Big Winner in the Trump Budget? ISIS.

At an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace and the HALO Trust earlier this month, a State Department official, Jerry Guilbert, told the audience that the Trump Administration’s foreign policy priority is defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) and that the focus of US support for mine action would be clearance of land liberated from ISIS.  Guilbert mentioned increase support for clearance in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen and repeated that mine action funding would advance national security and foreign policy interests.  The release of the Trump Administration’s budget confirms this shift in resources.

On the surface, the allocation for mine action under the Trump Administration is increased by 6% over the last confirmed Obama budget, from $185 million to $196.9 million.  But the distribution of the budget is very different and reflects the “America First” mandate as described by the State Department.

Region  FY16 Actual
(in thousands)
 FY18 Request
(in thousands)
% Change
Africa  $                 12,600  $                 13,000 3%
East Asia & Pacific  $                 41,085  $                 23,000 -44%
Europe & Eurasia  $                   8,530  $                 10,000 17%
Near East  $                 30,900  $                 88,900 188%
South & Central Asia  $                 25,090  $                 24,000 -4%
Western Hemisphere  $                   3,500  $                 20,000 471%
Discretionary  $                 45,874 $                           0 -100%
Management  $                 17,421  $                18,000 3%
Totals  $              185,000  $              196,900 6%

Whereas the Obama administration focused on Cold War legacies and matching resources to the needs, the Trump Administration is focused on ISIS-affected countries and current threats.  The US Ambassador to Cambodia had given a hint of this change in focus in an interview in Phnom Penh a couple of weeks ago and the proof is here.  Mine action support in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) is basically halved, dramatically reducing Obama’s recent commitment to clearance in Laos.  At the same time, support for mine action in Iraq and Syria increases 350% from $23 million to $81.5 million.  Guilbert had mentioned additional support for Libya and Yemen, but funding for Yemen is flat (well, the Trump Administration did just promise $100 billion in new Saudi armaments to continue the war there, so it’s probably a net negative) and funds for Libya are reduced from $2.5 million to $1 million.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the funding appears to be flat ($12.6 million to $13 million), but again the allocation changes greatly.  Support for mine action in Angola is cut by more than half and Senegal would receive no support because neither country figures into conversations of national security or fighting Islamist terror groups.  Those funds are re-allocated to other countries. A positive is to see Chad get a $1 million allocation as is the quadrupling of funds for the Democratic Republic of Congo (form $500K to $2 million).  Countries of the Sahel affected by Al Qaeda also had flat (Somalia) or increased funds (Mali, Mauritania, Niger).  Nigeria, despite the presence of Boko Haram, receives nothing, so clearly all Islamists are no equal in how they figure into the Trump Administration’s prioritization scheme.

Also, spare a thought for the Vulnerable Populations Funds, like the Leahy War Victims Fund which was one of the first sources of landmine victim assistance support.  In the Trump Administration budget, the Special Populations Funds are eliminated and replaced with this:

DISABILITY PROGRAMS SEC. 7047. (a) ASSISTANCE.—Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading “Economic Support and Development Fund” may be made available for programs and activities administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to address the needs and protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities in developing countries.

The Trump Administration’s budget for mine action reflects its singular foreign policy priority: ISIS.  For Syria and Iraq, this is good news (or at least the parts of Iraq liberated from ISIS; the rest of Iraq may not benefit.  And it is unclear how mine clearance will be handled in Syria since the US does not have the ability to operate there in any significant manner), for the rest of the world not so much.  By allocating the budget according to foreign policy priorities and not humanitarian needs, the Trump Administration has dealt as serious blow to the vision of a landmine free world in 2025.

Michael P. Moore

May 24, 2017

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


Trump Administration proposes 10% reduction in Mine Action support

Today is the International Day for Mine Action and Awareness.  From Great Britain, we are looking forward to new commitments to the the goal of a landmine-free world by 2025, but in the United States, the proposed budget from the Trump Administration threatens that goal.

The Trump Administration’s FY18 budget includes a nearly US $3 billion cut in State Department funding (Politico).  That includes a 10% reduction in the line for Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism and Demining Programs, from $505 million in FY17 to $451 million in FY18:


According to the Administration, this reduction will have “minimal impact” upon programming.  Well, what would “minimal impact” look like?  Let me paint one scenario.

According to the State Department’s 2016 report on mine action, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” the State Department invested $154.6 million in landmine clearance and risk education activities across dozens of countries.  However, $63.2 million went to just five countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Laos and Syria).    If we assume that the commitments for these five countries will remain unchanged (because the Obama Administration made landmine clearance a priority for Colombia and Laos; and the Trump Administration’s rhetoric suggests that Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria will remain priority areas as part of the fight against Islamic State), the 10% cut, or $15.5 million, will be made across the rest of the portfolio.  Support for African countries (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe) totaled only $13.5 million and any reduction there, especially with emerging needs for mine action support in Mali and Nigeria, could hamper clearance efforts.

