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

 

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The Month in Mines, October 2015

We have tended not to cover cluster munitions as a specific topic here at Landmines in Africa. That decision has been based on the fact that cluster munitions have historically been less of an issue in Africa than elsewhere (e.g., Lebanon, Kosovo, Laos and too many other places).  However, cluster bombs have been recently used in Libya, Sudan and South Sudan and as you will see in the stories below, possibly in Nigeria.  Further in the past, cluster munitions contamination in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe dates back to the liberation wars and civil wars in those countries.  In Somalia this month, the government acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans these weapons, becoming the 97th country to do so (Horseed Media).  African nations played a key role in the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and we’ll be keeping a closer eye on these weapons going forward.

 

Angola

In Luanda Angolan authorities seized 14 landmines in the course of a series of arrests as the capital city witnessed a spasm of violent crime (All Africa). In Cuando Cubango, authorities collected another three landmines from citizens as part of a voluntary disarmament program (All Africa).  In Bie Province, almost nine thousand people have received mine risk awareness messages since the start of the year (All Africa).  To address the country’s mine clearance needs, 36 deminers have been trained and deployed to Cunene province where at least one mine incident occurred in June (All Africa) and 18 security and police personnel participated in a course on the management of humanitarian disarmament activities (All Africa).

Landmines also feature in Angola’s foreign affairs. Botswana’s president, Seretse Khama, traveled to Angola and discussed with Angolan officials the development of a trans frontier park for wildlife and the care of many Angolan elephants who migrated to Botswana to escape the landmines planted during Angola’s wars (All Africa).  During a visit to Japan, Angola’s minister of Welfare and Social Reintegration met with leaders from the Japanese Mine Action Service which clears landmines in Bengo province (All Africa).

 

Somalia

A landmine killed one soldier and wounded another in Afgoye Town’s animal market (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

The Nigerian army discovered several caches of cluster bombs in Adamawa State as the military continued its pursuit of Boko Haram.  The army then warned residents to be on the lookout for other caches (All Africa).  Later analysis of the cluster bombs confirmed that the Nigerian army had found French-made BLG-66 (“Beluga”) munitions which can only be used from aircraft which Boko Haram does not possess.  In fact, the Cluster Munition Coalition suggests that the found cluster munitions had originated with the Nigerian army and had somehow found their way into Boko Haram’s hands.  Boko Haram could use the bomblets as part of an improvised explosive device, but evidence points to the weapons’ origin as being with the national army (All Africa).  If such is the case, then the Nigerian army needs to explain how its own weapons could be found in areas controlled by Boko Haram.

Also, outside of the Boko Haram conflict zone in northeastern Nigeria, the army is operating in central Plateau State where a simmering conflict between the Berom and Fulani ethnic groups is spreading.  The army discovered several landmines in a road near the village of Gyambus (All Africa).

Abandoned and unexploded ordnance dating back to the Biafra War of the 1960s continues to plague Nigeria.  The government just settled a case brought by several individuals who sued the government, alleging that the government had failed to clear landmines and abandoned caches of explosives from residential areas.  Specifically, the suit sought to have the abandoned stockpile in a residential neighborhood of Owerri in Imo State violated the human rights of the persons living there.  The final settlement of the case will be made in January 2016 (All Africa).

 

Egypt

During an illegal hunting trip in a natural reserve in Egypt’s Red Sea governorate, a car drove over a landmine likely dating to the late 1960s killing one hunter and wounding another.  The men intended to use falcons to hunt in the area which is popular for the activities despite its being banned.  According to the director of the Cairo-based landmines struggle center, landmine clearance only takes place in Egypt if there is a significant financial incentive to do.  No word on the conditions of the falcon (Cairo Post; All Africa).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Safe Schools Declaration seeks commitments from nations and their armies to avoid using schools for any military activities.  In one school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the army had occupied the school’s buildings for a period and then dumped unused explosives into the latrines which had to be cleared by demining teams before the school could be re-opened for its intended purpose (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

While Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, was in India, the acting president, Phelekeleza Mphoko, visited the Gonakudzingwa Restriction Camp in Gonarezhou National Park.  The Camp had been used by the Rhodesian government to isolate nationalist leaders like Joshua Nkomo during the liberation war.  The area around the Camp, like much of Gonarezhou, is contaminated with landmines which limits access to the site.  Mphoko called for clearance of the mines and restoration of the Camp as a museum (All Africa).

