The Month in Mines, February 2017

Below we will talk about Algeria’s landmine clearance, but I would like to compare it to Mozambique’s achievement of a landmine-free country.  Mozambique was greatly aided by the efforts of multiple commercial and humanitarian demining organizations and when Mozambique detonated its last mine, board members were invited and press releases issued.  When Algeria cleared its last mined, no announcement was made for a couple of months, despite the fact that Algeria had three times as many mines as Mozambique.  Algeria’s deminers, members of police and army engineering units, toiled away for years on what must have seemed like an impossible task, but they did it.  Those anonymous souls achieved something special and deserve as much recognition and respect as Mozambique’s deminers.

 

Algeria

As we had mentioned in last month’s news round-up, Algeria has completed its demining obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty.  With contamination from World War II, the liberation war against France and a civil war in the 1990s, Algeria had over a million mines across 120 million square meters.  The densest minefields were to be found along the borders and had been laid by the French as a “cordon sanitaire” in an attempt to prevent supply and support to the liberation fighters in the 1950s and 1960s. Mine clearance took place in two phases, the first in the two and a half decades after liberation and the second after 2004 with the last mine cleared on November 30, 2016. Algeria is the second North African country after Tunisia to complete demining with the rest of North Africa, Morocco, Libya and Egypt choosing to remain outside of the Mine Ban Treaty. The formal announcement of Algeria’s clearance was made at the annual meeting of Mine Action Program Managers in Geneva and recognized by the President of the Convention (Defence Web).

 

Cameroon

A Cameroonian soldier was killed while on duty in Nigeria’s Borno state by a suspected landmine attributed to Boko Haram.  The soldier was riding in a vehicle which struck the mine (Cameroon Concord).  A few days later, another Cameroonian military vehicle struck a mine in northeastern Cameroon killing four soldiers and injuring others.  The second mine was also attributed to Boko Haram which has been accused of laying mines throughout the Lake Chad region to thwart attempts by the joint forces of five countries – Nigeria, Niger, Char, Cameroon and Benin – to combat the group (Anadolu Agency).

 

Egypt

2017 will see the 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and while some will celebrate this turning point in the second World War, for many Egyptians in the Northwest Desert, it will be a grim reminder of the continuing threat of landmines laid during that battle.  To date some 8,000 people have been killed or injured by World War II landmines and the demining process has been slow (ITV).

 

Somalia

In 2015 the HALO Trust expanded its activities in Somalia beyond the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland with some initial survey work.  Now operating in southern Somalia, the HALO Trust is active along the Ethiopian-Somali border which was the site of battles in the Ogaden wars of the 1980s.  This month, the Trust’s clearance teams found their first landmine in southern Somalia near a former military camp which had been the source of multiple accidents in the 2000s (Relief Web).

 

Libya

Despite the liberation of the western city of Sirte from Islamic State forces, civilians continue to be threatened by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).  Three children were injured by a piece of ammunition that was thrown onto a fire and father and two of his children were injured by a landmine outside of their house which had reportedly been used as an operations room by Islamic State (Libya Herald).  In partial response, the Presidential Council, which is recognized by the United Nations as the formal governing body, has been called upon by the Libyan army to provide metal detectors and other demining gear to find and clear the mines left by IS (Libya Observer).  Demining is a core element in the army’s six-point plan for ensuring the safe return of Sirte residents who had been displaced by the fighting.  The city has been divided into neighborhoods and the army is sweeping them in turn before allowing residents back to their homes (Libya Observer).

In Derna, one child was killed and two others injured by a landmine attributed to IS and left near the GECOL building (Libya Observer).

 

Western Sahara

An estimated 5 to 10 million landmines pollute the Western Sahara region.  Laid by the Polisario Movement and the government of Morocco the mine have killed or injured more than 300 people and thousands of camels since the 1991 ceasefire.  Polisario has handed over its minefield maps to the United Nations to assist with clearance while the Moroccan government maintains active minefields along the berm that divides the region (Mail and Guardian).

 

Angola

The United States ambassador to Angola, Helen La Lime, confirmed the US’s continuing support for a mine-free Angola during the first visit of a US ambassador to the eastern provinces of Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte (Relief Web).

 

South Sudan

Eighty children in the United Nations Protection of Civilian (PoC) site in Bentiu received mine-risk education from the Mission staff.  The lessons are part of a broader program to inform school children about the dangers from landmines and other ERW, especially after three children were injured while playing with unspent ammunition (Relief Web).