Rex Tillerson, the current Secretary of State, spoke of the importance of landmine clearance in Iraq as a means of helping people return to their homes after the ouster of the Islamic State from Mosul (State Department). Mine action has been used as a soft power tool; peacebuilding efforts in Burma, Colombia and Senegal have benefited from US commitments to mine action.  The US support for landmine and UXO clearance in Southeast Asia has helped heal some of the wounds from the US involvement in the wars of Vietnam and Cambodia. But the current Administration values “hard power” in the form of the military over soft power efforts like mine action, despite Tillerson’s remarks.

Cutting mine action funding would be short-sighted and leave many thousands of people exposed to the threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.  At a time when other countries and actors are re-affirming the pledge to a mine-free world by 2025, the US should improve upon its past investments, not reduce them.

Michael P. Moore

April 4, 2017

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

The US Military has moved on From Landmines and Cluster Munitions, You Should Too

Memo to the New Administration

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton made reference to the Ottawa Treaty and her support for joining the Treaty as well as the lingering effects of cluster munitions in Laos.  Donald Trump was silent on these subjects and so while representatives of the Heritage Foundation and the Lexington Institute have suggested that a Trump Administration should reverse current US policies on these weapons, please allow me a few moments to make the case for continuation of those current policies.

First, the US military has moved on.  Since the 1991 Gulf War, the United States has not used victim-activated, anti-personnel landmines because after-action reports showed that US laid mines injured more American soldiers than Iraqi soldiers.  In the mid-1990s, the Clinton Administration launched a search for alternatives to anti-personnel landmines that would be detectable using basic metal detectors and self-deactivating.  That effort, combined with the Bush Administration’s 2004 landmine policy, has encouraged the defense industry to develop new munitions that are fully compliant with the Ottawa Treaty and nearly ready for deployment (Defense News).

The US Army has developed the “Spider” munitions system that will be put into use by the US Army in 2018 with improvements to its control mechanisms available in five years.  The Spider replaces anti-personnel mines as an area-denial and defense tool and fits into the Army’s emerging tactics of “terrain shaping” in which the military uses munitions to constrain the movement of opponents into areas more favorable for the US forces.  As part of the modernization process, the US army is also re-furbishing the Volcano system and developing a second landmine alternative, the “Gator.”  With these changes, the Army will possess a “common munition that can be delivered in a variety of methods to meet the ground commander’s intent and provide maximum flexibility as operational requirements evolve” (Defense News).  In other words: the US military has no interest in landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, which are not compliant with the Ottawa Treaty.

As for cluster munitions, the US government has, since 2008, asserted their military utility, but also recognized the potential civilian harm from indiscriminate use and high failure rates.  The Obama Administration re-affirmed the Bush Administration’s policy, which is available here. To achieve a failure rate of 1% or less, thereby meeting the standard set by Department of Defense in 2008, contractors have developed new cluster munitions that not only adhere to the DoD’s policy but are also compliant with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The “alternative” warhead will leave “zero unexploded ordnance on the battlefield” according to its manufacturer, Lockheed.  These new warheads may already be in use by the military, beating the landmine alternatives to the battlefield (National Interest).  Again, long story short: the US military has new tools which are compliant with the Convention on Cluster Munitions and no longer needs non-compliant cluster munitions.



The United States has not joined the Ottawa Treaty which bans the use of anti-personnel landmines.  The United States was the first country to call for a ban on these weapons in 1994 and was the first country to ban exports of these weapons.  The US has committed to never use persistent landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle; to prohibit the sale or export of non-detectable, non-self-destructing mines; and to increase funding for humanitarian mine clearance.  Those were the policies of the George W. Bush administration from February 2004 (State Department). The current policy, published by the Obama Administration in 2014, does not differ much from the Bush policy, and can be found on the State Department’s website here.

Ted Bromund, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation, called the Obama Administration “foolhardy” for restricting the United States use of landmines, leaving only the Korean Peninsula exempt from that restriction.  Mr. Bromund complained that the Ottawa Treaty has not had much impact on the number of landmine casualties each year, stating that landmine casualties are linked to the number of wars and that the number of wars has gone up (Forbes). As Mr. Bromund said, “let’s go to the tape”:

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the number of wars in 2014 was 41 compared to 32 in 2006.


From SIPRI: Patterns of Armed Conflict Trends, 2006-2015.

In that same time period, the number of casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) declined from over 6,500 to less than 3,700.

Yes, the number of conflicts increased from 41 in 2014 to 50 in 2015, but the four conflicts that contributed to substantial increase in landmine and ERW casualties – Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – all began in 2014 or earlier (Washington Post; BBC News). So Bromund’s assertion that landmine casualties are linked to conflicts is false.

Bromund also fails to note that victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the ones that the Landmine Monitor counts, are banned by the Ottawa Treaty.  If you only count factory-made landmines, then the number of landmine casualties decreased from 2014 to 2015, which is a success of the Ottawa Treaty as fewer and fewer such mines are available for use.  But the Ottawa Treaty bans all victim-activated anti-personnel landmines, factory-made and home-made.  Victim-activated mines cannot discriminate between civilian and soldier and so however they are made, they violate the laws of war related to the principle of distinction.


