Somalia’s landmine and unexploded ordnance contamination stems from several wars, beginning with the 1964 and 1977 Ogaden Wars. In the 1970s and 1980s, strategic facilities, camps and towns were mined during the Somali Salvation Democratic Front insurgency in northeast Somalia. Somalia is in a unique situation in which the northwestern and northeastern areas of the country have declared themselves to be separate from the rest of the country. The Republic of Somaliland is in the northwest (see Somaliland country profile) and Puntland is in the northeast. The war of secession leading to the Somaliland separation occurred from 1988 to 1991 and led to more mines being emplaced; the official division occurred in May 1991 and resulted in inter-clan fighting, in which mines were widely used. Somaliland seeks complete independence from Somalia, while Puntland, which established itself as an autonomous region in August 1998, wants to become a federal division within a united Somalia.
Somalia is not known to have produced or exported anti-personnel landmines in the past; however, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines are plentiful and can easily be bought from weapons markets. This easy access allows fighting clans to use landmines to defend themselves, exacerbating the existing landmine problem.
Somalia is unable to accede to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention1 due to a lack of central government since the fall of the government of Siyad Barre in January 1991. In August 2004, the Transitional Federal Government was formed.
The landmine problem in Somalia has a socioeconomic impact seen in numerous aspects of Somali society. It causes a reduction in the amount of land available for livestock and agricultural production. Transportation costs have increased due to severe road conditions. Victims suffer through poor rehabilitation and development efforts resulting in loss of life and disabilities.
The total number of Somali mine casualties is unknown. In 2004, 91 new casualties were recorded in 20 landmine incidents.2 This number was an increase over 2003; however, since landmine casualties are not systematically recorded, this number is most likely underestimated. The majority of incidents appear to be caused by anti-vehicle mines.
Somalia’s mine action is slow due to internal conflict impeding efforts like planned surveys, clearance and mine-risk education activities. There is no functioning mine-action center for the whole of Somalia nor is there a mine-action strategy. The United Nations Development Programme has been in Somalia since 2003, focusing on mine-action capacity building and technical assistance. The UNDP “mine action work plan for Somalia includes supporting activities to establish sustainable EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] and mine clearance teams based on existing local police and army capacity, and the creation of mine action centers in affected regions to coordinate activities.”2 The UNDP focuses on local and national capacity building.
In southern and central Somalia, an unstable security situation blocked coordinated mine-action planning throughout 2004. The UNDP is planning coordination with regional authorities and has begun discussions with the Transitional Federal Government. Until a central mine-action authority is created, the UNDP and nongovernmental organizations will carry out mine-action coordination in these areas. It is hoped that between 2006 and 2008 a mine-action center will be established in each of three different regions.
In Puntland, the Puntland Mine Action Centre is the coordinating body for mine action. The PMAC was established in 2003 by the UNDP with funding from the European Commission. A Phase I3 and II4 Landmine Impact Survey was completed in May 2005 in the Bari, Nugaal and Mudug regions. The LIS showed 35 affected communities; nine high impact, nine medium impact and 17 low impact. Seventy-seven percent of the mine-affected areas are in the Galkayo and Galdogob districts in the Mudug region. By mid-2005, police EOD teams started addressing spot clearance tasks identified in the LIS. The goal for 2006 is to establish a national clearance capacity in Puntland to address the longer-term problem while having an international nongovernmental organization start immediate activities to clear all the high-impact areas.
A Mine-safe Somalia
If mine-action centers are established in southern and central Somalia, it is plausible that, working with the centers in Somaliland and Puntland, they could develop a national mine-action strategy. Establishing a united mine-action effort will be the biggest step toward creating a mine-safe Somalia. The United Nations believes “the mine and UXO threat in Somalia is a finite problem,”2 one that can be solved in seven to 10 years if given the appropriate amount of attention and resources.
Megan Wertz was an Editorial Assistant with the Journal of Mine Action from August 2005 until May 2006, when she graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in technical and scientific communication. Wertz attends The George Washington University where she is obtaining a Master of Arts in public policy. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. Ottawa, Canada. Sept. 18, 1997. http://www.un.org/Depts/mine/UNDocs/ban_trty.htm. Accessed Feb. 8, 2006.
- “Somalia” Landmine Monitor Report, 2005. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2005/somalia.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2006.
- Phase I is the planning, preparation and office establishment portion of the Landmine Impact Survey. Phase I consists of: U.N. Assessment Mission—assessing if there is a need for mine action in a country; Advance Survey Mission—implements if mine action is possible or feasible in the country; Operational Set up and Establishment of Country Presence—setting up of an operation base of temporary offices and communication, as well as hiring a staff; Collection of Expert Opinion—staff collects advice from experts in the field who are knowledgeable in the field of mines; and Sounding Board Meeting—discussion between local stakeholders, government personnel, NGOs, survey experts, and social scientists on global survey instrument and methodology.
- Phase II is the project expansion and survey instrument refinement portion of the Landmine Impact Survey. Phase II consists of Training—implementation of a training program designed to teach staff how to survey; Conduct Pre- and Pilot Tests—testing of survey equipment; Sampling for False Negatives—conduction of sampling to check for false negatives; Revise Operational Plan—revision of operation from previous information gained.
- “Somalia.” E-MINE: The Electronic Mine Information Network. http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=23. Accessed Feb. 8, 2006.
- “Fact Sheet: Launch of the ‘Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2006’ covering Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.” ReliefWeb. Dec. 15, 2005. Source: United Nations Development Programme. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/hmyt-6k4nae?OpenDocument. Accessed Feb. 8, 2006.
- “Survey Action Center.” Landmine Monitor Report, 2000. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2000/appendices/sac.html. Accessed May 17, 2006.
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