The Month in Mines, July 2016

Two stories this month, one from Libya and one from Sudan, remind us of the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).  In Libya, an experienced and knowledgeable deminer was killed in the line of duty; in Sudan some children played with an unexploded munition with tragic results.  Mine risk education is a vital part of mine action, but despite the numerous warnings in Sudan, people, including children, continue to tamper with mines and ERW.  However, even those most aware of the risks of explosive devices can still fall victim to them.  The lesson is this: the sooner all such items are cleared and destroyed, the sooner we can all live a little more securely.  On to the news:

 

Angola

The low price of oil has created a serious economic crisis in Angola. Many government subsidies have been cut as revenues from oil have evaporated.  However, the Minister of Welfare and Social Reintegration stated that programs benefitting some of the most vulnerable Angolans, including landmine clearance, will continue (All Africa).

The deputy governor of Cabinda province, Angola’s hub for oil production, announced that between 2008 and 2015, 2.1 million square meters of land had been cleared of mines, along with 586 kilometers of road (All Africa). In southern Cunene province, 41,000 square meters of land were cleared in the first half of 2016 (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

In areas liberated from Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, returnees are unable to farm their lands for fear of the landmines placed by Boko Haram. This is one of the factors that is creating a famine with two million people needing food aid (All Africa).  In Borno state, personnel from Medicins Sans Frontieres were involved in a landmine incident that went unreported until a Nigerian army convoy was ambushed by Boko Haram in the same area a few days later (Trends).

 

Somalia

Four people were injured in the Kenyan town of Mandera, near the border with Somalia, by a landmine blamed on Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group which has been expanding its geographic reach.  The mine was placed near a communications tower as an ambush (All Africa). After the ambush, Kenyan soldiers were accused of attacking and looting the town of Lafey in retaliation for the death of one of the soldiers during the ambush.  This is one of many incidents in which military forces fighting Al Shabaab have killed or injured civilians, civilians who are just as traumatized by the acts of Al Shabaab (All Africa).

 

Libya

A Libyan deminer, the Chief of Explosives for Operation Dignity in Benghazi, was killed trying to defuse a landmine.  The deminer had previously escaped injury when the car he was in drove over a landmine in May and he had just recently completed a demining course in the United Arab Emirates (Libyan Express).  The Libyan forces, led by General Haftar, have suffered many injuries from landmines laid by retreating Islamists.  Four special forces members were killed by a landmine in Benghazi’s al-Gwarcha district as the army tries to fully control the city (Daily Mail).

 

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe the HALO Trust employs a number of female deminers as part of its equal opportunity policy in hiring.  For many women in the Mukumbura region where the HALO Trust is working, few formal employment opportunities exist and, thanks to the training and focus of the deminers, female deminers can support their families and build houses (News Day).

 

Sudan

Three separate blasts from unexploded ordnance occurred in North Darfur.  In the first, two women were killed and a man injured; the survivor lost his hands and feet in the blast (All Africa). In the second, a farmer was killed when he struck an explosive while plowing his fields (All Africa). In the third, two children were killed and a third injured when they played with a munition and tried to set it on fire (Strategy Page).

 

Continental

The government of the Netherlands committed 45 million euros to landmine clearance.  In Africa, the Dutch will support demining in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan (Netherlands Times).

The British charity, Find A Better Way, sponsored a dozen trauma surgeons from mine-affected countries to attend a seminar at the Imperial College of London to learn about the latest research and advice for treatment of traumatic amputations.  Algeria was among the African nations represented at the seminar (Imperial College of London).

The European Union proposed to shift some development funds to improving the security sector in African and Middle Eastern countries.  According to a EU Commission spokesperson, one of the ways these re-allocated funds could be used is for demining by national armies (CCTV).

 

Michael P. Moore

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

September 6, 2016

 

 

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The Month in Mines, April 2016

April 4th is the International Day of Mine Action and Mine Awareness and there were many celebrations and observances of the day.  The United Nations Mine Action Service has compiled stories and photos here and they are worth checking out.  Some of the stories below came out because of the April 4th observance and the extra attention that day provides to mine action, but all too many stories also reflect the fact that landmines continue to threaten lives and limbs across the Continent.