Cluster Munitions

Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute called the United States’s policy on cluster munitions, “’bat poop’ crazy,” saying the Obama Administration had bared the US’s “throat to the enemy’s knife” (National Interest). Mr. Goure acknowledges that Obama Administration has publicly stated the utility of cluster munitions, a continuation of the George W. Bush Administration’s policy.  The Bush Administration’s policy also clearly stated that the US recognizes the need to minimize civilian casualties (Congressional Research Service), which is the part that Mr. Goure gets very wrong.

In 2008, the US government declared that it would not export cluster munitions which had a failure rate greater than 1% and the US has long had a policy not to export weapons to countries which the US fears will use them in contradiction to international humanitarian law.  When the Obama Administration cancelled transfers of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, that decision reflected Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate use of cluster munitions civilian locations.  The burden of evidence of Saudi Arabia’s bad behavior simply became overwhelming and the US had to cancel the shipments.  Recently, Saudi Arabia admitted to using British-made cluster munitions, but claimed only to have used them on legitimate military targets (The Guardian).

Mr. Goure understands the concern about cluster munitions, saying “The argument against cluster munitions is that those that do not explode on contact with a target or the ground can lie around posing a threat to civilians. Even when they are designed to become inert after a period of time, some small number can fail to go dud.” Note that Mr. Goure does not say what that “small number” might be and seems to accept the risk to civilians posed by unexploded cluster munitions. And the problem is worse than “some small number;” cluster munitions fail at rates of 20 – 40% leaving thousands of submunitions which become de facto landmines.  In Laos, Lebanon, Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Yemen, hundreds if not thousands of civilians are killed or injured every year by cluster munitions dropped by the US or its allies. That is unacceptable.

Lastly, Mr. Goure’s statement that the Obama Administration has disarmed the military is patently false.  The US military has received ample support to develop new weapons that would replace indiscriminate landmines and cluster munitions with high failure rates (in fact, the National Interest, which published Mr. Goure’s opinion piece, also published the article on alternatives to the cluster munitions which he advocated for).  The military has newer, better, more reliable weapons at its disposal, making the older munitions obsolete.  Like Mr. Bromund’s and Mr. Goure’s arguments.


The anti-personnel landmine and cluster munitions trains left the station a long time ago, Ted and Dan.  Stop trying to get the Trump Administration to acquire weapons the US military doesn’t want.


Michael P. Moore

December 28, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


Landmines are not the solution to any border problem

I monitor Twitter on a daily basis for news about landmines.  In the wake of Saturday’s massacre of 28 people riding a Nairboi-bound bus near the Kenyan border town of Mandera by members of the Al Shabaab militia (Reuters), I saw several posts on Twitter suggesting radical measures to close the border between Somalia and Kenya:

Kenya and

Kenya2 and

Kenya3  and


The anger of the writers and posters is understandable: many of their fellow Kenyans have been killed by a militia that is based in another country.  The use of landmines to secure the border is an easy-sounding solution, but one that will result in many more civilian casualties and not protect Kenyans.  As examples, the French and Rhodesian governments placed “cordon sanitaires” on the borders which, despite multiple layers of minefields, barbed-wire, machine gun emplacements and electronic monitoring, completely failed to prevent incursions by rebel groups which seized power in Algeria and Zimbabwe.  Two modern minefields, on the Korean Peninsula and in Western Sahara, also fail to prevent people from crossing the borders or provide a lasting solution to the conflict between the peoples on either side.

Kenyans are not the only ones to suggest using landmines to protect borders.  Others I have seen recently include Indians:






And Americans:


I doubt that those recommending the use of landmines are representative of their fellow citizens, but I do find it troubling to see any proposals to secure borders with landmines.  Landmines are not the solution to any border issue. Civilians are inevitably the victims of these minefields and if anything, active minefields harden the conflict and make finding a permanent resolution more difficult (again, see Korea and Western Sahara).  Fences and minefields do not make good neighbors. Communication and understanding make good neighbors while minefields make enemies.

Michael P. Moore

November 24, 2014

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

The Choices We Make: How Chad Uses its Demining Capacity

Article 5.1 of the Mine Ban Treaty commits States Parties to clearing all known anti-personnel landmines from their territory. In full, the clause reads:

Each State Party undertakes to destroy or ensure the destruction of all anti-personnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control, as soon as possible but not later than ten years after the entry into force of this Convention for that State Party.

Too many countries have not met this obligation.  Some have missed the deadline due to the extent of contamination, e.g., Cambodia and Afghanistan, but others have simply failed to put forth the effort to clear their minefields despite having the capacity to do.  Blaming mismanagement and shortfalls, Chad has requested an additional ten years to clear its minefields; a request that has been granted despite the country’s ability to complete the task faster.

Chad’s minefields, almost exclusively found in the northern area of the country, come from the 1973 invasion of Chad by Libya and decades of internal conflicts and cover some 128 square kilometers, about double the size of Manhattan Island in New York City.  Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is found in the north, east and west of the country, but only covers a little more than 3 kilometers.  Despite this limited area of contamination, roughly 0.01% of the country, Chadian officials have talked about minefields covering “vast swathes of territory” (AP Mine Ban Convention; The Monitor).