 

Mali

A civilian convoy was attacked by “terrorists” who used rocket launchers and small arms to kill six people and would at least two.  The convoy was under the protection of security forces and the attack began when one of the vehicles struck a landmine planted in the road (Press TV).  In another incident, three civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine and two of the United Nations peacekeepers who arrived on the scene were injured by a second mine.  The mines were located near the United Nations base at Tessalit near Kidal (Reuters).  In a third incident, three French special forces operators were injured in an unspecified area of northern Mali (Agence France Presse).

 

Uganda

The Orthopedic Workshop at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, originally set up to respond to the needs of landmine survivors in northern Uganda, is unable to meet the demands of its clients.  Each month 30 patients come to the Workshop seeking prosthetic limbs and orthotic appliances but no one has received any items since June when the Workshop’s funding ran out.  Supported by the Italian NGO AVSI, the Workshop does not appear to receive any funds from the government and the cost of prosthetics and orthotics is prohibitive to its clients (Uganda Radio Network).  The Ugandan government must step in and provide the support it has committed to give under the Mine Ban Treaty and other agreements.

 

Mozambique

In 2007 an explosion ripped through an ammunition depot in Mozambique’s capitol Maputo setting off a chain reaction of explosions that killed more than a hundred people and injured another 500.  Ordnance remains at the depot even today, but plans are in place to clear the unexploded ordnance and create a public park on the site.  APOPO and the HALO Trust will work together to make the site safe for its transformation into a multifunction space that includes a zoo, a water park and camp ground (US News and World Report).

 

Somaliland

The German Deputy Ambassador to Somalia visited the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland and observed the German-funded work of the HALO Trust which is clearing minefields near the Ethiopian border.  The Deputy Ambassador also met with trainees who will soon be conducting the first comprehensive survey of Somaliland’s minefields as well as other German-funded development initiatives in the region (Somaliland Press).

 

Cameroon

The US Army Africa Command (AFRICOM) is providing a number of landmine-detecting vehicles to the Cameroon army in response to the threat of mines placed by Boko Haram.  The vehicles would also protect soldiers from explosions should the vehicles miss a mine (Voice of America).

 

Libya

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and United Nations Support Mission in Libya have trained 15 Libyans (14 men and one woman) in non-technical survey to enhance the capacity of Libya to assess the contamination of the country from landmines and explosive remnants of war.  The ongoing civil war in the country will limit the extent to which this training can be used (UNSMIL).

 

South Sudan

The UNMAS chief in South Sudan told reporters that 12 million square meters of land in South Sudan has been cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war.  Despite the ongoing conflict, some 2,800 villages have been surveyed and the residents educated on risk awareness.  He did note that there is the possibility of some residual contamination in Juba and other areas that have been cleared and South Sudanese should report any items they discover (The Niles).

 

Algeria

15 anti-personnel landmines were seized by the Algerian army along with a number of other items from smuggling groups that had been trafficking people and contraband (All Africa).

 

China in Africa

China has committed to providing US $100 million in military aid to the African Union standby force and will provide support to 10 landmine clearance programs in Africa.  The exact countries to be supported were not announced, but will likely be in countries of strategic interest to China (News Day).

 

Michael P. Moore

November 20, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


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


The Month in Mines, March 2015

Since this blog started almost four years ago, we’ve documented possible new use of landmines in Tunisia, Mali and Libya.  This month there are allegations of new use of mines in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan and cluster munition use in Libya.  Sadly, these allegations are probably true and more reflective of the fact that conflict appears to be increasing on the continent.  Across north Africa and the Sahel, conflicts are becoming more entrenched as the Arab Spring revolutions spark counter-revolutions.  This blog, by the very nature of its subject, tends toward a “heart of darkness” narrative for the continent, but don’t let that dissuade you.  We are eternal optimists here.  Despite the Boko Haram rebellion in Nigeria, March witnessed a peaceful and democratic transition of power.  Tunisia continues to strengthen the institutions of democracy.  In Somalia, there are calls for the hosting of international football matches and demands by the national football association that peacekeeping forces vacate the national stadium in Mogadishu to allow this.  There is much more good news coming from the continent than bad, but the landmine story is one of positives and negatives, as this month’s reports show.