 

Mali

Three French soldiers serving in Mali as part of a stabilization mission were killed by a landmine in the northern part of the country.  One soldier died immediately while the other two succumbed to their injuries after a day. The soldiers were traveling in a convoy of vehicles from the town of Gao when their vehicle struck a mine (BBC News).

 

Zimbabwe

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued its support of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) through the donation of protective equipment, metal detectors and mine risk education materials.  Since 2012, the ICRC has been the primary sponsor and support of ZIMAC which is responsible for clearing landmines from Zimbabwe’s national park lands; the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) are clearing other parts of the country.  The government of Zimbabwe intends to expand the demining capacity in the country with the addition of two more clearance organizations (one of which will be APOPO with its Hero Rats) and a second demining squadron from the national army.  Some 62 million square meters of minefield remain in Zimbabwe and 35 cattle have been killed along with 250 wild animals in the most recent rainy season.  No mention was made of human casualties (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Angola

In Huambo Province, landmine clearance by the National Demining Institute continues.  So far this year, a dozen landmines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance have been cleared and destroyed (All Africa).

 

Uganda

The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to impact northern Uganda a decade after the group was forced out of the country.  Over 85 hand grenades have been discovered in hidden caches and authorities have called on residents to report any suspicious items they might find (All Africa).

 

Nigeria & Cameroon

An operation launched against Boko Haram led to the arrests of over 300 rebels and the liberation of 2,000 hostages.  The operation destroyed Boko Haram infrastructure, but without some costs.  At least six Cameroonian soldiers were injured by a landmine (Voice of America).  Following the operation, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo visited northeastern Nigeria to observe the progress.  Obasanjo said that the local governor intends to return all internally displaced people to their homes by the end of the year and the government will provide returnees with livestock.  Obasanjo also said of the region, “Fortunately, there are no land mines in the fields,” so returnees will be able to farm their lands (Voice of America).  Obasanjo’s words proved be wrong as landmines killed five farmers in Yobe state and injured nine others as they were clearing their fields for planting.  The blasts occurred less than two weeks after the farmers had returned to their homes (Y Naija).  In response to the blast, the Nigerian military spokesperson warned the general public that Boko Haram had mined the farm fields, cutting short Mr. Obasanjo’s message of hope (All Africa).

 

Mozambique

The trial of four former employees of the National Demining Institute began in Maputo.  Over the course of two years beginning in 2009, the employees, all members of the Administration and Finance Department, defrauded the government of about 250,000 meticais (~US $5,000) by issuing airline tickets to their family members (All Africa).

 

Sudan

Three members of the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), a paramilitary group affiliated with the national army, were killed and several others injured by a landmine at a checkpoint in South Kordofan state.  Fighting in South Kordofan between the government and rebels has intensified recently (Radio Tamazuj).

In Darfur, members of a UN Security Council monitoring group reported the presence of RBK-500 cluster bombs at one of the government’s air bases.  Sudan had previously declared that it did not possess any cluster munitions, but the group’s findings dispute that (Reuters).

 

Algeria

Eight million anti-personnel landmines laid by the French during the colonial era have been cleared by the Algerian army. This report was made in conjunction with the observance of the International Day for Mine Action and Awareness (KUNA).  At another observance event, focusing on the victims of anti-personnel mines, a lawyer working with Algerian civil society called for the amendment of the Mine Ban Treaty to hold the countries that laid the mines responsible for their clearance (Ennahar).  This argument is often used by Egypt as an excuse to remain outside of the Treaty because a significant number of the landmines in Egypt were laid by Britain and Germany during World War II.  However, the Mine Ban Treaty’s cooperation clause responds to this very issue.

 

South Sudan

The civil war in South Sudan that erupted in December 2013 has set back demining activities in the country.  When South Sudan acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty after independence 2011, the government believed it would be landmine free by 2020 and while substantial mine clearance has continued throughout the conflict, the use of new mines and the restrictions on access to mine affected areas means that more time will be needed to finish the job (Shanghai Daily).