The limited landmine contamination in Chad has had an outsized impact on the population.  More than a hundred people are killed or injured by mines every year due to the highly mobile nature of Chad’s population, many of whom are pastoralists.  Chad also has a very large refugee population with nearly half a million refugees, equivalent to almost a tenth of the country’s population, fleeing conflicts in Sudan and the Central African Republic, and refugees are one of the most at-risk groups for landmine injuries (IRIN News; ACAPS).  In the past, Chad has explained its inability to address the landmine issue as the result of mismanagement and absence of central leadership on the issue.  While there may be some truth to that and certainly the changes in ownership of the mine action issue in Chad would affect the government’s ability to prioritize landmine clearance, it doesn’t not explain the whole story.

The United States government, as part of its counter-terrorism and regional security initiative has identified Chad as a key partner.  Since 1993, the US government has provided US $11 million to Chad to address its landmine problem and beginning in 2010, AFRICOM has helped “to build capabilities within Chad by instructing local forces on demining, stockpile management, and medical first response.”  As a result of that training, “the Chad National Demining Authority assists their American instructors in teaching demining operations to personnel from other countries in the Sahel and throughout the African continent” (State Department). Therefore, the government of Chad has used its newly increased capacity not to address its own landmine contamination, but to train other countries.  Instead of first getting its own house in order, Chad has decided to deploy these valuable assets elsewhere.

The government of Chad is obligated by its ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty to clear all anti-personnel landmines “as soon as possible.”  The training from the US government should be used to meet that obligation before helping other countries to meet their obligations.  With a determined effort, Chad could complete its landmine clearance long before its current deadline of January 1, 2020.  The US, as a prime supporter of Chad’s landmine clearance work and trainer of its deminers, should encourage Chad to focus on its mines before asking Chad to help neighboring countries.

Michael P. Moore

October 3, 2014


One Step Closer…

Yesterday the Obama Administration announced another change in the United States’s landmine policy (Washington Post).  This change, which bans most uses of anti-personnel landmines by the US, builds upon previous policy announcements while specifically carving out an exception for use on the Korean Peninsula to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion.

In his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative where he discussed the policy change, Obama also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  In the history of the US effort to ban landmines, that arc is very long, more than two decades and counting and spanning four presidencies.  Yesterday’s announcement was another small step towards a complete ban on landmines.  To quickly cover that history, here’s a summary of the steps to date:


1992 – George H.W. Bush bans export of anti-personnel landmines (legislation written by Sen. Patrick Leahy)

1994 – Bill Clinton calls for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines (address to the United Nations General Assembly)

1996 – Bill Clinton bans use on non-detectable (“low-metal” or plastic) anti-personnel landmines (Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)

2004 – George W. Bush bans use of all persistent (“dumb”) landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle (published US Landmine Policy)

June 2014 – Barack Obama ends all procurement and production of anti-personnel landmines (announcement at Maputo Review Conference)

September 2014 – Barack Obama bans all use of anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula, pledges to destroy all mines not needed for the defense of South Korea (White House announcement)


At this point, the US could now be fully compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty except for the Korean reservation.  Until that reservation is removed, the US cannot achieve the stated goal of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.  One more step, Mr. Obama.  The world is waiting.

Michael P. Moore

September 24, 2014

The Month in Mines, August 2014

Do you take your vacation in August?  I sure wish landmines would.  But they don’t.  They don’t ever take vacations or mercy.



In the breakaway region of Puntland, the former chief of police was killed when he drove over a landmine (All Africa).  In Mogadishu a crew of women cleaning the streets as part of a city beautification project detonated a landmine that may or may not have been deliberately placed in the trash.  Three women were killed and another eight were seriously injured (All Africa).  In the Lower Shabelle region, an AMISOM vehicle struck a mine in the roadway with at least peacekeeper killed and several wounded (All Africa).  A five year-old was killed and his two friends injured by a landmine that they thought was a toy (Radio Goobjoog).  An International Committee of the Red Cross vehicle drove over a mine in Kismayo, but no casualties were reported (Radio GoobJoog).  Also in Mogadishu a massive firefight broke out when AMISOM forces and local police and military tried to disarm a local militia leader who possessed a massive stockpile of weaponry including landmines.  At least five people, some innocent bystanders, were killed in the operation (All Africa).



Tunisian soldiers tracking Islamist fighters in the Kasserine area along the Algerian border set off landmines in separate incidents.  No casualties were reported from the first blast, but two soldiers were injured in the second.  Additional landmines were discovered during the operations (All Africa; Middle East Eye).  In response to the frequent landmine blasts and casualties suffered by Tunisian forces, the United States government provided a military aid package that included equipment to detect mines and improvised explosive devices (All Africal).



French and United Nations peacekeepers and relief workers in northern Mali have been subject to multiple landmine attacks as Islamist fighters, routed by the French forces, have turned to mining the roads around the cities of Kidal and Gao.  Peace talks between the parties had been planned for August, but those talks continue without resolution to date (All Africa; Voice of America). Several peacekeepers were injured, three severely, by a mine in the roadway near Aguelhok (Global Post).