Nigeria

The Nigerian armed forces, along with those of Cameroon, Niger and Chad, have moved against the Boko Haram insurgency which is based in the northwest of the country, near Nigeria’s borders with the other countries in the coalition.  The military actions have sparked massive displacement of civilians from the region.  50,000 people in Niger have been displaced, including the majority of the population of the town of Bosso, who remain displaced due to the presence of landmines in the town (All Africa).  In the town of Diffa, two Nigerien soldiers were killed and a third injured by a Boko Haram-placed landmine (Reuters). In Kolofata in Cameroon, Boko Haram has been placing landmines in the roadways to prevent movement by Cameroonian forces.  Cameroon’s military possesses mine detection gear and training obtained from both the United States and Russia, but that has not prevented some landmine casualties to date (Voice of America).

In Nigeria itself, the displaced of Borno state are being advised against returning to their homes.  Authorities have accused Boko Haram of planting landmines in public places and poisoning water sources and those authorities have called for clearing of mines and testing of water sources to ensure safety before the displaced are allowed to return (This Day Live; All Africa).  This process will take some months, long after the elections which were delayed in order for the Nigerian military to take the offensive.  To participate in the national elections, the state governments would need to open polling at the displacement camps, some of which are in Niger (All Africa).

Angola

In Angola’s Cunene province, 95 explosive devices, including landmines were cleared between September 2014 and February 2015.  The clearance organization also called for more survey work to determine the scale of contamination (All Africa).  This work was part of the 5.3 million square meters of Cunene cleared of landmines in 2014; an activity the government calls crucial for agriculture and development (All Africa).  And just as demining is crucial for agriculture, peace is crucial for demining and in 2015, the continued peace in Cunene province will allow an estimated 18.9 million square meters to be cleared of mines (All Africa).  In Bie province, the end of the rainy season signals the start of the demining season, which allows for infrastructure development (All Africa).  In Cuando Cubango province, the HALO Trust reflected upon more than a dozen years of work and celebrated the 27th anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, one of the largest and last conventional battles fought in sub-Saharan Africa.  In the course of their labors in the province, the HALO Trust has cleared more than 31,000 anti-personnel landmines and 13,000 anti-tank landmines (All Africa).

Libya

A few months ago, we reported on the confirmed new use of landmines in Libya (Landmines in Africa).  In March, Human Rights Watch reported on the evidence that cluster munitions have also been used on at least two occasions in Libya since the start of the current conflict.  The munitions were discovered by militias associated with the Libya Dawn alliance which is fighting against the Libya Dignity alliance led by General Haftar.  Haftar and Libya Dignity are associated with the officially recognized government of Libya and have received support in the form of airstrikes from Egyptian forces.  Libya Dawn accused the Libyan air force of using cluster munitions, but, of course, the Libyan air force has denied possessing the weapons (All Africa).

Western Sahara

In the desert on the western (liberated) side of the berm in Western Sahara, a shepherd was killed by a cluster munition when it detonated (Sahara Press Service).  This was just one of the 2,500 landmines and UXO casualties in Western Sahara over the last 40 years.  In partial response, the Polisario Front, which is the official government of the Sahrawi people, destroyed a stockpile of anti-personnel landmines in March in accordance with its pledges under the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment.  Over the last decade, the Polisario Front has destroyed more than 10,000 stockpiled mines (Geneva Call).

Sudan

In North Darfur, four children were killed and another five injured as they played with and attempted to set fire to a piece of unexploded ordnance they found. In the disputed province of Abyei, four more children were killed by a landmine while they were out hunting (Radio Dabanga).  Also in Darfur, five militia men aligned with the government in Khartoum were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine near Jebel Marra (All Africa).

Zambia

Zambian forces will be contributing peacekeepers to the UN mission in the Central African Republic and have received a donation of landmine detection and clearance equipment from the United States (All Africa).

Tunisia

Near the Libyan border, Tunisian forces seized an arms cache that included machine guns, rockets and landmines (Al Arabiya).  Along the Algerian border, where the government has been fighting Islamists for many months, one Tunisian soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine. The landmine was attributed to those same Islamists who have also been responsible for many similar incidents (Reuters).

