassination attempt on the commissioner (All Africa).   A landmine was also placed within the Waamo stadium in Kismayo, but Interim Jubbaland Authority forces found and cleared the mine before it exploded (Goobjoog).

Namibia

A cattleherder was arrested for setting a cache of South African-made explosives he had found on fire.  The herder, in addition to his legal troubles for illegally detonating the abandoned ordnance, has developed hearing problems (All Africa).  In other parts of Namibia, unexploded ordnance has been deadly.  A woman reported an unexploded bomb in her farm fields to the police, but the police did not respond and a few days later the woman and her daughter were killed by a bomb blast which injured two others.  Relatives of the deceased allege police negligence in their response to the reports of ordnance despite the Namibian police mine and explosive awareness campaigns (All Africa).

Angola

Nearly 13,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance, including dozens of landmines, were destroyed in Cunhinga municipality in Bie province (All Africa).  In Chitembo municipality, also in Bie province, another 300 pieces were detonated (All Africa).  Despite the progress, at least five landmines accidents have been reported in Bie province in 2015 with an unknown number of casualties and mine action authorities called for more mine risk education (All Africa).

Algeria

Over 7,600 landmines were cleared from Algeria’s borders.  The mines, dating back to the liberation war against the French colonial administration. To date over 1.4 million mines have been cleared from Algeria to date (All Africa).

Tunisia

A flock of sheep set of a landmine in El Kef.  No other casualties were reported (All Africa).

Libya

Five children were killed and two more injured by a landmine in Benghazi’s Benina district.  The mine was blamed on the Ansar Al Sharia group which was pushed out of the city by the Libyan army (Al Bawaba).

Egypt

15 alleged terrorists were killed and another 10 injured when the individuals tried to plant several landmines in Rafah on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula (El Balad).  Also in the Sinai, three boys were severely wounded by a landmine also attributed to terrorist elements (Star Tribune).

Nigeria

The Nigerian government has ordered 10 demining machines from a Slovakian company with delivery to be completed by the end of 2016 (Spectator). The need for such machines was highlighted when a cow triggered a landmine, killing the nine year-old boy who was minding the herd and at least three cows (Daily Trust).

South Sudan

Despite the civil war that erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 between the government and forces loyal to ousted vice president, Riek Machar, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and its partners have managed to clear 12 million square meters of land and 1,000 kilometers of roads of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.  The violence has greatly reduced UNMAS’s ability to clear land as prior to December 2013, UNMAS has been able to clear over a billion square meters and return that land to productive use (Star Africa).

Tanzania

As part of AFRICOM’s efforts to increase the capacity of African national armies, especially those which contribute forces to regional and international peacekeeping missions, US Navy explosive ordnance specialists provided training to 22 Tanzanian soldiers in August.  The humanitarian mine action instruction course is funded by the State Department (AFRICOM).

Senegal

Landmines are seen as both a challenge to peace in Senegal’s Casamance region (All Africa), as well as an enabler of the illegal logging that supports rebel groups in the region (All Africa).  To combat the landmine problem, Pax Mondial will provide several mine detection dogs to Handicap International which has long been clearing mines in Senegal (Pax Mondial).

Somaliland

The announcement of Mozambique as a mine-free country will hopefully spur other countries to complete their mine clearance obligations.  Somaliland announced its intention to be mine-free by the end of 2017 (Somaliland Informer).

Michael P. Moore

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

November 5, 2015


The Month in Mines, August 2015

Unfortunately, August was not the listless dog days of summer when it came to mine action. The continuing conflicts along the Sahel and in North Africa led to several landmine incidents and casualties.  Interestingly, in Uganda and in Egypt, we are seeing mine affected communities turn to court to compel governments to act to address their mine clearance obligations and ensure the rights of survivors.  It is a shame that such efforts are necessary, but if they are successful, Senegal, Western Sahara and other countries might be ripe for similar legal actions.

Western Sahara

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights released a report documenting human rights abuses committed against the people of Western Sahara by the government of Morocco which has claimed the territory.  The report, covering the first half of 2015, noted several deaths due to landmines used by the Moroccan government in the berm which splits the territory (All Africa).  Landmines are also present within Morocco’s recognized borders and in August, a young Saharawi was injured by a mine near Tantan city in southern Morocco.  The mine was one of thousands laid by the Polisario Front prior to the Front’s renouncing the use of the weapon (All Africa).