South Sudan

The fight between Salva Kiir’s government in South Sudan and rebels led by his former vice president Riek Machar continues.  Neither side has adhered to a Cessation of Hostilities agreement and peace talks amount to farcical opportunities for the negotiators to collect per diems.  This month, the rebels accused the government of placing anti-personnel landmines along routes used by refugees trying to flee to Sudan.  Should this be true, South Sudan would be in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.  The government of South Sudan responded by saying that the rebels were restricting access to deliveries of humanitarian aid to persons displaced by the conflict.  The government also reported that all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines had been destroyed.  The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), already viewed dubiously by Salva Kiir and his allies was mentioned by the rebels as a witness to the landmine usage to which a government spokesperson demanded that if UNMISS had evidence of landmine use, UNMISS should present it (All Africa; Radio Tamazuj).  The whole situation is tragic because hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are threatened by violence and hunger whilst Salva Kiir and Riek Machar continue to fiddle as Rome burns around them.



The last two major rebel movements from Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW) and the Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Arko Minawi (SLM-MM), both named for their leaders, signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment pledging not to use anti-personnel landmines.  With their signatures, all parties to the conflicts in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan should no longer employ anti-personnel landmines.  Darfur is littered with explosive remnants of war, possibly including mines, and the rebel leaders called on civilians to report any mines they might find (All Africa).



To prepare for the construction of some 40 industrial plants in Bie Province with an investment value of US $25 million, Angolan deminers cleared over a thousand acres of land.  The project will serve as the core of a larger development in the area (All Africa).  In Cunene Province, demining work focuses on clearing the roads between Chiulo and Manquete to allow the free flow of goods and people (All Africa).  In total, 70% of the Angolan countryside has been demined to date (All Africa).

Angolan deminers received training from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (All Africa) and are making plans for providing demining services to other countries, should it be requested (All Africa).



Rumors continue to fly about the presence of landmines in and around areas controlled by Boko Haram.  The most recent report is from the town of Banki in Borno State near the border with Cameroon where residents have run out of food and no aid can be delivered due to the fear of mines in the roads (All Africa).


Western Sahara

Development + Cooperation published an extensive article on the landmine issue in Western Sahara and the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities in the refugee camps in Algeria.  The article notes that while 352,000 square meters of land has been cleared, some 7 million landmines remain along the berm built by the Moroccan army and 1,400 persons have been killed or injured by landmines.  Of those, some 450 have undergone amputations and thanks to the prosthetic center run in the camps, amputees have their choice of olive, brown or grey for the color of their artificial leg.

In addition to the physically disabled, the article described the plight of persons with developmental disabilities: “’Years ago, when the Sahrawis were still nomadic, disabled people were tethered in tents all day long, for their entire lives. And if the tent happened to catch on fire, no one tried to save them,’ Castro [founder of the only school for persons with developmental disabilities located in a refugee camp] recalls. ‘Even relatively recently, intellectually disabled children spent their days tied in tents and were only let out at night on a leash because their families were ashamed of them’” (Development + Cooperation).

Also in August, a young man was killed by a landmine in Madalchiat, about 50 kilometers east of the coastal city of Boujdour (All Africa).



In addition to rampant poaching from Mozambique and Zambia, Zimbabwe’s national parks are rife with landmines.  Many of the parks are along the Mozambican border where Rhodesian forces laid minefields in the 1970s and three specific parks, Victoria Falls National Park, Zambezi National Part and Gonarezhou National Park are affected.  The presence of landmines reduces the parks’ viability as tourist destinations (News Day).



Two landmines probably left over from World War II were found by herders in Wajir County in northeastern Kenya.  The herders informed security forces who quickly disposed of the mines.  Residents reported many injuries from similar mines and called for the government to survey and clear the area (Citizen News).



After the African Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC, Senegal’s President Macky Sall made a side trip to visit Vermont. No, he wasn’t there to stock up on maple syrup (but I’m sure he could have picked up a bottle or two), instead he was seeking to expand the relationship between Senegal’s military and the Vermont National Guard.  Since 2008, the Vermont National Guard has been providing military training and support to Senegal including landmine detection expertise.  A spokesman for the Guard noted Senegal’s participation in peacekeeping missions across Africa but failed to note Senegal’s own landmine contamination (Burlington Free Press).  That contamination, resulting from the decades-long independence fight in the Casamance region, was highlighted when a wedding party struck a mine, killing seven and injuring three.  Despite ongoing peace talks over the conflict, neither the government nor the rebels have made a strong enough commitment to clear the mines that are present (Jollof News).


United States

In advance of the expected publication of the State Department’s annual report, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” the Department has published a number of blog posts about its support for landmine clearance and conventional weapons destruction. Key takeaways from the series include the fact that the United States has supported landmine clearance in 31 African countries and helped Burundi, Nigeria and Uganda to become mine-free with the expectation that Mozambique will do so in 2015.  Current funding supports landmine clearance in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe (All Africa).  Individual posts focused on work in the Sahel, Angola, South Sudan, Somalia and the Mozambique – Zimbabwe border.

Michael P. Moore

September 4, 2014

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


Responses to the Obama Administration’s landmine policy announcement

On June 27th, the Obama Administration, via its Ambassador to Mozambique, pledged to end the purchase and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines and put the United States on a path to joining the Mine Ban Treaty (Reuters).  Since that announcement, many statements have come out for and against the new policy.  Or rather, many statements are cautiously for the policy, but also call on the administration to do more and those against are firmly against, citing the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula.  Here is a round-up.

