U.S. Humanitarian Demining in Africa
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Due to the numerous internal conflicts, crises and wars that several of
the nations in Africa have faced, this region is one of the places in the
world that is significantly affected by landmines. In an attempt to
alleviate the suffering from landmine injuries, the United States has set
out to provide humanitarian mine action assistance to many of these
by Sarah E. Kindig,
JMU Fellow, Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs, U.S. Department
A Rwandan deminer taking a break.
The United States government’s Humanitarian Demining
Program seeks to relieve human suffering while promoting U.S. interests.
The Program’s objectives are to reduce civilian casualties, create
conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their
homes, reinforce an affected country’s stability, and encourage
international cooperation and participation.
Today, landmines or UXO affect 30 of Africa’s 54
countries. Of these 30 countries, the United States provides 17 with humanitarian
mine action assistance. Since Fiscal Year (FY) 1993, the United States has provided
Africa with $130 million (U.S.) while donating almost $600 million total
to worldwide mine action initiatives. In FY 2002, the United States will
contribute $8 million in humanitarian mine action assistance to Africa.
U.S. Humanitarian Demining Initiatives in Africa
Angola, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia,
Algeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea - Bissau,
Libya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda
Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Djibouti, Kenya, Malawi,
Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria (UXO), Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia,
Western Sahara, Zambia
As a result of more than 30 years of internal political
struggle, landmines litter Angola’s provinces. The majority of landmines
is concentrated in areas necessary for survival, such as agricultural
land, roads, bridges, waterways, railways and health care facilities. The
actual number of landmines in Angola is unknown, though estimates range up
to six million. Aided by the United States and other donors, Angolan demining teams
have cleared over nine million square meters of land, 841,887 square
meters of it in 2001 alone. This cleared land allowed for increased food
production and for the resettlement of many internally displaced persons
(IDPs). Thanks to contributions from the U.S. Agency for International
Aid’s (USAID) Leahy War Victim’s Fund (LWVF), Angola has a fully
functioning orthopedic workshop that produces prostheses and orthoses so
that landmine survivors are able to re-enter society and participate in
economic activities. Since 1995, the United States has contributed a total
of $25,810,000 to the campaign to remove landmines in Angola.
The Libyan occupation of the northern region of Chad
resulted in large (2–60km long) military minefields around key population
centers, while rebellions in other regions of the country contributed a
large number of smaller minefields to the landmine problem. There are an
estimated 500,000 mines in Chad. Along with other donors, the United
States played a pivotal role in establishing Chad’s demining program.
Since 1998, U.S. Special
Operations Forces (SOF)-trained Chadian deminers
have cleared 1,322,330 square meters of land, while destroying 3,800 mines
and 148,000 pieces of UXO in the process. The United States has given
$5,011,855 in aid since 1998 and continues its commitment to demining with
a contribution of $441,000 for FY 2002.
UXO in Chad.
Internal conflict between 1991 and 1994 has left
Djibouti with an unknown number of landmines and UXO. The United States has helped
the government of Djibouti create a Mine Action Center and establish
facilities and demining training with support totaling $2,386,000 since FY
2000. U.S. SOF have been instrumental in training Djiboutian deminers. So
far, the Djiboutian demining teams have destroyed 274 landmines and 28
pieces of UXO and cleared 5,661.6 square meters of land, which has been
returned to productive use. With the current rate of progress, Djibouti
should be able to declare itself mine-safe by the end of 2003.
Civil strife and the war with Ethiopia have resulted in
a severe landmine problem in Eritrea that is concentrated around strategic
military positions and around water sources in the more rural provinces.
The National Demining Center in Asmara estimates that there are between
1.5 and two million landmines infesting the country. In order to help
combat this problem, the United States has contributed a total of
$10,244,000 since 1994. Currently, Ethiopian deminers are clearing an
average of 1,826 square meters per week. In addition, mine detection dog
teams are averaging 6,255 square meters per week of area clearance.