Angola

In Benguela Province, more than 2,000 landmines have been cleared from over 150 million square meters of land since the end of the conflict in 2002 (All Africa).  In Bie Province, mine risk education reached 7,544 people in the first half of 2015 (All Africa) and the HALO Trust cleared a quarter million square meters of land (All Africa).  Over a hundred pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been cleared from Malanje city to make room for the planned broadcasting center for Public Television Angola (All Africa).  The local organization, APACOMINAS, cleared 30,000 square meters of landmines from Pedra Cuca in Huambo province (All Africa).

As part of the broader effort against landmines in Angola, CNIDAH (the National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid) hosted a working meeting to approve the 2015 – 2016 operational plan for mine action in Cunene province (All Africa).

At a General Meeting of members, the Centro de Vida Independente de Angola approved a four year strategic plan to provide landmine survivor assistance and reintegration support for disabled former soldiers (All Africa).

South Sudan

The civil war in South Sudan has displaced hundreds of thousands of children who cannot attend school.  Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan report that students prioritized returning to school because of the safety they felt in schools and because student learn about the dangers of landmines (All Africa).

The United Nations Mine Action Service and Handicap International hosted a training for landmine survivors in South Sudan and provided small business assistance to enable survivors to be economically independent (ReliefWeb).

Uganda

Victim assistance services in Uganda are woefully lacking.  According to reports, medical care available at public facilities does not include the costs of medicines and prescriptions which patients must obtain from external pharmacies at cost.  In 2011, a landmine victim died at the Mulago hospital in the capitol of Kampala when the drugs needed for surgery were unavailable (All Africa). In northern Uganda, landmine survivors have been forced to take the government to court to receive the same treatment as other groups of victims, but even if they are successful in their case, much of the compensation may be claimed in legal fees (All Africa).

Along the Ugandan boder with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has re-emerged.  In the 1990s, the ADF was responsible for laying landmines in Kasese district and other western Ugandan districts injuring dozens of people.  Some of the survivors of those mines remain isolated and traumatized from their injuries despite the support of groups like the Anti-Mines Network – Rwenzori (All Africa).

Zimbabwe

At a ceremony to provide seven survivors with artificial limbs, the Zimbabwean Defence Minister said the government was looking to add a second demining team to the army and that the government was committed to the global goal of clearing all landmines by 2025 (All Africa).  To boost clearance capacity in Zimbabwe, APOPO and its landmine-detecting rats will soon begin to work in Zimbabwe, joining Norwegian Peoples Aid and the HALO Trust as another humanitarian demining partner (All Africa).

Somalia

To address the country’s widespread contamination by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, Somalia has created its first explosive ordnance disposal and landmine clearance team.  The full scale of contamination is not known, but Security Minister called the team “a big hope for Somalia” (Hiiraan Online, no link).

In Bardere, Somalia security forces seized a cache of weapons from a suspected Al Shabaab member’s house.  The cache included automatic weapons and landmines (Wacaal Media, no link).

In Lamu, Kenya, Al Shabaab fighters briefly seized control of a village and lectured the residents, telling the residents that Al Shabaab would continue to use landmines to fight the Kenyan security forces.  Fear of landmines hindered the local Red Cross’s ability to reach the villagers after Al Shabaab departed (All Africa; All Africa).  In an earlier incident, Al Shabaab killed witnesses who reported a landmine attack that targeted police forces (All Africa).

Al Shabaab’s use of landmines against security forces in Kenya and Somalia has been part of a deliberate asymmetrical campaign that began as the peacekeeping force of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and allied forces from the national government of Somalia, the Kenyan army and the Ethiopian army, drove the Islamists from their safe havens in Somalia.  In earlier posts we’ve written about reports of AMISOM and Somali army units firing indiscriminately into crowds after their vehicles have struck landmines.  This month, AMISOM troops were accused of deliberately entering a home and shooting civilians after their convoy struck a mine in the town of Merka.  At the time, the residents of the home were celebrating a wedding and witnesses accused AMISOM fighters of killing six civilians.  Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation of the incident as AMISOM conducted its own investigation. AMISOM’s investigation led to indictments of the soldiers involved and an apology from AMISOM to the family (Horseed Media; Horseed Media; Horseed Media).

Tunisia

Two soldiers died from their wounds and two others were injured but survived after an engineering unit tried to clear a landmine found between Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine (All Africa).

Nigeria

Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbaio, committed his government to demining the farms and regions that have been liberated from Boko Haram (All Africa). At the same time, an army spokesperson announced that the engineering division was surveying roads and clearing landmines in Borno State (All Africa). Two soldiers were killed and two others seriously wounded during landmine clearance activities in Gudumbali town (The Cable).