South Sudan’s war has been very dangerous for humanitarian workers.  In Yei state, seven employees of the Danish Demining Group were ambushed on their way to the minefields that they were clearing. Two local employees were shot and killed during the ambush and the other five managed to escape.  The killers remain at large.  In response to the attack, Danish Demining Group has suspended all operations in Yei indefinitely (Copenhagen Post; Copenhagen Post).

 

Morocco

Between 1975 and 2012, 831 people were killed and 1705 people injured by landmines in Morocco.  These figures were released by Moroccan authorities.  In addition to the human casualties, livestock and native species, like the fennec fox, have been killed (Moroccan Times).

 

Western Sahara

As part of the local observance of the International Day of Mine Action and Mine Awareness, leaders in Western Sahara called for the removal of the Moroccan-built berm which divides the territory and includes millions of landmines.  Awareness raising activities also took place and representatives from the Chahid Cherif center noted that 151 survivors of landmines were receiving assistance at the center (All Africa).

 

Libya

Derna Shura fighters are using landmines to fight against Islamic State militants in the eastern Libyan city (Libya Observer).  In Benghazi, three Libyan soldiers were killed and eight others wounded by a landmine attributed to Islamic State (Arabs Today).

 

Somalia

In Marka town, a landmine placed in the center of the town claimed one life and injured another when a car drove over the mine in the middle of the night (Goobjoog News, no link). In the central region of Galgaduud, three children found a piece of unexploded ordnance and started to play with it.  All three were injured when the item exploded (Goobjoog News, no link).

 

Michael P. Moore

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

May 6, 2016

 


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, 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, 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, November 2015

Religion comes up surprisingly often in this blog about landmines.  This month’s news roundup includes several Islamist groups and mentions of two Popes.  I think this has more to do with the actors in the conflicts along the Sahel (and Pope Francis’s extraordinary visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic), than anything else, but I would like to hear others’ opinions.  We frequently attribute landmine use to Islamist groups in Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and I often wonder if they get a disproportionate share of the blame.  Are some of the mine accidents attributed to these groups placed by non-Islamist groups or remnants from previous conflicts that had no specific religious ties?  If I knew, I would certainly attribute correctly.

 

Nigeria

The Nigerian Army claimed to have encountered many landmines left by Boko Haram as the Army cleared areas of northeastern Nigeria that had been held by the Islamist group.  The presence of landmines has been confirmed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the landmines have hindered the delivery of humanitarian assistance (All Africa). With the expulsion of Boko Haram, Nigerian legislators from the region have called upon the Nigerian Army to prioritize the clearance of landmines and other unexploded ordnance to allow displaced persons to return to their homes.  The legislators also sought assistance for victims of landmines (All Africa; Channels TV).

 

Uganda

The visit of Pope Francis to Uganda, part of a three-nation visit on the African continent, has led to reminiscences of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Uganda in 1993.  Included in John Paul II’s itinerary was Uganda’s western district of Kasese which in 1993 was contaminated with landmines remaining from the 1979 invasion by Tanzanian forces to oust Idi Amin (All Africa).  Fortunately, Uganda has cleared all of its known minefields so Pope Francis’s visit did not cause the concern that John Paul II’s had done.

 

Kenya

In Kenya, Pope Francis’s visit was preceded by a landmine blast in the northeast of the country, along the border with Somalia.  According to Kenyan media, five Kenyan soldiers were wounded by a landmine planted in the roadway during a patrol (Standard Media).  However, Al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the blast, said at least eight Kenyan soldiers were killed in the attack (All Africa).  I’m not giving too much credibility to Al Shabaab’s claims, but think it is important to highlight that despite all of the efforts against the group, Al Shabaab continues to control significant portions of Somalia and in addition to its operation capacity, the group maintains a robust media function.  Defeating a group like Al Shabaab will require not just military measures, but also social actions to prevent the group from being able to communicate with its intended audience.  The inflation of casualties by Al Shabaab can be seen as an attempt to further show the group’s strength.