 

Michael P. Moore

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

March 7, 2017


The Month in Mines, January 2017

At this year’s Academy Awards, the Danish film, “Land of Mine,” was one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Picture.  “Land of Mine” (Under Sandet in Danish) lost to the Iranian film, “The Salesman,” but garnered quite a bit of attention for its subject: in the days after World War II, the Danish government forced German prisoners of war to clear the landmines placed on Danish soil during the Nazi occupation of Denmark.  I haven’t seen it yet, but as a fact-based account, I am looking forward to this film.  Other the flip side and made of pure hokum, is “Mine” starring Armie Hammer as a US military sniper who steps on a landmine and hears the fateful, “click,” as the mine arms itself.  Hammer then has to survive for 52 hours on the same mine as he waits for rescue. We’ve covered this before, but landmines don’t go “click,” they just explode.  Having them go click may be a good trick for heightening narrative tension, but it is also supremely lazy writing.

Check out “Kilo Two Bravo.”  Like “Land of Mine,” “Kilo Two Bravo” is based upon real events, specifically the experiences of a British army unit in Afghanistan which, during a routine patrol of a dry riverbed near the Kajaki dam, wanders into a minefield.  The mines don’t go click.  They wait like silent predators, unseen and unmarked, until they are disturbed.  The filmmakers treat the landmines like monsters in a horror movie which is what “Kilo Two Bravo” is: a modern monster movie with tragic, terrible and real outcomes.  The soldiers try desperately to save one another and incur additional injuries in the process, but steadfastly refuse to withdraw until they are all rescued.  The audience knows the mines are there but it is still a shock when they detonate because landmine explosions are inherently shocking.  Writing gimmicks are not needed to heighten the tension, the facts of the situation facing the characters creates its own tension.  A very good, if tough movie, which shows the true horror of these weapons.

 

South Africa

A woman living on the border with Zimbabwe was gardening in her yard when she detonated a landmine that had been left behind when the area was a military base in the Apartheid era.  The woman was injured in the arm and face. This incident followed one a year earlier when a person was killed salvaging scrap metal in the same area (All Africa).

 

Uganda

A suspected landmine from the Lord’s Resistance Army severely injured six children in Pader District who found the explosive and were striking it with sticks (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

A Biafran War-era landmine was discovered in Ebonyi state, sparking panic that it might be an improvised explosive device (IED), until the item’s actual provenance was confirmed by local police.  The police also searched the nearby area but found no other explosive remnants of war (ERW) (All Africa).

 

Kenya

In further news of relics from long ago wars, herders in Kenya’s Samburu county found two bombs in an area that had been a British army training post during the colonial period.  The bombs were reported to the police who collected them for destruction. There have been many such discoveries of abandoned munitions in the area, some made by children tending herds (All Africa).

 

Mali

Five Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine in the central Mopti region of the country (Agence France Press).  Three other Malian soldiers were killed and fourth injured by a landmine as the soldiers traveled to the northern city of Gao (The News).

 

Algeria

One child was killed and seven others wounded by an ERW.  The children found the item in the woods near their home which is southwest of Algiers and was thought to be a stronghold for Islamist rebels during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s (Maghreb Emergent).

In much better news for Algeria, the nation declared that all known border minefields and anti-personnel landmines have been cleared, fulfilling the Mine Ban Treaty obligations under Article 5.  During the course of the work, almost 9 million mines were destroyed and 62,000 hectares of land were cleared.  Algeria joins Tunisia as the second North African state to achieve this milestone (Africa Times).

 

Libya

A military messenger was killed by a landmine in the western part of the city of Benghazi (Al Wasat). Landmine and ERW clearance in Benghazi has been extremely dangerous and several deminers from military engineering units have been killed and injured by explosives laid by Islamic State members as booby traps (Arab 24). An explosive booby trap claimed the life of a special forces volunteer when he was searching and clearing a house in Benghazi (Al Wasat). As Libyan forces made progress towards liberating Benghazi, a brigade commander was killed in the Ganfouda neighborhood (Libya Herald).  A second unit commander was killed by a landmine just as the army declared Ganfouda liberated, leaving only “mopping up” operations to fully secure the city of Benghazi (Libya Herald)

 

Angola

Twenty years ago this month, a divorced mother of two boys took a walk through a field.  Photos show her walking alone, although there were large contingents of deminers and reporters close by.  This brief walk, maybe a couple hundred meters and just a minutes, showed that humanitarian demining worked and could be trusted to make land safe for even the most famous woman in the world, Princess Diana.  The government of Angola, the HALO Trust (Diana’s host for that walk), and diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, gathered to recognize the anniversary of Diana’s minefield walk and re-commit to a mine-free Angola.  The United States committed an additional US $4 million to landmine clearance as the participants in the event recognized that landmines still pose a danger to Angolans, as evidenced by the death of a child from an anti-tank mine a couple months earlier in a town just a few kilometers away (HALO Trust, Relief Web)

Elsewhere in Angola, a mine-risk education campaign in southern Cunene province targeted school children and shoppers at local markets to reduce the likelihood of accidents (ANGOP).

