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.
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).
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).
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).
Five people were injured, one seriously, when a Moroccan man kicked a landmine in the southern city of Laayoune (Morocco World News).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
Three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine when their convoy struck the mine near the northern city of Gao (Sahelien).
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.
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).
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).
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).
A member of a military engineering group was injured by a landmine during clearance and destruction near Jebel Ouergha in Kef (Mosaique FM).
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).
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 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:
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).
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).
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).
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).
A flock of sheep set of a landmine in El Kef. No other casualties were reported (All Africa).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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
Every year, the First Committee of the United Nations meets to discuss disarmament issues. Among the topics covered this year were nuclear disarmament, the Conference on Disarmament and universalization of existing disarmament treaties including the Mine Ban Treaty. As part of the proceedings, the First Committee approved a draft resolution (document A/C. 1/67/L/8) entitled “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction” by a vote of 152 states in favor, none against and 19 abstaining. The draft resolution supports the universalization of the Mine Ban and “call upon all States and other relevant parties to work together to promote, support and advance the care, rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of mine victims, mine risk education programmes and the removal and destruction of anti-personnel mines placed or stockpiled throughout the world.”
To date, three African countries, Egypt, Libya and Morocco have refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty and all three made statements during the discussions of the draft resolution that provides insight into their positions and why they have remained outside the treaty regime.
From a press release issued by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs on November 5, 2012 (UNODA).
Morocco voted in favor of the draft resolution to support the humanitarian goals of the Treaty. Morocco supports the concepts of the Treaty and provides funds for victim assistance domestically and funds to neighboring states to support mine action. Morocco also participates in meetings of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.
Sounds nice, right? But no mention of the extensive minefields maintained by Morocco in Western Sahara which would need to be dismantled if Morocco acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. In this way, Morocco is like Iran which argued that “landmines remained an effective means for certain countries to ensure their security and to protect civilians.” Only a political solution to the Western Sahara question would eliminate Morocco’s perception that it needs to use landmines for national protection.
Egypt was one of the 19 countries that abstained from the vote on the draft resolution. Egypt said that the Mine Ban Treaty does not enjoy international consensus and was negotiated outside of the United Nations framework; only the latter of which is true as demonstrated by the fact that no country voted against the draft resolution. Egypt also argued that “countries with long borders” have a legitimate military use for landmines to protect national security and those national security interests outweigh the humanitarian concerns, which Egypt feels are over-emphasized in the Treaty. Egypt also argued that the Treaty does not require states which lay landmines to clear those landmines, instead the state in possession of the territory on which the mines are found is responsible for mine clearance. Egypt argues that Germany and the United Kingdom which laid millions of mines on Egyptian soil during World War II should be responsible for clearing those mines and as long as the Treaty does not force them to do so, Egypt will not accede.
Libya also abstained from the vote on the draft resolution, reiterating Egypt’s position that the Treaty does not force states that lay landmines to clear them and noting that German and British forces also used landmines in Libya in World War II. Libyan representatives did say that they were “keen” to participate as an observer in meetings of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and recognized the “human suffering” caused by landmines. Interestingly, no mention was made of the recent use of landmines by Gaddhafi’s forces during the 2011 rebellion in Libya, but Libya did report it had co-hosted a workshop on landmines with the Canadian government.
Lastly, and almost completely unrelated to the draft resolution, Tanzania mentioned its partnership with APOPO which uses Giant Pouched Rats to find landmines. The representative “expressed hope that all people of good will would take a look at that method, which was worthy of consideration.”
Michael P. Moore, November 10, 2012