Mali

Three Malian soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle struck a mine near the town of Diafarabe in central Mali (Reuters). Two Cambodian peacekeepers assigned to a landmine clearance unit with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured when their vehicle struck a mine near Ansogo in northern Mali (All Africa; Khmer Times).

Sudan

South Sudanese fleeing the civil war in their country have arrived in the disputed region of Abyei as refugees.  The camp used by the refugees is within suspected minefields that have not yet been cleared and the refugees risk danger as they forage for food, water and firewood.  In central Darfur’s Nierteti region, residents have called for landmine and ERW awareness and survey.  According to residents, ERW presents a significant risk in the area and no mine action activities have taken place in over a year (All Africa).

To date, 95 square kilometers in Sudan have been cleared of landmines, but another 30 kilometers remain and much of the remaining landmine to be cleared is in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States (UNMAS).  In Blue Nile state, a truck with several passengers struck a landmine near Jebel Gilda Mol killing five people and injuring five more (Relief Web).

Egypt

Millions of landmines remain in Egypt’s Western Desert dating back from World War II.  The mines, laid by British and German forces, have been a source of contention between the modern day governments with Egypt calling for Britain, especially, to clear the mines laid by its forces.  To force action, a lawsuit has been filed by an individual and Egypt’s Administrative Court has ruled in his favor and ordered Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to call on the British government to take responsibility for the mines and their removal.  The Ministry and the British government are reviewing the court’s order and lawsuit to decide a response (Daily News Egypt).

In addition to the minefields of the Western Desert, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is also heavily contaminated by landmines.  Two members of Egypt’s anti-terrorism unit were killed and three injured by a mine in the Sinai during an operation to try and free a Croatian being held by the local branch of the Islamic State (Eurasia Review).

Senegal

Six months and a lot of political will is all that would be required to finish clearing the landmines in Senegal’s Casamance region according to Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) which has withdrawn from the country in protest towards the government’s unwillingness to meet its clearance obligations.  Many of the mines that remain were laid by the government and not by the rebels.  Government-laid mines are used to protect military positions, but NPA and other humanitarian deminers have not been allowed to speak with representatives of Senegal’s army.  After NPA withdrew, the European Union suspended its funding of humanitarian mine action in the Casamance.  Observers believe that after thirty years of conflict, too many people in the Casamance, from both the government and the rebels, benefit from the continuation of the conflict and the presence of landmines confirms the conflict’s existence (IRIN News).

Algeria

Nearly doubling its pace from the previous month, the Algerian army announced it had cleared more than 7,300 landmines laid by French forces during the colonial period (All Africa).  Good to see some people don’t make excuses.

Michael P. Moore

September 22, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, July 2015

Mine action, including landmine clearance, victim assistance and information collection is an obligation of States that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty.  All too often, countries will ignore one or more of those obligations and this month is no different.  In Senegal, the government has dithered and almost willfully ignored its landmine clearance duties; in Uganda, the government, despite massive donations for reconstruction of the north after the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion, has ignored the basic needs of landmine survivors; and in Angola the government still lacks a precise understanding of its contamination despite a dozen years of data and information gathering.  Interestingly, efforts are underway in each of those countries to try and hold the governments accountable, whether by external actors, the landmine survivors themselves or the national agencies tasked with mine action.  Read on for a few silver linings.

Libya

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees warned about the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war, highlighting their threat to internally displaced persons, the number of whom has doubled since September (All Africa).  In Benghazi, two Libyan soldiers were killed and three others injured by a landmine as the official Libyan army battled elements of the Ansar al-Sharia group (World Bulletin).

Nigeria

Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbaio, visited the northwestern regions of the country affected by the conflict with Boko Haram.  Osinbaio pledged the government would “sweep off” the landmines laid by Boko Haram and demining would receive the “utmost priority” (All Africa).  Not long after Osinbaio’s visit, the army re-opened the road between the capital of Yobe state, Damaturu, and a major commercial centre in Borno state, Biu after clearing four artisanal landmines from the road (Daily Mail).

Kenya

Three people were killed and six more injured when a landmine exploded as a Kenyan police vehicle passed by. The blast, which occurred on the Lamu to Garissa road, was blamed on Al Shabaab and may have been triggered remotely (All Africa).