 

Egypt

In the World War II battle of El Alamein, the tank battalions of Great Britain and Germany famously faced off, but they were not alone.  On the German side could be found many Italian soldiers, and the legacy of that Italian involvement is still being recognized.  A decade ago, an Italian Air Force officer found minefield maps that were shared with the Egyptian government and some amateur and professional Italian historians are scouring wartime diaries and journals to uncover more information that may be of help to the Egyptian government in its demining efforts.  Now, satellite images are being used to further refine the information in those maps as battlefield locations are pinpointed (The Daily Beast).

Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation announced the establishment of a national center for mine action that will clear 150,000 acres of landmines from the northern coast.  The center will also provide mine risk education and support survivor assistance with the creation of a prosthetics facility (Daily News).

 

Western Sahara

A man was killed by a landmine when his car struck the mine near the village of Jreyfiya (Sahara Confidential).

 

South Sudan

Since the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in December 2013, the contamination from ERW has increased, especially in Bentiu and Upper Nile States.  Equatoria State remains heavily contaminated from ERW from the civil wars when South Sudan was still a part of Sudan (Eye Radio).

 

Michael P. Moore

February 28, 2017

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, December 2016

Many apologies for this one being so late.  Will try to do better for the rest of the year…

2016’s news that the number of landmine casualties had gone up severely is tempered only slightly by the fact that this news seems to have spurred some action in the international community.  At a meeting of the African Union in December, the countries that had joined the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions re-committed themselves to the goal of a mine-free world by 2025 and setting up mechanisms to create cross-border cooperation to help achieve that end (African Union).

 

Somalia

In the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, security forces fought militants aligned with the Islamic State for the first time in that region of the country.  The firefight began when Puntland troops were stopped by landmines placed in the road.  When the troops started to clear the mines, Islamic State fighters attacked.  No casualties were reported from the mines (All Africa).

In Hirshabelle, one of Somalia’s key agricultural regions, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) collaborated to rehabilitate major roadways to enable access and transport.  During the operation, the teams rebuilt a bridge near Jowhar town that had been destroyed by a landmine (UN Support Office in Somalia).

 

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Mine Action Center (ZIMAC) hosted a national mine action strategic planning workshop to develop the 2017 workplan and set up a long-term plan for clearing all remaining landmines in the country.  This plan will help to inform the expected extension request from Zimbabwe to the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).

 

Ethiopia

An India company, JMC Projects India, is building a hundred kilometer road between Kenya and Ethiopia and has pledged to provide prosthetics to members of the Tigray Disabled Veterans Association.  An estimate 100,000 people in Tigray Regional State have been disabled by landmines or the wars in Ethiopia (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

Last year Nigerian military engineers discovered multiple caches of cluster munitions in northeastern Adamawa state and a suicide attack in Maiduguri carried out by a female bomber is thought to have used similar munitions (The Daily Beast).

In December, a lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian army died when his vehicle struck a landmine buried in the road in Borno state; the mine was attributed to Boko Haram.  The lieutenant colonel is the fourth officer killed by Boko Haram in just two months (Naij.com).

To combat Boko Haram and the landmines, IEDs and booby-traps left by them, the Nigerian army acquired a Slovak-made mine-sweeper to clear the roads in Borno state (Naij.com).

 

Libya

The spokesman for the Libyan National Army’s engineering division was killed by a landmine in the Banfouda area of Benghazi (Libya Herald). As the army liberates more of the city, civilians are attempting to return to their homes and many have been killed or wounded by landmines and booby traps left by the fleeing Islamic State forces.  A Chadian national was injured by a mine on a farm just east of Benghazi (Al Wasat). Bobby traps have been found not only in the streets and fields but also in Benghazi’s main hospital where two mines exploded.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured (Libya Herald). As IS forces expand their asymmetrical warfare to include suicide car bombs and the use of weaponized drones, a brigade commander was killed by a landmine (Libya Herald) and a special forces soldier was killed and two other soldiers injured by a mine (Arab Today).

In the western city of Sirte, recently liberated from the Islamic State, residents and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) have called for assistance to clear the landmines left by IS. UNHCR and Mercy Corps are conducting a rapid needs assessment and have identified landmine clearance as the more pressing need (UNHCR). In partial response, army engineering teams from Misrata, Zliten and Tripoli are clearing the mines in Sirte and as they clear neighborhoods, alerting the residents so they can return. The engineering teams are also asking residents not to return to areas before those areas have been declared clear of mines to avoid further casualties. (Libya Observer). This message has been reinforced by the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, in remarks aimed at fostering national reconciliation (Press TV).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reported on its 2016 achievements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  In addition to clearing almost 175,000 square meters of ground and destroying over 26,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW), 8,000 Congolese have been sensitized about the dangers of landmines and ERW. The sensitization campaign included a pop song by a local artist and is available on YouTube. The current pace of clearance would allow DRC to meet its Mine Ban Treaty requirement of clearance of all known minefields by January 1, 2021 (UNMAS).