Cautiously For:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, “Reaction Of Senator Patrick Leahy To The White House Announcement Of Changes To U.S. Landmine Policy,” June 27, 2014 and “Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On A Step Toward A Landmine Ban,” delivered on the Senate Floor, July 8, 2014

The New York Times, “Still Further to Go on Land Mines,” July 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Heavy toll: Land mines meant to deter troops still kill civilians,” July 14, 2014

Matthew Bolton, “Obama’s New Landmine Policy: Change I Can Believe In, Tentatively,” July 9, 2014

LTG Robert G. Gard, Jr. (Ret), “Disappointing U.S. Statement on Anti-Personnel Landmines,” Huffington Post, July 9, 2014

Rachel Stohl and Shannon Dick, “Good News, Bad News Story From US Landmines Announcement,” Stimson Center, July 07, 2014

Daryl G. Kimball, “U.S. Pledge Not to Produce Landmines Positive, But Falls Short: It Is Time to Accede to Mine Ban Treaty,” Arms Control Association, 27, 2014

MAG America, “U.S. Declares That It Will No Longer Produce Anti-Personnel Landmines – Good First Step,” June 27, 2014

Handicap International, “Handicap International Welcomes Tentative, U.S. Steps Towards Mine Ban Treaty Accession.” June 27, 2014

Human Rights Watch, “United States: Back on Path to Landmine Ban? A Pledge Not to Produce or Acquire More Stocks,” June 27, 2014

US Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Positive Changes in U.S. Landmine Policy Stop Short of Immediate Ban: Commitment to No Longer Produce Antipersonnel Mines,” June 27, 2014

National Catholic Reporter, “Editorial: Why won’t the US sign a land mine treaty?” July 16, 2014

Lloyd Axworthy, “Another chance to bury the scourge of land mines,” The Globe and Mail, July 18, 2014

Nora Sheets, “Land mines are a scourge that we must eliminate,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, July 21, 2014

Joe Cirincione, “A Good Step Towards Ending Landmines,” Defense One, June 27, 2014.


Solidly Against:

Wall Street Journal (subscription required), “Obama Hedges on Land Mines: In the name of arms control, the U.S. heightens the risks of war in Korea,” June 29, 2014

Lamont Colucci, “Obama is Playing Politics with Landmines: Landmines, believe it or not, save lives.” U.S. News and World Report, July 18, 2014.

Rep. Buck McKeon, “McKeon Statement on President Obama’s Land Mine Announcement,” June 27, 2014

Carl J. Asszony, “Opinion: U.S. shouldn’t join land-mine treaty,” The Daily Record, July 5, 2014  (added 7/24/14)

Special recognition goes to Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star covering Anniston, Alabama (population 22,666) for his article covering the landmine policy announcement and the ongoing, already-planned, destruction of the landmine stockpile at the Anniston Army Depot.  If you read only one article about the new landmine policy, this is the article to read. Lockette corresponded with Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost who confirmed the US landmine stockpile of 3 million “smart” mines but Derrick-Frost also confirmed the existence of “dumb” mines – exactly those banned by the Mine Ban Treaty – but noted that those mines were scheduled to be “demilitarized.” An official at the Anniston Army Depot reported that over 125,000 anti-personnel landmines were at the Depot, but “by some definitions, the number of anti-personnel mines in stock could be higher.”  Anniston Army Depot has a history of storing weapons “the U.S. is reluctant to acknowledge” including chemical weapons and landmines which released nerve gas which were incinerated between 2003 and 2011 (Anniston Star)

Michael P. Moore

July 22, 2014 (updated July 24, 2014, August 8, 2014)

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

“Few things as powerful as the fear of a landmine,” An Interview with Douglas M. Griffiths, US Ambassador to Mozambique

In 1993 Douglas Griffiths was a Foreign Service Officer working on economic development issues in Mozambique.  In his travels across the country Griffiths felt Mozambicans “palpable” fear of landmines.  At the time Mozambique was just emerging from years of civil war and the international community was just beginning to address the landmine issue.  Now, twenty years later, Griffiths has returned to Mozambique as the US Ambassador and in the following interview with Landmines in Africa, Ambassador Griffiths reflects on the “arc of progress in Mozambique” and the vital role landmine clearance has played in transforming the country.


Ambassador Griffiths: Thanks for your support on this important issue. This work [landmine clearance] has fundamentally transformed this country.

Landmines in Africa: I understand you were a Foreign Service Officer in Mozambique previously.

Griffiths: Correct.

LinA: And when was that?

Griffiths: I was here in 1993.

LinA: So you were there right as the peace process was going on.

Griffiths: Right in the midst of the peace process and I was the Economic-Commercial Officer so I did a lot of work on economic development issues. I was out in the field fairly often and I saw just how landmines constrained the normal activity of Mozambicans. And so coming back and seeing the amazing work of Mozambique and the international community in eliminating landmines in Mozambique and two weeks ago I participated in the event on declaring Maputo province mine-free.  It was very rewarding to come full circle.  Because when I was here, we were just talking about how we were going to engage and partner to confront the threat of landmines. And now, 20 years later I’m participating in the culmination of all that great work.

