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by Susanna Sprinkel, MAIC
Conflicts existed between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1935 until 1993, when
Eritrea became an independent nation. In 1997, a trade war developed
between the two nations, causing further disputes. Hostilities ceased in
2000, and the governments are now working to institute a clear borderline
between the two countries. Meanwhile, mine action programs are being
established to clear the large number of AT mines, AP mines and UXO that
remain scattered along the border and throughout Ethiopia and Eritrea as a
result of these and other conflicts.
In Ethiopia, leftover landmines and pieces of UXO have affected
approximately 700 million square meters of land. In Eritrea, there are an
estimated 200,000 to 250,000 landmines and three million pieces of UXO
throughout the country. The majority of these artilleries reside in
trenches along the border where a Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) has been
established. The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea Mine
Action Coordination Center (UNMEE-MACC) is coordinating surveys to assess
the full extent of the problem in both countries.
An exact number of landmine/UXO-related casualties is unknown in both
Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrean government estimates at least 80,000
incidents have occurred since 1973. However, many casualties go
unrecorded, and it is likely that the number of victims has increased
significantly as refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) return
to their native lands, especially in areas surrounding the TSZ.
Mine clearance in Ethiopia began in 1995 with the Ethiopian Demining
Project, but efforts were halted during the trade war with Eritrea. Once
hostilities ceased, the government established the Ethiopian Mine Action
Office (EMAO) to coordinate mine action activities. Meanwhile, the
Eritrean government has established the Eritrean Mine Action Programme (EMAP)
to coordinate activities and the Eritrean Demining Agency (EDA) to carry
out those activities in the area. Both EMAP and EMAO are working closely
with the UNMEE-MACC.
In an effort to further peace negotiations and restore economic
conditions in Ethiopia and Eritrea, both governments have supplied
minefield records to UNMEE. Aside from clearing land of the landmine/UXO
threat, another key concern is reuniting children and families who were
separated during the conflict. Many of these children are not receiving
adequate health care and education in refugee camps, and they need to be
reunited with their families as soon as possible.
United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
Mine Action Coordination Center
P.O. Box 920
Tel: +(291-1) 151991-2115
Fax: +(291-1) 150666/151991-2108