 

Tunisia

A shepherd lost his left leg to a landmine on Mount Semmama in the Kasserine region.  The right leg was also severely damaged and may also require amputation (Webdo). Two Tunisian soldiers were also injured in the Kasserine region in a separate incident (Direct Info).

 

Angola

In the northern Malanje province, Angola’s National Demining Institute handed over to the local government, a 2,500 square meter field that had been cleared of mines.  The local authorities plan to use the land for an electrical substation (ANGOP).

In Huila province, fears of a previously undocumented minefield were heightened when a farmer was injured by an anti-tank mined as he was plowing a field for a newly launched agricultural program.  This was the second such blast in the area in the last two years and the earlier explosion killed two people (ANGOP).

In its annual review of progress, the National Inter-ministerial Commission on Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH) reported 1.4 million square meters of land have been cleared of mines by Angolan military engineers.  CNIDAH also announced its intention to secure another extension for its Article 5 clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty with the extension period lasting until 2025.  CNIDAH calculates that US $275.2 million will be required to clear all known landmines and minefields (Prensa Latina).

 

Mozambique

Just a little a year after declaring the country free of anti-personnel landmines, Mozambique has declared itself free of cluster munitions.  In 2015 Norwegian Peoples Aid, with support from UNDP, conducted a comprehensive survey of cluster munitions remnants and identified 4 provinces affected by cluster munitions. After the survey, NPA cleared 144 Rhodesia-made submunitions from multiple campaigns along the border leaving Mozambique cluster munition-free (Norwegian Peoples Aid).

 

Sudan

In the North Darfur region, two boys were killed and a third injured by an ERW that the boys found and played with (Radio Dabanga).

According to the Sudanese Defense Minister, 14 civilians were killed or injured by landmines in Sudan in 2016.  In response, almost 99 million square meters of land has been cleared of mines and other ERW (Sudan Vision).

 

Mali

Three French soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine.  The vehicle was in the lead of a convoy traveling to Tessalit from Gao (Africa News).

 

Algeria

In December, the Algerian National Police cleared over 81,000 landmines from the border with Morocco (DZ Breaking).

 

Western Sahara

A man was injured by a landmine when he drove his Land Rover over it.  The injuries were not thought to be life threatening, but there is concern that recent floods in Western Sahara may have moved some mines causing areas that had previously been safe to now be dangerous (Dales Vozalas Victimas).

 

Michael P. Moore

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

February 27, 2017

 


The Month in Mines, November 2016

The release of the annual Landmine Monitor report included the shocking fact that landmine casualties had increased substantially in 2015 from recent years.  Whereas 10 people were killed or injured by landmines each day in 2014, 18 people were killed or injured daily in 2015. On the African continent, Libya had the most casualties, with more casualties than all other African countries put together.  I am hopeful that 2015 was an anomaly.

 

Nigeria

Five Nigerian soldiers were injured by a landmine during a patrol near Maiduguri, capitol of Borno state. Army official believe Boko Haram members planted the mine the previous night in expectation of the patrol (News 24).

Near the Chibok area of Borno state, a local militia patrol vehicle struck a landmine killing two militia members and wounding two others. Boko Haram members followed up on the blast with gunfire (Naij).

 

South Sudan

Despite the violence in South Sudan that erupted when the President, Salva Kiir, ousted his Vice President, Riek Machar, no evidence has been found of new landmine use in the country according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).  In this blog we have documented multiple accusations of new use, but cannot confirm those accusations.

The violence has not prevented UNMAS and its partners from continuing to map and clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). So far, 750 hazardous areas have been identified and UNMAS prioritizes clearance and assessment of schools and humanitarian access points.  Much of the country remains to be surveyed – the violence has made Jonglei and Upper Nile states inaccessible.

UNMAS maintains the South Sudan Mine Action hotline (+211 92 000 1055) and encourages all South Sudanese to use the hotline to report suspicious items (All Africa).

 

Sudan

The United Nations Security Council, in its re-authorization of the peacekeeping force in the disputed territory of Abyei, expressed concern about the continuing presence and threat from landmines and ERW which prevent the return of displaced persons (All Africa).

In Sudan’s South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern States, the Japanese NGO, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), is conducting mine risk education work.  These states are some of the most mine-affected in the country and the Japanese ambassador to Sudan led a delegation that included the State Minister of Defense, the Ambassadors from Italy and Sweden, and the US Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires (All Africa).