LinA: In 1999 Maputo hosted the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and then-Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano estimated that it would take 160 years to clear all of the mines in Mozambique.  How much does it mean to you and to the United States to be able to cut that to a tenth of that time?

Griffiths: I think this is a remarkable testimony to the power of international cooperation and coordination.  Because it’s the work of the government of Mozambique, a lot of donors, a lot of non-governmental organizations and extraordinarily courageous deminers who have dedicated their lives to this.  It’s given Mozambicans access to their farms and their markets in a way that they never did.  They’re not fearful of their children playing in the yard.  And that fear, I think there are few things as powerful as the fear of a landmine.  It was palpable when I was in Mozambique last time and now you see people at ease in their fields and letting their kids go to school and poor workers having to check transmission lines and things like that.

LinA: And how does that cooperation reflect US priorities for Mozambique?

Griffiths: Our top priorities here are creating a more prosperous, democratic Mozambique.  We are investing about US $500 million a year in the Mozambican people.  A significant amount of that money goes to health.  Because we believe that a healthy population is key to a prosperous, inclusive Mozambique where people can participate fully in economic life.  Obviously landmine clearing is a key ingredient of that, ensuring people aren’t losing their lives and limbs to landmines and that they are able to take full control of all the resources the country has to offer.

LinA: In the hope that Mozambique will be able to declare itself mine-free late this year, or maybe early next year, how will the US continue to support other parts of mine action, specifically survivor assistance and the establishment of an ongoing explosive ordnance disposal unit for all of the other unexploded remnants of war?

Griffiths: We’ve invested US $50 million in Mozambique for demining, including $3 million this year.  And we do hope that we will be able to declare Mozambique mine-free.  Our support to all of Mozambique’s socio-economic development includes victims of landmines, especially our very substantial support to the Mozambican health sector.  We will continue, I think you are familiar with the success in strengthening the capacity of Mozambicans to further the work. Through AFRICOM, the US Africa Command’s humanitarian mine action program, we trained a cadre of Mozambican police, civilian deminers capable of clearing any new landmines or unexploded ordnance they discover.  It’s one of our top priorities because it’s the sustainability that is the key of all of our engagement in Mozambique.

We used to work directly with the military here, with the same program.  Their military engineers are now self-sufficient in training new technicians.  That is exactly what we hoped to do and so now we are supporting more the civilian side, the Institute for Demining. I think our work the FADM, the armed forces, shows that self-sufficiency in training works and it builds the capacity that demining will continue.  That transition from our active demining to the Mozambicans taking responsibility is a very positive evolution.

LinA: Speaking of the National Institute of Demining, the head of the INAD earlier this week called for a ceasefire between RENAMO and the government of Mozambique saying that if a ceasefire weren’t in place by May 1st, he feared that Mozambique would not be able to meet its deadline of clearing all of the landmines by the end of this year.  How is the Embassy supporting any initiatives to try and achieve a ceasefire?  What active steps are you taking?

Griffiths: We’ve been actively involved in calling for political solutions to end conflicts, it’s the only way forward.  Given the Mozambican history, Mozambicans know the legacy of war and are very much in favor of negotiated political solutions to political issues.  We’ve been actively working with the government, with RENAMO, with civil society to promote dialogue and resolution of the differences.

LinA: In 2007 a large ammunition depot detonated in Maputo with hundreds of casualties.  One of the steps that the Embassy supported was to try and secure other ammunition depots.  Is that work still ongoing?

Griffiths: First off, our thoughts are still with the victims and the families of that tragedy.  It was a very sad event.  We work in many countries around the world with these stockpiles of aged, excess, and at-risk munitions and improve the partner nations’ ability to safely manage their stockpiles.  We’ve offered stockpile management assistance to Mozambique and encouraged the government to accept these offers.

LinA: In June, Mozambique will host the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty. Part of the significance of that event is being able to show the distinct difference between what countries and parties saw in 1999 and what they are going to see today.  I’ve spoken with representatives from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement here in DC and they’ve confirmed they will be attending that meeting.  What role do you see the Embassy having in that Conference?

Griffiths: I think it’s a beautiful story of 20 years of the arc of progress in Mozambique and I think it is a significant, symbolic decision to host the next Conference here.  And as you pointed out, there should be an observer delegation from Washington in Maputo and we’ll obviously support them and be present as necessary at the meeting.

LinA: In 1999, while President Clinton did not attend [the First Meeting of States Parties], he sent a letter that was read by President Chissano at the opening ceremony.  Have you had any indication that President Obama or perhaps Secretary Kerry would be issuing a similar statement for the Conference?

Griffiths: I’m not at all privy to the preparations for the Conference.  I think you should direct that one to colleagues at PM [Bureau of Political-Military Affairs].

LinA: In terms of seeing the end of landmines in Mozambique, we’ve made significant investments in groups like the HALO Trust and I understand that they are also working in Zimbabwe and do you have any knowledge of the work that is going on there?