Somalia

The government of Japan is one of the largest donors to mine action and in March announced a US $3 million contribution for work in Somalia to include clearance, capacity building for the Somali Explosive Management Authority and a survey of hazards along the Somalia-Ethiopia border (Mareeg).  In the coastal town of Marca, the African Union peacekeeping force was targeted by a landmine which killed at least two civilians.  In the aftermath of the blast, peacekeepers also fired indiscriminately on persons in the area, likely causing further casualties (All Africa).  In Bay region, five Al Shabaab members died when the landmine they were attempting to plant in the roadway detonated (Wacaal Media).

Egypt

In the Sinai peninsula, three Egyptian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine placed in the road (News 24).

South Sudan

Seven people were killed and a child injured when an unsecured stockpile of munitions detonated in Unity State.  Doctors without Borders warned of other stockpiles in the region from fighting between the government and rebels in 2014 (New York Times).

A spokesperson for the rebels, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), Col. Ngundeng, accused the South Sudan government and its army of using landmines supplied by Uganda.  The accusations, which state that the South Sudan army is using anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines, would represent a significant violation of the Mine Ban Treaty and Col. Ngundeng noted that several civilians have been injured by the weapons (Nyamilepedia). The accusations were given credibility when the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which is tasked with monitoring the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed between the rebels and the government, quoted an officer from the South Sudan army as saying that South Sudan has used anti-personnel landmines around Nassir town in Upper Nile State.  The government refuted the statement by the soldier, and called for external observers but the security situation does not allow for such a mission at this time (Bloomberg).

Senegal

Vermont National Guard members helped build a training facility for landmine clearance in Senegal as part of a continuing partnership between the Vermont Guard and the Senegalese army (US Army).

Mali

Three members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist movement in Mali, were killed by a landmine near Kidal (Reuters).  Also in northern Mali, two French soldiers were injured when their vehicle struck a mine (All Africa).  In the Malian capitol, Bamako, deminers working for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali were killed when a gunman opened fire on a nightclub, killing five people and injuring at least eight.  The attack targeted foreigners in the country with French, Belgian and Swiss among the casualties (News 24).

Uganda

Landmine survivors in northern Uganda have been offered vocational training to enable them to provide for themselves.  The Uganda Landmine Survivors Association, with support from Britain’s Department for International Development, offered training in hair dressing, knitting and metal fabrication, the result of which has been that at least four survivors now have the capacity to support themselves and their families (Acholi Times).

Michael P. Moore

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

April 28, 2015


The Month in Mines, January 2015

New years always dawn with promise and 2015 is no different.  Last year, the parties to the Mine Ban Treaty re-committed to clearing all known minefields by 2025 and efforts this year will go a long way to seeing if that commitment can be met.  We also look forward to Mozambique’s declaration that it is landmine-free this year.  On the other side of the ledger, conflicts in Sudan, Libya, South Sudan, Mali and Somalia hold the threat of new landmine use while countries like Angola, Zimbabwe and Chad face long odds of meeting their current deadlines for landmine clearance.

Sudan

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) which is fighting against the regime in Sudan has signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment and pledged to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel landmines.  The SPLM-N also calls on the government of Sudan and the international community to assist with the demining of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  In both statements (All Africa; Radio Dabanga), SPLM-N suggests new usage of anti-personnel mines by Sudan, which would be a violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Sudan claimed to have destroyed any stockpiled mines in 2008 (The Monitor), while SPLM-N claims to have captured mines from Sudanese forces in the last four years and claims Sudan laid mines in South Kordofan and Blue Nile in that same period.

In North Darfur, three people and their donkeys were killed when they struck a piece of unexploded ordnance.  The areas around East Jebel Marra where the incident occurred had been subject to fighting between Sudan Armed Forces and allied militia and rebel groups (Star Africa).

Somalia

The United States government is giving 20 mine-resistant vehicles, MRAPS, to Burundian and Ugandan forces serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) (Stars and Stripes).  Somalia routinely sees several explosive incidents each month, necessitating the use of mine-resistant vehicles by peacekeepers. Unfortunately, many civilians are also killed and injured by mines and explosive weapons and they will no benefit from the MRAPS.

Five people, a guard and four teachers from Kenya, were killed by a mine or IED targeting their vehicle in the central Somali city of Galkayo (All Africa).  In Kismayo in southern Somalia, two soldiers were killed and four civilians injured by a mine and the Juba region police arrested “many people” for the attack as part of a massive security sweep (Al Shahid).  In Mogadishu, two people were killed and three others injured by a landmine (All Africa).  Two children were killed and a third injured by a mine they were playing with near Bula-Burte town (Radio Bar-kulan).  Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a landmine attack in Mogadishu that killed a district commissioner and two bodyguards and injured two people near the scene (Anadolu Agency).