Sudan’s Foreign Minister repeated the government’s denial of possession or use of cluster munitions, claiming that international NGOs are making accusations for fundraising purposes. The minister also claimed that there was peace in Darfur (Morocco World News).

 

Libya

Conflict Armament Research published a report on weapons smuggling and trade in North Africa and the Sahel.  The report says that despite efforts by the United States and Europe to prevent the proliferation of small arms from Libya after Gaddhafi’s fall, many factions in the region possess anti-tank landmines looted from Libyan stockpiles (All Africa).

In Germany, an eleven year-old girl from the Libyan town of Sirte continues her recovery from a landmine blast that also killed most of her family.  Yaqeen Al-Hajali endured 17 hours of surgery in Libya, a medical evacuation to Tunisia and then onward evacuation to Germany. No word on Yaqeen’s brother and sister who also survived the blast (Libya Observer).

In Sirte, two members of the engineering brigade were killed and two more injured by a landmine attributed to the Islamic State (Al Wasat).

In Benghazi’s Al-Gawarsha neighborhood, a soldier in Khalifa Haftar’s army was killed by a landmine as Haftar’s army closed in on an Islamic State stronghold near the European Hospital (Libya Observer). A second soldier was killed by another landmine in the same area a few days later (Al Wasat). A few days later, Haftar’s army announced the liberation of the Al-Gawarsha district.  Once the army had captured the European Hospital, the Islamic State forces fled the neighborhood.  During the final approaches, a field commander was killed by a mine (Libya Herald).

 

Rwanda

Five young men were killed when they discovered a suspected landmine on former battlefield dating to the period before the 1994 genocide. The men were grazing cattle and, upon discovery of the explosive, began to play with it causing the blast (New Times).

 

Mali

A 60 vehicle convoy of the French army struck a landmine claimed by a rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda.  One soldier was killed and another wounded (The Local).

 

Egypt

During a visit of the International Cooperation Minister, a new prosthetic center was opened in the town of Masra Matrouh.  The center will support landmine survivors injured in the minefields of the World War II battlefield of El Alamein, which is nearby.  In addition to the prosthetic center, the Minister delivered a variety of economic and social supports to survivors and their families including water access, small business kits, agricultural inputs and sewing machines.  During the ceremonies, the British ambassador to Egypt also announced the handover of maps of the minefields laid by British and Allied forces during World War II (Because).

The interventions were critiqued by several in Egypt who hold the position that because Germany and Britain laid the landmines, they hold all of the responsibility for their clearance.  According the head of the military engineering department, the British minefield maps handed over by the ambassador are “sketch maps” and most of the mines were buried randomly.  The prosthetic center was also critiqued as many of the survivors suffered loss of vision and / or hearing and will not benefit from prosthetic limbs.  Among the survivors, almost half (48%) suffered upper limb injuries which suggest that they might have been digging or farming at the time of their injury, not just walking through the mine-affected areas (Middle East Observer)

The International Cooperation Minister also met with the Swiss ambassador to Egypt to discuss support for landmine clearance (Daily News Egypt).

 

Angola

The Japanese ambassador to Angola confirmed his commitment to support landmine clearance projects in Angola during a visit to Japanese-funded development projects in Uige province (Relief Web).

 

Western Sahara

Recent flooding in the Western Sahara region of Saguia El-Hamra have displaced many landmines laid by Moroccan forces.  The displacement of mines by flooding can lead to additional injuries as areas that had previously been free of mines may be contaminated (Facebook).

 

Somalia

A child was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Galkayo in the Puntland region (Puntland Mirror).

In central Somalia, police forces located and cleared several landmines from busy roadways.  The mines were attributed to Al Shabaab and found on a road used for transport convoys (Goobjoog).

 

Senegal

The US Embassy in Senegal reminded citizens of the presence of landmines in the Ziguinchor and Sedhiou areas of Senegal’s Casamance region.  The notice said that landmine clearance efforts are reducing the threat, but caution must continue to be taken (Overseas Security Advisory Council).

 

Michael P. Moore

December 22, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

 

 

 


The Month in Mines, October 2016

The passing of one of the towering giants of the Cold War, Fidel Castro, has prompted a lot of column inches in other venues.  This past summer I saw some of the impact of Cuba’s military adventurism in Angola but in previous trips I saw Cuban-built hospitals in Vietnam and met Cuban engineers in Denmark.  During Castro’s leadership, Cuba was a country with an outsized impact on the world.  Even before the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, the United States had removed the minefields that surrounded the military base at Guantanamo Bay and Cuba’s role as mediator in negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels had held out hope for demining progress there.  Cuba recently joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the improving relations between the US and Cuba removed one of the principle excuses Cuba had used to remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty.

