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

 

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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:

Capture

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.

 

Landmines

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.

6-total-number-armed-conflicts-2006-2015

From SIPRI: Patterns of Armed Conflict Trends, 2006-2015. https://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2016/06

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

Kenya4.

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:

India

Finns:

Finland

Ukrainians:

Ukraine

And Americans:

USA.

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.

 

Somalia

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).

 

Tunisia

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).

 

Mali

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.

 

Sudan

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).

 

Angola

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).

 

Nigeria

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).

 

Zimbabwe

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).

 

Kenya

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).

 

Senegal

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