Mozambique

Once the most mined province in Mozambique, with 85 percent of the mines found in the country, the western province of Tete has been declared free of landmines.  Five million square meters and almost 75,000 landmines have been cleared, leaving just 5 of Mozambique’s 128 districts to be cleared of landmines before the whole country is mine-free (All Africa).

One of the biggest obstacles to clearing the mines in Mozambique has been simply knowing where they are.  Four major surveys of Mozambique’s minefields have been undertaken over the last 20 years with at least one of those surveys grossly over-estimating the landmine contamination and another grossly under-estimating it.  These surveys have led to years of wasted efforts on the part of humanitarian deminers who cleared land that didn’t need it while missing land that did.  Fortunately, accumulated knowledge and experience means that the extent of the problem is well-known now and accurate record-keeping means that deminers have documented the work completed and the work yet to be done.  So when Mozambique declares the last mine cleared later this year, we can believe the claim (Global Post).

Angola

The government of Japan donated US $180,000 to Angola for survey in Huila province and expansion of a health post in Luanda to support survivors (All Africa).  In 2014, some 5.3 million square meters of land in Cunene province were cleared of mines (All Africa).  The demining specialists in Cunene province recently completed a training program to increase their capacity (All Africa).

Landmines continue to plague Angola’s portion of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.  Despite the presence of these mines, wildlife from Botswana have migrated to Angola with no reported injuries to date (Star Africa).

Western Sahara

One person was killed and three others injured by a landmine near the mine-riddled berm placed by Morocco dividing Western Sahara as they were herding their livestock (All Africa).

Uganda

With funding from Canada, researchers at Christian Blind Mission will pilot the use of 3-D printing to develop sockets for the fitting of prosthetic limbs for amputees (All Africa).

Egypt

A boy was killed and three others injured by a landmine in the Sinai peninsula (Ahram).

Mali

Six Nigerien peacekeepers with the MINUSMA contingent were injured by a landmine in northern Mali, near Gao (Star Africa).  Seven Senegalese peacekeepers were injured by a mine near Kidal (Reuters). These casualties are a continuation of the wave of landmine casualties experienced by peacekeepers in Mali, over 100 in 2014 alone.  The UN has bought several mine-resistant vehicles for use by the peacekeepers, but delivery of those vehicles is too late for so many (Janes).

MINUSMA also found two landmines in Gao which were destroyed before they injured anyone (Studio Tamani). The Tuareg militia, MNLA, arrested four people who had a dozen landmines and were suspected of planning attacks (MNLA).

Zimbabwe

Rainy season in Zimbabwe has spurred the police to mount an awareness campaign to discourage people from tampering with suspicious items, including landmines which may get displaced during flooding (All Africa).

Libya

Fifteen tons of unexploded and abandoned ordnance was destroyed after clashes in the Hira area south of Tripoli.  The Libyan Demining Centre and the Military Engineering College partnered to dispose of the items (LANA).

Algeria

3,661 landmines were cleared in December 2014 bringing the total number cleared for the decade 2004 – 2014 to 758,607.  Most mines in Algeria date to the liberation war of the 1950s and 1960s, but additional mines were laid during the civil war in the early 1990s.  If the government can clear 4.9 linear kilometers of the remaining minefields along the country’s border, then Algeria should be able to meet its April 2017 clearance deadline (Defence Web).

South Sudan

In the recent conflict in South Sudan, anti-tank mines were reportedly laid and from the civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence, anti-personnel and anti-tank mine were used. In January, Unity State began the process of clearing the landmines from the most recent conflict to enable persons displaced by the conflict to return to their homes (Talk of Sudan).

Michael P. Moore

February 18, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, November 2014

As part of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee (covering “Peace and Security”), the member states voted on a resolution, “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction” (the Mine Ban Treaty) which was sponsored by Algeria, Mozambique and Belgium (the past, present and incoming Presidents of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, respectively).  The vote, on November 3, 2014, reflects the overwhelming support the Treaty has in the international community with 160 states voting for the Treaty and none against.  However, 17 states abstained from the vote, including one African state, Egypt, and the United States which had previously indicated its interest in eventually acceding to the treaty.  Libya, which is not a party to the Treaty, voted for the resolution in a show of its support for the humanitarian aims, a stance which the United States could have followed.  Instead, by abstaining, the United States allowed other states, notably North Korea, to also abstain.