According to the UN, these operations have permitted refugees to resettle
on safe land and spurred economic growth in the region.
The government of Ethiopia’s National Demining Office
estimates that 1.5 to two million landmines and large quantities of UXO
persist in Ethiopia. The United States provided $1.9 million in FY 2002, while
total U.S. donations have reached $10,084,000 since 1993. Efforts by U.S.-trained Ethiopian deminers have spurred increased agriculture and refugee
resettlement. Two companies of manual deminers, trained and equipped by
|(Left to Right) AT mines in Ethiopia.
A Zimbabwe village on the edge of a live minefield.
Department of State (DOS) under a contract with RONCO Consulting
Corporation, are operational and deployed to two sites in the Tigray
region. Initial survey work has resulted in area reductions of more than
90 percent in targeted areas, in effect returning previously suspected
mine-affected land to use. Through USAID’s LWVF, the Prosthetic Orthotic
Training Center of Addis Ababa provides ready-made components for
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)-assisted rehabilitation
centers for landmine survivors.
Guinea-Bissau has an estimated 16,000–20,000 landmines, some laid by
Senegalese forces, others remaining from the war for independence, but
most resulting from the 1998–1999 military mutiny. Since FY 2000, the
United States has been a primary source of assistance, providing a total
of $588,145, a significant portion of that going to the non-governmental
organisation (NGO) HUMAID for mine clearance operations.
The remainder of the funds purchased equipment for
Guinea-Bissau’s Mine Action Center, which oversees demining operations.
Since January 2000, Guinea Bissau deminers have cleared more than 183,200
square meters of land and destroyed over 2,400 mines and 900 pieces of
UXO. In addition, 2,300 mines and 730 pieces of UXO have been cleared.
Mauritania’s war in the Western Sahara has left between
50,000 and 100,000 landmines within Mauritania’s borders. With unilateral
support from the United States, landmine casualties were reduced significantly.
There was only one casualty in 2001. Mauritanian deminers have cleared
141,000 square meters of land, destroying more than 8,000 landmines and
over 5,700 pieces of UXO in the process. In 2001, with support from the United States, the Mauritanian government was able to clear 90 kilometers of
roadway to permit the transport of water from the wells in Blonouar to the
population of Nouadhibou.
Two decades of war have left Mozambique littered with
landmines. Although landmines are found in all of Mozambique’s provinces,
there is no reliable estimate of their number or the amount of
mine-affected land. The United States provided $2,124,000 in FY 2002 and since 1993
has provided $28,825,999 to support mine action in Mozambique. Thanks to
the combined efforts of demining organizations, the Mozambique National
Demining Institute reported that in 2001 nearly two million square meters
of land were cleared and 2,727 landmines were destroyed, permitting
significant economic development and allowing refugees to resettle on safe
land. Presently, the U.S. effort in Mozambique is focused on clearing the
Sena rail line, which will allow the export of agricultural and mineral
products. Through the LWVF, USAID has supported the production and
distribution of prosthetic devices for the estimated 9,000 amputees in the
country, most of whom are landmine victims.
Namibia declared mine-safe status last year when it
completed the clearance of its ten known minefields and 410 electric power
pylons. Nevertheless, there are reports that rebel forces of the National
Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) have crossed over from
Angola and have planted mines in the Kavango and Caprivi regions. Namibia
has received almost $9 million in U.S. demining assistance since 1994,
including $88,000 in FY 2002. Namibia’s 1,000 deminers, trained by U.S.
SOF have cleared over 1,000,000 square meters of land and removed over
5,000 landmines and 1,300 UXO.
Following the explosion of a military ammunition depot
in Lagos in January 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) responded
by providing a team of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts. The U.S.
Department of State has committed over $1,500,000 to provide for an
additional period of clearance through its commercial contractor, RONCO
Consulting Corporation. By the middle of April 2002, 39,800 pieces of UXO
had been cleared from the site and subsequently destroyed.