 

Angola

A newly discovered minefields was reported in the central province of Bie.  The exact extent of the contamination is not known, but the area had been the scene of fighting during one of Angola’s many periods of fighting in the province (All Africa).

In the northern province of Malanje, the Japanese ambassador to Angola re-affirmed his country’s commitment to Angola’s humanitarian mine action program.  Annually the Japanese government provides US $20 million for demining in Angola (Relief Web).

In the northern Zaire province, the National Demining Institute detonated over 100 explosive remnants of was including eight landmines (All Africa).

The director of Angola’s mine action program estimates that 270 million euros will be required to clear the remaining 1,435 known minefields.  Angola will need international support to meet the Maputo Declaration’s goal of clearing all known minefields by 2025. At present, Angola still needs to complete minefield surveys in eight of the country’s 18 provinces to fully document the extent of contamination (Government of Angola).

 

Somalia

During an attack on Mandera, a town along the Somali-Kenya border, Al Shabaab members planted landmines in the town which have hindered the efforts of the security forces to respond to the attack (All Africa).

In Mogadishu, three suspected Al Shabaab members were killed by the landmine they were trying to plant in a roadway (All Africa).

The extensive use of remote-controlled and victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been a major security challenge for the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia.  225 separate attacks have been recorded in 2016 with hundreds of casualties. Victim-activated IEDs, including pressure-plate and magnetic IEDs, are banned by the Mine Ban Treaty (All Africa).

 

Nigeria

The Nigerian army, having ousted Boko Haram from much of northeastern Nigeria is now busy trying to certify the safety of liberated areas.  The army recognizes the threat from landmines and IEDs and once an area has been cleared of explosives, it will be released back to the population (The Eagle).  The governor of Adamawa state acknowledged the threat and fear of landmines during a speech at the United States Institute of Peace. The governor also noted that despite the assurances of the army, many farmers are reluctant to return to their fields (All Africa). Those fears have some validity as less than an hour after the Nigerian army declared a road in Maiduguri safe, a truck struck a landmine injuring several passengers (All Africa).

During the fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria recruited and used local vigilante forces to augment the formal army units.  At least 162 women whose husbands served as vigilantes have been widowed as a result of the fighting, many by landmines, and the Borno state government has committed to providing assistance to those widows (All Africa).

 

Zimbabwe

The national mine action authority is developing a new extension request for its Article 5 mine clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty.  This would be the fifth such extension request and set a new deadline for clearing all known minefields of 2025, matching the global deadline from the Maputo Declaration.  At present, the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid are actively demining in Zimbabwe and they will soon be joined by Mines Advisory Group and APOPO (All Africa). Unfortunately, the national commitment to demining appears to be lacking.  For the last several years, the government of Zimbabwe has only allocated US $500,000 for demining and in 2016, that allocation was reduced to US $100,000 (News Day).  The government, in its extension request, should state its commitment to demining and identify national resources to match that commitment.

 

Mali

Multiple landmine incidents were reported in northern Mali. Three Malian soldiers were killed and another injured when their vehicle stuck a mine in the northern Timbuktu region. This accident closely followed an incident in which a Chadian soldier was killed by a landmine in Kidal when his vehicle struck a mine (Fox News). A Tuareg leader from an anti-government faction was killed by a landmine less than 300 meters from a United Nations base in Kidal where he has been meeting with peacekeeping troops (Reuters). Landmines were used as part of an ambush of Malian soldiers in the village of N’Goma Coura in the center of the country.  Four soldiers were killed and seven injured in the attack (Yahoo).

 

Libya

Female parliamentarians in Libya called upon the Italian government and the international community to support demining in the liberated areas of Benghazi (ANSAMed). The Dutch ambassador to Libya pledged one million Euros for demining in Sirte (Libya Observer). Despite the gains made by the government-backed army in Sirte, there are concerns about the insurgent attacks.  A teacher was killed and his family members injured by a landmine on the road from Sirte to Misrata, an area that is supposed to have been liberated from Islamist forces. This was the fifth such explosion on that stretch of road in less than three months (Libya Herald).

Despite the war, students at Benghazi University managed to complete their studies and to celebrate their graduation, they visited the campus which had recently been liberated after a two years’ occupation by Islamic State forces. Demining teams continue to work to clear the campus of explosives, but estimate that only 5% of the booby traps and landmines have been cleared (BBC News).

 

Sudan

Three militia members aligned with the government were killed when their vehicle struck and detonated a piece of unexploded ordnance (All Africa).

 

Egypt

Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister met with Swiss representatives to request support from Switzerland to clear the landmines in the Northwest Desert that remain from World War II (El Balad).