Enough about the “United” Nations…

 

Angola

In Angola, the government has identified demining as a key step in national development.  In 2015 US $20 million will be spent on landmine clearance from the European Union and the funds will be used by national and international organizations.  Along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Norwegian Peoples Aid will clear some 490,000 square meters (All Africa).  Elsewhere, 46,000 square meters of the central Huambo province were cleared by a national organization between September and November and the land turned over to the community for agriculture (All Africa).  The focus on demining for development has allowed the construction of dams and power stations, right-of-ways for roads and fiber-optic cables, and some 185 million square meters of agricultural land to date (All Africa).  However, because all land in Angola is owned by the state, land reform must accompany demining.  Otherwise, some fear that heavily mined areas will be turned over to extraction industries and agricultural land will be made available to foreign corporations and not Angolan subsistence farmers.  In Cuito Cuanavale, the most mined area in Angola (and that’s really saying something), the HALO Trust estimates that after a decade of work, yet another decade will be needed to clear the minefields and in the meantime, the local residents will not have access to farms.  The result is food insecurity in what should be a breadbasket but the food insecurity will not be solved when then mines are cleared if the land reform issues is not also addressed (The Guardian).

 

Zimbabwe

Two stories show the limitations of landmine survivor assistance services in Zimbabwe.  The HALO Trust has recently provided eight prosthetic limbs to landmine survivors living along the northwestern border of the country.  One of the survivors was forced to fashion his own prosthetic, essentially a peg leg, because professionally-produced limbs were not available.  In the rainy season, the survivor could not tend his fields as the home-made prosthetic would get stuck in the mud.  Now, with a new limb made by a prosthetic center in Bulawayo, hundreds of kilometers away, the survivors will be able to plow their lands year round (HALO Trust).

The other story featured a survivor who suffered severe facial injuries as a child.  After the injury, the survivor’s mother abandoned the family out of fear of stigma.  The survivor persevered and met with doctors from an international organization, Operation of Hope, which provides reconstructive surgeries for cleft palates and lips.  The doctors were not able to immediately help the survivor, but they raised the funds and secured the donation of services for a series of surgeries in San Diego, California.  The reconstruction of the survivor’s face and jaw has taken more than two years and now the survivor is living and studying in Idaho (All Africa).  For both survivors, interventions were needed on their behalf to provide the necessary services and care for the survivors to reintegrate into society after their injuries.

 

Somalia

Kismayo, the main city in southern Somalia, saw at least one landmine explosion that was targeting local security forces.  No casualties were report (Radio Goobjoog; Garowe Online).  Security forces in Kismayo also arrested five suspected Al Shabaab members as they tried to plant additional landmines in the roads (All Africa; All Africa).

 

Mozambique

On November 6th, Mozambique’s National Demining Institute declared Inhambane province in the south of the country as landmine-free.  Some 6.5 million square meters of land were cleared by Handicap International and commercial operators.  With the announcement, seven of Mozambique’s ten provinces and 120 out 128 districts are now landmine free.  Clearing Inhambane was complicated by the floods of 2000 and 2001 and in fact some 230,000 square meters of suspected minefields could not be cleared because these areas remain submerged and any landmines are at the bottom of lakes and swamps.  Local police will be trained to address any landmines should the need arise (or the waters recede).  The Institute is now moving clearance capacity to the remaining districts to clear the last few remaining landmines (All Africa; UNDP).

 

Sudan

A few months ago the head of a Greek demining organization was under scrutiny for embezzling money that had been granted for landmine clearance projects in Bosnia, Lebanon and Iraq.  In Sudan, the director of the Sudanese Association for Combating Mines (JASMAR), which we have profiled on this site, was accused of embezzlement and giving Land Cruisers as gifts to people “who have nothing to do with the association.”  The accusations were brought by recently dismissed employees who have demanded an investigation.  According to the accusers, JASMAR has not been audited in almost a decade (All Africa).

 

Uganda

In Windsor, Canada, a former volunteer with the Advocacy Project is using a quilt to raise awareness about the plight of persons with disabilities in northern Uganda, including landmine survivors.  Noting that there are only two accessible toilets serving a community of 300,000 people, Dane Macri is trying to raise awareness and funds to build more such toilets in and around Gulu, a town heavily impacted by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion in the 1990s and early 2000s (Windsor Star).