Rwanda emerged from civil war with an estimated
100,000-250,000 landmines in its soil. Many of Rwanda’s roads were mined,
cutting off entire regions and hindering the flow of humanitarian aid and
commodities. Rwanda’s demining program is currently in the
sustainment phase, and Rwanda expects to declare itself mine safe in early
2004. Deminers have cleared more than seven million square meters of land,
which is currently being cultivated for agricultural use. The United
States committed $350,000 in FY 2002 to the demining program, while Rwanda
has received $11,399,999 from the United States since the program’s inception in
An almost two-decades-long conflict in the Casamance
region of Senegal, located in the southwest part of the country,
sandwiched between Gambia and Guinea Bissau, has left an unknown number of
AP and AT mines in the ground there. These mines have adversely affected
the population, agricultural activities and tourism. In July 2001, USAID’s
LWVF began providing money to the NGO Handicap International to support
its program to assist landmine survivors in Senegal and to raise the
population’s awareness of the risk of landmines through mine awareness
The Somaliland Mine Action Center has confirmed the
presence of at least 28 mined roads and 63 known and 17 suspected
minefields as a result of past military conflicts. The greatest
concentration of mines is in Somaliland in the northwest region of the
country. Through February 2002, the demining effort in Somaliland has
cleared 19,663,265 square-meters of land and destroyed 1,333 mines and
pieces of UXO. The cleared land has enabled refugees to return to their
homes. To continue this effort, the United States is contributing
approximately $1.2 million in FY 2002. Since 1995, the U.S. DOS has
provided nearly $5.5 for mine and UXO clearance in Somaliland.
To support the Nuba Mountains Ceasefire
Accord the U.S. DOS deployed its Quick Reaction Demining
Force to Sudan in April 2002 to conduct mine clearance operations,
coordinating its efforts with the UN’s Mine Action Service and the Joint
Military Committee (JMC). Clearance operations began in May. The
government of Sudan estimates that between 1989 and 2001, 1,135 persons
became mine victims in the Nuba Mountains, while Save the Children USA
believes that an additional 25 mine related incidents have occurred in
these mountains between December 2001 and February 2002.
Swaziland has one minefield located along its border
with Mozambique. Since 1998, the United States has contributed $1,046,000
in assistance. U.S. SOF trained Swazi military forces to conduct demining
operations, and the DOS provided funds to procure demining equipment. U.S.
humanitarian demining assistance to Swaziland has ended.
While the government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ)
cannot estimate the number of landmines on its territory, it believes land
affected by landmines measures approximately 2,500 square kilometers.
Zambia is currently in the process of being trained by U.S. SOF in mine
risk education and is developing an indigenous humanitarian demining
capacity. The United States donated approximately $800,000 in FY 2002 to
support Zambia’s program. Since the program’s inception in 2001, the United States
has contributed a total of $1,792,000.
Zimbabwe has an estimated 2,500,000 landmines buried
within its territory. The United States has supported the humanitarian demining
program in Zimbabwe since 1998 through training and equipment donations.
Zimbabwe’s demining program has cleared 800,000 square meters of land,
allowing large parts of Victoria Falls to be opened for tourists and the
Zambezi Valley to become safe for resettlement. Currently, Zimbabwe’s
demining efforts are in the sustainment phase. Since the beginning of the
program in 1998, the United States has funded $6,749,000 in an effort to
help Zimbabwe rid itself of mines.
|Demining electric power pylons in
Assistance from the United States and other donors to
mine-affected African nations has helped to increase the quality of life
in these once war-ravaged countries. That assistance has also helped open
countless kilometers of road to humanitarian aid organizations to
reconstitute infrastructure necessary to sustain economies and to provide
holistic health care to thousands of landmine survivors. Their fear has
been replaced by hope.
* All photos courtesy of Office of Humanitarian
Matt Murphy, Program Manager
Office of Humanitarian Demining Program
Bureau of Political Military Affairs
Department of State