 

Western Sahara

A four-year old child was killed by a cluster munition and two others were injured (Remove the Wall).

 

Michael P. Moore

November 30, 2016

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org


The Month in Mines, April 2016

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

 

Mali

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

 

Zimbabwe

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

 

Angola

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

 

Uganda

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

 

Nigeria & Cameroon

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

 

Mozambique

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

 

Sudan

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

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

 

Algeria

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

 

South Sudan

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

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

 

Morocco

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

 

Western Sahara

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

 

Libya

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

 

Somalia

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

 

Michael P. Moore

Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

May 6, 2016

 


The Month in Mines, March 2016

Bear with me, folks: this is going to be a long one.  In March we have landmine-related stories from 15 countries and areas, with good and bad news to report.  In the stories below, I report on over 150 landmine and ERW casualties, the deadliest month of the year so far.  The positive news includes continued mine clearance in Angola and Algeria and Japan’s support for mine action in several countries.  The glass is never more than half-full.

 

 

Western Sahara

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights produces a biannual report on violations of the human rights of the Sahrawi people.  In their report for the period July – December 2015, they noted one landmine injury in addition to multiple other violations (All Africa).

During March, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Western Sahara and observed the landmine clearance projects managed by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) (All Africa).  During that visit, Ban referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara by Morocco which led the Moroccan government to call for the expulsion of the UN mission in Western Sahara, including the UNMAS staff.

Also in March, Western Sahara registered its first landmine fatality of the year when a shepherd’s truck struck a probable anti-vehicle mine west of the berm, near Smara (Remove the Wall).

 

Sudan

The government of Japan pledged US $2.1 million in support of UNMAS’s work in Kassala, Red Sea, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  The donation will support clearance of 1.5 million square meters and risk education for 100,000 Sudanese (All Africa).  At the same time, a rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), accused the government of Sudan of using cluster munitions in the ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains region, which includes South Kordofan (Sudan Tribune).

In North Darfur’s Tawila area, two UXO incidents were reported.  In the first, two men were killed by a UXO blast as they were collecting firewood (Radio Dabanga).  In the second incident, six gold miners were killed and three more injured when their vehicle struck a piece of UXO (Radio Dabanga).

 

Mozambique

Even though the country has been declared landmine free, Mozambique is still plagued by other explosive remnants of war so the national police are being educated on explosive ordnance disposal (Star Africa).

 

Morocco

In addition to training Senegalese forces, the US Marines have been training Moroccan soldiers to build the demining capacity of the Moroccan army.  Starting in 2007, the Moroccan military has cleared some 564 square kilometers of land, and the goal is for Morocco to be able to train its own forces on explosive ordnance disposal.  In April, Morocco will launch a new effort to clear the landmines from the eastern side of the berm that divides Western Sahara into the Moroccan-controlled area and the Polisario-controlled area (Camp Lejeune Globe; Sahara Question).

 

Angola

The governments of Japan and Norway provided US $ 203,384 for landmine clearance in Malanje province.  With the funds, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) will be able to clear 117,000 square meters (All Africa).

The National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH) has called on the population to report suspected minefields to the Commission.  At the same time, CNIDAH’s representative announced plans for clearance of 3.1 million square meters of land in Cunene province and that over 546,000 square meters had been cleared in 2015 (Angola Press).  In Lunda Norte province, the National Demining Institute (INAD) reported the clearance of 2.2 million square meters of land in 2015 (All Africa).  As part of the national infrastructure plan, INAD has finished the clearance of the high voltage lines in Cabinda Province which was accompanied by some clearance activities to enable small scale cultivation (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603170842.html).  In Zaire province, construction of electrical lines is pending the demining of some 189 kilometers of line (Angola Press).  In Uige province, the Angola NGO, Terra Mae, cleared over 300 landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in March (Angola Press).

The uncertain financial support for mine action globally continues to have very real, local impacts.  The HALO Trust, which has cleared over 51 million square meters and 65,000 mines and ERW in Bie Province since 1995 have shuttered their operations in that province.  INAD and the Angolan army will be responsible for surveying and clearing the 300 suspected hazardous areas that remain in the province (Rede Angola).

 

Egypt

Egypt’s northwestern deserts are polluted with mines leftover from the World War II battles around El Alamein and the modern city of Matrouh.  The European Union supports a large demining project there which is in its third year.  Sahar Nasr, the Minister of International Cooperation, during a visit to the program called on the EU to extend the project (All Africa; State Information Service; El Balad).

