Republic of Yemen

by Greg Haugan [ Mine Action Information Center ]

Located on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the Republic of Yemen is home to a people with a rich history dating back to some of the earliest human civilizations. Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, the Red Sea to the west, and the Arabian Sea to the south, giving it a strategic location as a trading port that made the region wealthy throughout much of its history. In recent years the country has been plagued by violence and political corruption, making it difficult to focus on two major humanitarian crises of extreme population growth and poverty now facing the country.

For most of the 20th century, the country was divided between the north and south. North Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and finally became a republic in 1962, while South Yemen was subject to British colonialism from the mid-19th century until 1967. South Yemen was ruled as a socialist republic for three decades before both sides were united as the Republic of Yemen in 1990. While the majority of the country is Sunni Muslim, the population of former North Yemen is predominantly Shiite, which has led to some tension between the northern and southern areas.

Landmine Problem

As a result of a war in North Yemen from 1962–1975 between republicans and royalists, South Yemen's struggle for independence from Britain between 1963 and 1967, and a civil war in 1994 between factions in the northern and southern parts of the country, landmines and unexploded ordnance contaminate a wide portion of the country. In the wake of having signed the Ottawa Convention on 4 December 1997 and ratifying it on 1 September 1998,1 a Landmine Impact Survey was completed by Yemen in July 2000. The survey identified suspected hazardous areas in 19 of Yemen's 21 governorates.2 The majority of the SHAs and those noted as having the highest priority, were found in the western portion of the country, particularly around the former border between the north and south.3 The original suspected hazardous areas identified by the 2000 LIS totaled 923 square kilometers (356 square miles), but by 2006 clearance and additional survey had brought that area down to 607 square kilometers (234 square miles).4 While new SHAs have been identified since the 2000 LIS was conducted, as of June 2006, all high-impact areas have been cleared. In 2002 Yemen completed the destruction of its anti-personnel landmine stockpiles to bring the country into compliance with Article 7 of the Ottawa Convention.5 Though Yemen is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, it did attend the Fifth Annual Conference of States Parties to the CCW Amended Protocol II in November 2003.6

Mine-action Program

The programs and policies of Yemen's mine-action program are approved by the country's National Mine Action Committee, consisting of officials from several government ministries, while mine action is carried out and implemented by the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center with support from the United Nations Development Programme. Yemen has made significant progress toward remediating its landmine problem since these two national mine-action bodies were formed by decree in 1988. As of July 2007, approximately 535.7 square kilometers (206.8 square miles) of the total SHA identified by the 2000 LIS had been surveyed and cleared, and mine-risk education had reached 704,774 people.7 All mines from high-impact areas were cleared as of June 2006, and landmine and ERW accidents have been reduced by approximately 80 percent since the completion of the impact survey.8

Yemen's victim assistance program for landmine and UXO survivors has been credited by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining as one of the most advanced in the world. The 2000 LIS identified 1,779 survivors, of which 1,357 were surveyed by the victim-assistance program; 1,109 were then given medical examinations and 1,044 were given medical support.7

Following the completion of "Phase II" of its mine-action program, focusing on strengthening the capacity of national staff, Yemen is currently in the third phase of its mine-action program. The goal of the third phase is to fully nationalize the country's program. To this end, progress has been substantial as the UNDP chief Technical Advisor to Yemen left the country in 2006, leaving the UNDP office with the primary role of supporting resource mobilization.9

Conclusion

Although measurable progress has been made with Yemen's mine-action program, it seems it will be difficult to achieve the program's goal of an impact-free status by March 2009. Nearly 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) remain to be surveyed and cleared, while at the same time ongoing violence from rebel groups in the country presents new difficulties. Current civil conflicts are largely taking place in areas of low mine-action priority and therefore do not have a substantial impact on the work of mine-action groups. It is possible that hostilities will present new UXO and landmine problems, although until an official survey is completed, it will be impossible to tell.7 Bullet

Biography

Greg Haugan has worked as a Student Research Assistant at the Mine Action Information Center since February 2007. He is a senior at James Madison University pursuing a double major in economics and international affairs.

Endnotes

  1. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use. Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 5 March 2008. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
  2. The 2000 Landmine Impact Survey originally identified 18 of 19 governorates as impacted. Since 2000, new governorates have been added, bringing the current total to 21, including the capital of Sana'a.
  3. Yemen Landmine Impact Survey: Final Report. 2000. http://www.sac-na.org/pdf_text/yemen/FinalReport.pdf. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  4. "Yemen." Landmine Monitor Report 2006. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/yemen.html. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  5. "Yemen." E-Mine: Electronic Mine Information Network. http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=27. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  6. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 5 March 2008. This Convention is also referred to as the CCW or CCCW.
  7. Email interview with Sophia Aron, Yemen Executive Mine Action Center. 14 July 2007.
  8. "UNDP in Yemen." United Nations Development Programme. http://www.undp.org.ye/mine.php. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  9. "Yemen." Landmine Monitor Report 2007. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/yemen. Accessed 26 February 2008.

Contact Information

Greg Haugan
Research Assistant
Mine Action Information Center
E-mail: maic@jmu.edu

Mansour Al Azzi
General Director and Program Manager
National Mine Action Committee
P.O. Box 16267
Sana'a / Republic of Yemen
E-mail: MANSAZI@y.net.ye
Tel: +967 1 532 115
Fax: +967 1 532 129