Angola

The government of Angola is committed to halving the poverty rate and has identified landmine clearance as a key enabler for boosting the agricultural sector (All Africa).  As part of this effort, the National Inter-sectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH) is updating its database of mine-affected areas and areas that have already been cleared of mines.  Angola is half-way through a five-year strategic plan for landmine clearance and is seeking ways to strengthen that plan (All Africa).  To date, some 1.6 billion square meters of land and 619 kilometers of road in northern Angola has been cleared of landmines (All Africa) including 83 of 125 mine-affected areas in Cuanza Norte province (All Africa) and almost 100 kilometers of road in Lunda Sul province just this year (All Africa).

The US Army Research Office has been testing elephants’ ability to detect explosive residue by scent.  During Angola’s civil wars and immediately after, many elephants were injured by landmines, but in the years since, elephants have demonstrated an understanding of where the minefields are and are communicating to each other about where the mines are (NPR).

Egypt

In the Sinai peninsula, Egyptian soldiers were clearing landmines in and around the town of Rafah where Islamist rebels had laid booby traps and mines near the Sheikh Zuwaid police station (New York Times).  In response, the rebels launched an attack on the station and other military posts in the region using more mines and mortar shells (All Africa).  Official estimates of military and rebel casualties from the battles in Sinai are published by the government, but thousands of civilians have also been caught up in the conflict and an unknown number have been killed or injured by mines and other weapons (All Africa).

Sudan

The continuing conflict in southern Sudan has prevented landmine clearance and humanitarian assistance in the region.  The rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has pledged to destroy its stocks of landmines in accordance with Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment (Sudan Tribune). To underscore the issue and the necessity for mine action in the region, five people were killed and 11 more injured when a truck struck a landmine in Sudan’s Blue Nile State (All Africa).

Uganda

A landmine survivors association in Northern Uganda has called upon the Ministry of Health and donor community to increase funding to the referral hospital in Gulu to strengthen the orthopedic department.  The hospital currently lacks the ability to manufacture or repair prosthetic devices for the more than 800 landmine survivors living in the vicinity (All Africa).  The poor quality of existing artificial limbs and the continuing negligence of the government towards landmine survivors and other persons with disability has led the survivors association to pursue legal action and a lawsuit against the government to demand better services and more accountability (Daily Monitor).

Namibia

The United States Navy is working with the Namibian Defence Force to increase Namibia’s capacity to clear explosive remnants of war.  Since 1995, the United States has support landmine clearance and EOD capacity building in Namibia and this month, the United States ambassador handed over $126,000 worth of materials to the Namibian Defence Force (All Africa).

Zimbabwe

Burma Valley, once a densely-mined region on Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique has now been cleared of all landmines by Norwegian Peoples Aid with support from the US and Norwegian governments. While Burma Valley represents only a small portion of the border minefields, it was seen as a priority clearance task due to the high volume of cross-border traffic that passed through the area (News Day).

Senegal

Thousands of landmines remain in Senegal’s Casamance region and while landmine clearance could be completed in six months, the government of Senegal lacks the political will to do so.  Many of the mines in the Casamance were not planted by the rebels as had previously been thought; instead most of the mines were laid by the Senegalese army around military outposts.  The national mine action authority, CNAMS, has been one of the biggest obstructions to mine clearance, preventing humanitarian demining organizations, like Norwegian Peoples Aid from contacting either the army or the rebels to try and determine the location of known minefields.  After a dozen Mechem deminers were kidnapped by one of the rebel factions, CNAMS halted all mine clearance work, except for the re-survey of a road construction project that had already been certified as landmine-free.  In frustration, Norwegian Peoples Aid, one of the leading demining organizations in the world, withdrew from Senegal which prompted the European Union to halt future funding of landmine clearance in Senegal (IRIN News).

South Sudan

Local rhythm and blues favorites, the Jay Family, have agreed to record a song about the dangers of landmines in South Sudan as part of the mine risk education programs of the United Nations and Danish Church Aid (Corporate Weekly).  As part of the victim assistance programming in the country, UNMAS and Handicap International hosted a training on bicycle and small motor repair for landmine survivors through the Yei Vocational Training Centre.  Trainees who developed promising business plans also received some start-up capital (Relief Web).

Mali

Cambodia has contributed a demining team to the United Nations peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, in northern Mali. The team conducts landmine clearance of known and suspected hazardous areas and is responsible for clearing suspicious items found on the roadways of the region.  Since its inception, MINUSMA has been targeted many times with landmines deliberately placed in the paths of convoys (MINUSMA).  One such attack occurred near the town of Kidal, injuring several French soldiers (Lignes Defense).

Tunisia

Three Tunisian soldiers were wounded by a landmine in the Kasserine region on the border with Algeria.  This region has seen many similar landmine explosions over the last couple of years (All Africa).

Michael P. Moore

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

August 29, 2015