Even though the minefields of El Alamein are more famous, two landmine incidents in Sinai and one on the Red Sea coast highlighted the fact that Egypt’s landmine contamination is more widespread.  Five soldiers were killed and seven more injured by a landmine near the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada (Egyptian Streets).  In Sinai, seven police were killed and nine injured in one landmine incident and one Bedouin was killed and another injured in a second incident (Al Bawaba; Al Bawaba).  The Red Sea mine likely dates to World War II and the first Sinai mine is from the conflicts with Israel in the 1950s and 1970s.  The Bedouins were victims of a recently laid mine that detonated when struck by their tractor.

 

Algeria

Algerian counter-terrorism forces destroyed four bunkers and 16 anti-personnel landmines in Boumerdes (Ennahar).  In ongoing operations, the Algerian army cleared almost five thousand landmines from the borders that date back to the French colonial period.  Through February 2016, Algeria has destroyed 831,017 landmines (Ennahar).

 

Zimbabwe

The anti-poaching unit operating near Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls park arrested 300 poachers in 2015 and recovered 10 kilograms of elephant ivory from three dealers.  In the process, the unit also found a cache of 50 landmines leftover from the liberation war in the Zambezi National Park and called the Zimbabwe army to destroy them (Radio VOP).

 

Nigeria & Cameroon

Vigilantes, operating under the more benign name of “civilian self-defense groups,” have been important actors in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon.  However, these vigilantes lack the necessary equipment – they have appealed for bicycles to assist in their operations – and have been victims of the very landmines and explosives they are trying to find.  In five days, seven landmine blasts killed 34 people and injured 40 more. The Cameroonian army has received technical advice and equipment from the US government and trainers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the French army are educating Cameroon soldiers on landmine and explosive clearance (Voice of America; African Press Organization). Cameroon’s soldiers have also been landmine victims with one killed and four more injured in two separate blasts in Amchide-Gance and Zamga (Simon Ateba).  The explosions and other war-related injuries have stretched Cameroon’s health system beyond its capacity (All Africa).

In Nigeria, 15 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram landmines in Nussa village in Borno state (Channels TV).  On the road from Chul to Huyum, also in Borno, three Nigerian vigilantes were killed and seven injured by a landmine (Press TV). In addition to soldiers and vigilantes, hunters from Nigeria’s indigenous groups have also sought to join the fight against Boko Haram.  Acknowledging the landmine risks, these hunters have “super natural powers” which they will use “to assist the military in crushing Boko Haram” in addition to their extensive knowledge of the Sambisa forest which Boko Haram is using as a refuge (TVC News).  Two Boko Haram members were killed by their own landmine as they fled from Nigerian soldiers in Kumala area of Borno (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603180337.html).

The US government provided 24 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) to the Nigerian army to assist with the fight against Boko Haram.  However, most of the vehicles require maintenance and servicing before they can be used and have been referred to as “carcasses.”  The Nigerian army has been able to deploy some mine-clearance machines, but the available machines are insufficient for the vast area of the Sambisa forest (All Africa).

 

Tunisia

One soldier was injured by a landmine in the Kasserine region during a counter-terrorism operation (All Africa).

 

Senegal

Under the auspices of the State Department’s Humanitarian Mine Action program, a US Marine contingent led a six week training session for Senegalese soldiers in demining and explosive ordnance disposal. Other partners in the training program include the Vermont National Guard and the Austrian Armed Forces (Defence Web). In addition to the national army, Handicap International is clearing landmines in Senegal’s Casamance region.  In 2016, HI plans to clear 55,000 square meters, the equivalent of 8 football pitches (Relief Web).  HI’s partner, the Senegalese Association of Mine Victims (ASVM) is leading a mine risk education campaign in Casamance with survivors directly participating.  In the current campaign, ASVM hopes to reach 60 schools and 65 villages (Relief Web).

 

Somalia

The European Union and UNMAS donated bomb disposal equipment to the Somali Police force which will outfit five bomb squad units that will also be trained (Relief Web).  A line of landmines placed in the center of Bardhere town in southern Somalia killed two people and injured several others when an Ethiopian army vehicle drove over them. In the aftermath of the blast, the Ethiopian soldiers fired indiscriminately injuring some bystanders (Goobjoog News).  In Bakol, three Al Shabaab members were arrested and charged with planting landmines (News Ghana).

 

Mali

Six peacekeepers with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured at the start of the month when their vehicle struck a landmine on the Aguelhok – Tessalit road (MINUSMA).  Three days later an unknown number of casualties occurred when another MINUSMA vehicle struck a landmine near Kidal (Desert Media). At the end of the month, two Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine on the Mopti – Timbuktu road (Desert Media).

 

South Sudan

The government of Japan contributed US $2.3 million to UNMAS for mine action in South Sudan.  Over 110 million square meters of land in South Sudan is contaminated by landmines and ERW affected almost eight million people.  New mine usage during the current civil war compounds the problem (Modern Ghana).

 

Michael P. Moore

April 18, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org