 

Libya

Human Rights Watch published a report showing evidence that one or more of the militias that fought over the Tripoli airport in July and August 2014 used anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines.  Libya is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, but has indicated its support for the Treaty and the National Transitional Council, the coalition of militias and political groups that overthrew the Gaddafi regime in 2011, pledged not to use landmines in April of that year, a pledge that General Khalifa Hiftar signed.  Hiftar commands the Libya Dignity militia which was in control of the Tripoli airport until Misrata-based militias under the name, Libya Dawn, ousted them in August; Libya Dawn has accused Libya Dignity of placing the mines at the airport which would be a violation of Hiftar’s pledge.  Libya Dawn engineers have cleared some 600 landmines since taking control of the airport on August 24th (Human Rights Watch).

 

Mali

Mali remains an epicenter for new landmine use on the continent.  Ansar al Dine, a branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb under Iyad Ag Ghaly, has established a specialized unit within the group to place landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the roads around towns and United Nations peacekeeper bases in northern Mali.  Ansar al Dine members, typically young men between 17 and 20, will spot a UN vehicle traveling on a road and then the members will ride on motorbikes to a place further along the road which they expect the UN vehicles will pass.  They will then bury a landmine in the roadway and ride away on their motorbikes before the UN vehicle arrives.  To date, at least 21 soldiers have been killed and 97 others injured by landmines and IEDs, many of which have been placed by Ansar al Dine using these methods (Sahelien).

In November, there were at least four landmine incidents in Mali, three involving UN peacekeepers.  The first, near the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) camp in Kidal, destroyed the peacekeepers’ vehicle but did not result in any injuries (MaliWeb).  The second, a few days later, injured three peacekeepers near Gao.  The injured soldiers were evacuated for treatment.  Following up the attack, demining teams found another mine nearby (MINUSMA).  At the end of the month, two peacekeepers were killed and another nine injured, four seriously, when the government minister’s convoy they were protected struck a mine near Gao.  That same day, a water truck carrying two civilians struck a mine near Kidal, injuring two people (Reuters).

 

Egypt

With the support of the United Nations Development Program, the local organization, Mine Victims Association for Development, based in the western Egyptian city of Matrouh, provided micro-loans to 58 women survivors of landmines and wives of landmine survivors.  The loans, for up to 3,000 Egyptian Pounds or about US $400, are paid back in monthly installments and could be used to by “sheep, poultry, goats or sewing machines.”  For most of the recipients, these were the first loans ever taken out and project is “turning jobless victims to real agents of change in our community.”  The recipients have been empowered and are able to be the breadwinners for their families (UNDP).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Over the course of two decades, the army of then-Zaire dumped more than 60 tons of explosive materials on the banks of the Congo River, some 200 kilometers downstream from Kinshasa. By failing to dispose of the ordnance properly, the Zairean army allowed the explosives to spread along the river, leaving long stretches of riverbank uninhabitable.  A car ferry was forced to close and fishing activities could not continue.  Over the last two years, a team from Norwegian Peoples Aid has destroyed over 70,000 separate pieces of ordnance from nine different dump sites, some pieces dating back to pre-World War II colonial occupation.  Soon, the local hospital will be able to re-open, the ferry will renew service and fishing will resume (The Guardian).

 

Algeria

Another month, another 3,600 landmines cleared in Algeria.  Algerian army forces have destroyed over three-quarters of a million landmines to date, including over 3,100 anti-personnel mines and 500 anti-tank mines in October 2014 (All Africa).

 

South Sudan

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs releases a weekly status report on a number of issues in South Sudan, including mine action.  In a report this month, the following statement caught our eye:

The ongoing conflict has created new risks of explosive hazards particularly in the three conflict-affected states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, including anti-tank land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Elsewhere in the country the risks of UXOs from previous conflicts remain. These remained a direct threat to the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and to the safety of civilians and need to be cleared.

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan, one-year old as of this writing, will leave a long shadow on the country, not least from the new use of landmines by the warring parties.  The people of South Sudan are owed a permanent peace and their leaders are complicit in the tragedy by not finding a resolution.

 

Michael P. Moore

December 12, 2014

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org