A child was injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance in Wamba.  The boy, a herder, wandered into an area in which British and Kenyan troops had been engaged in live-fire exercises.  After his injuries, the boy was evacuated to a regional referral hospital for surgery.  The evacuation was seen by some as an attempt to cover-up the injury, but the British Army commander has committed to cover all costs of care (All Africa).

 

Somalia

Mine action employees face a number of risks associated with their profession, most specifically from the mines that deminers clear.  In Senegal and Afghanistan, deminers have been kidnapped and held hostage and some have been killed.  However, Somalia poses its own threats.  A few years ago a mine risk educator was kidnapped and held by pirate factions until her rescue by US special forces.  This month, a United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) employee was killed in an apparent murder-for-hire scheme after the UNMAS employee got into an argument with the governor of Beledweyne region.  The governor and UNMAS employee were from different clans which may have complicated their relationship (Hiiraan Online, no link).

 

Mali

Four days after the assault on the Radisson hotel in the capital Bamako, a United Nations peacekeeper was killed near Timbuktu by a landmine planted in the road.  The peacekeeper was part of a convoy.  No word on any other injuries (Reuters).

 

Angola

750,000 square meters of land, contaminated by over 700 explosive remnants of war, including anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, has been cleared so far this year in Menongue, the capitol of Angola’s Kuando Kubango province.  The cleared land will be used to build houses for area residents (All Africa).

In Huila province, over a thousand kilometers of roads have been cleared in the last decade and over 127,000 explosive remnants of war were destroyed in the process. Also, nearly 2,000 persons with disabilities, including landmine survivors, benefited from social reintegration programs (All Africa).

 

Algeria

Between September and October, Algerian army engineering units cleared and destroyed more than 12,000 landmines dating back to the French colonial period.  In total, more than 800,000 mines have been cleared to date (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Egypt

The Sinai Peninsula continues to be flash point for an Islamist insurgency that arose after the military overthrew Mohamed Morsi’s government.  Near Arish, a group of Islamist gunmen attacked a family killing several members and when one member of the family rushed to the scene to try and help his relatives, he drove over a landmine, killing himself and a child (News 24). In Sheikh Zuwaid, two Bedouins, a mother and her child, were killed by a landmine supposedly planted to target Egyptian military forces (Al Bawaba).

 

Libya

The charges against Saadi Gaddafi, son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, will likely include the distribution and use of landmines in defense of his father’s regime in 2011. Other charges include terrorism and the murder of the coach of Tripoli’s Al-Ittihad football club (Middle East Eye).  Dealing with those landmines is a priority for many organizations.  The Libyan Mine Action Center, with the support of UNMAS, will conduct an assessment of the Tawrgha neighborhood of Misrata and provide mine risk awareness to the residents (Relief Web).  In Benghazi, several Libyan soldiers were killed by landmines placed by Islamist groups as the soldiers advanced on positions in around the city (AFP).  And in Derna, three Islamic State members died when karma struck and they drove over a landmine placed other Islamic State members (Libya Observer).

 

Western Sahara

Serious flooding on both sides of the Moroccan-built berm in Western Sahara has likely displaced some of the millions of landmines that lie along the berm.  Plastic and other minimal-metal mines are prone to moving during floods and once the waters recede, mine action organizations will need to assess the likelihood that minefields have been disturbed (ICBL).

 

Sudan

Three children in North Darfur were killed by a grenade that they found and began to play with. Two other children were injured (Radio Dabanga). In the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, a man was killed and his wife maimed when the donkey he was riding on stepped on or kicked a piece of unexploded ordnance (Radio Dabanga).

 

Zimbabwe

To end on a piece of good news, Norwegian Peoples Aid announced that they have cleared their 1,000th landmine along Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique.  Hundreds of thousands of mines remain to be cleared by NPA is making good progress and looking to shift to new work sites (NPA).

 

Michael P. Moore

December 18, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org