Griffiths: I don’t.  Again, probably PM would be a good resource for that.  You are right in terms of the expertise that has been developed and I’ve met, in my visits to various demining areas, Mozambican deminers who have gone on to work in other countries and it provides life skills and discipline to these folks that we hope will help them find further employment.  The end of active demining here isn’t a static process.  Those skills that have been developed will continue to enrich Mozambican society.

We’ll need to continue to work on this issue here and in other countries that remain heavily affected.

LinA: Thank you so much for your time.


Ambassador Griffiths was interviewed via phone by Michael P. Moore on April 3, 2014.

The role of AFRICOM in achieving a Landmine-Free Africa

The US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) based in, of all places, Stuttgart, Germany, inspires a kind neo-colonial fear among many Africans and Africanists, not unlike the shadow that France and China cast over the continent.  Without directly addressing those fears, I believe it’s important to recognize some of the good that can come from AFRICOM’s presence and activity in Africa.  Specifically AFRICOM’s Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) program.  Active since at least 2009, AFRICOM’s HMA program conducted 22 training missions in nine different countries in 2013 alone (Email from Tom Saunders, U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, rec’d January 14, 2014).  Training included topics such as: demining, explosive remnants of war (ERW), Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) Levels I and II, Vehicle Maintenance, Medical First Responder, Mine Risk Education, and stockpile conventional munitions assistance in support of the US Government’s HMA program.  The training curricula were developed by experts at the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and reflect current best practices and knowledge (All Partners Access Network).  One current gap in the training program is comprehensive victim assistance for landmine and ERW survivors.

Kenyan and US soldiers participate in HMA training of trainers.

Kenyan and US soldiers participate in HMA training of trainers.

To receive support from AFRICOM’s HMA support, national authorities must submit requests to the US embassy which then forwards requests to the State Department.  The State Department then combines all requests and reviews them as part of the broader humanitarian efforts conducted by the State Department and the Department of Defense.  While plans are still being confirmed, AFRICOM may conduct as many as 40 HMA missions in nine countries in 2014 covering IMAS Levels I and II, ERW Operations, Medical First Responder, Basic and Advanced Demining, and stockpile management and destruction (Email from Tom Saunders, U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, rec’d January 14, 2014).

As examples of the kind of training offered by AFRICOM, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have participated in multiple HMA missions.  In 2009, the DRC military (the FARDC) requested support from the US State Department to conduct mine action activities in the eastern provinces, in and around Kisangani.  After at least eight separate missions of up to three weeks in duration and the donation of $125,000 worth of mine detection and explosive ordnance destruction equipment, a sustainable mine action program has been established within the FARDC.  From the FARDC soldiers trained by AFRICOM, a select group of engineers participated in a training of trainers to further expand the skill set within the force (AFRICOM).

Photo from DRC Training

US and Congolese soldiers participate in a field exercise as part of HMA training

About a year ago, AFRICOM hosted a Train the Trainer program for Kenyan Army EOD Combat Engineers.  AFRICOM deployed the US Navy’s EOD Mobile Unit Six to train future instructors within the Kenyan military to respond to the variety of munitions and explosives the Kenyan army encountered in Somalia.  Using a combination of classroom exercises and field simulations, the training mirrors that of the DRC training with the intention of increasing the ability of Kenyan soldiers to train their colleagues (AFRICOM).

Kenyan soldiers participate in a classroom exercise as part of HMA training

Kenyan soldiers participate in a classroom exercise as part of HMA training

Other countries to have received support from AFRICOM include Burundi, Chad, Namibia, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.  Sharp-eyed readers will note that Kenya and Tanzania do not have landmine or significant ERW contamination and Burundi and Namibia have limited ERW contamination.  For Kenya and Burundi, and likely for other African countries with limited contamination, AFRICOM is deliberately training for peacekeeping operations like the African Union Mission in Somalia to which Burundi, Kenya and Uganda have contributed soldiers.  Referring to the experience, one US Navy trainer said of the peacekeepers, “”They go downrange a lot and we want to make sure they have the knowledge to do well.”  Training engagements support the Component Commands’ goals, like Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s (CJTF-HOA) “mission to strengthen security in East Africa through military-to-military engagements with partner nations” (AFRICOM).

US Army Africa (USARAF), based in Vicenza, Italy, is the most forward-thinking of AFRICOM’s Component Commands.  According to its HMA coordinator, Maj. Jennifer Smith, USARAF is looking “expand into victim’s assistance and mine risk education,” adding preventive instruction to the technical training currently on offer.  “If that happens, our numbers will probably increase because we will have concurrent training squads” (US Army Africa). USARAF has also reached out to UNMAS, the HALO Trust and the French government to complement, and not compete with, other actors’ work and address shortfalls identified by the international community and civil society.  USARAF wants to leverage its position to “assist in coordinating and integrating [the HMA] program with our multinational allies’ efforts.” USARAF is also exploring tailoring “U.S. instruction on demining activities to correspond with UNMAS’s ability to help host nations certify their own de-miners and unexploded ordnance incident responders” (Email from Tom Saunders, U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, rec’d January 14, 2014).

Michael P. Moore

February 26, 2014