Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
More on politics & human rights |
economy & development |
peace & security |
Print this page
Visit AfricaFocus Bookshop US |
Africa: Laying Landmines to Rest?
Dec 9, 2004 (041209)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
At the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, held in the Kenyan
capital from November 27 to December 3 to review the Ottawa
Convention to Ban Landmines, Ethiopia became
the 144th country to ratify the treaty. In addition to the
signatories, the summit was also attended by 23 states that have
not signed the treaty, including China, Cuba, India, and Egypt. The
United States did not attend.
Instead, the State Department issued a last-minute statement
wishing the conference well and pledging U.S. support for
humanitarian demining, but reaffirming U.S. opposition to the
treaty. While committing itself to cease the use of "persistent"
landmines by the year 2010, the Bush administration still defends
the wartime use of "smart mines," designed to be deactivated after
combat is over.
Delegates and anti-mine campaigners deplored the U.S. failure to
attend, and the failure of other key nations, including China and
Russia, to sign the treaty. Nevertheless, the conference focused on
the considerable progress made since the treaty went into effect
five years ago, and on formulating a multilateral action plan to
continue with implementation.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three articles from "Laying
Landmines to Rest? a Web Special on Humanitarian Mine Action (with
special focus on the 2004 Nairobi Summit of a Mine Free World),"
from the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). The
full report, which includes both general background and countryspecific
articles on Angola, Chad, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and
Uganda, is available at
Note that IRIN reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the
For full official reports from the Nairobi conference, see
For reports from the September 2004 regional conference of African
experts on landmines, see
For extensive additional information, including a full 2004 report
on compliance with the land mine treaty in the five years since it
came into force, see the website of the International Campaign to
Ban Landmines (http://www.icbl.org).
For the U.S. decision not to attend the Nairobi Summit, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Nations Embrace Anti-Mine Action Plan
December 6, 2004
The summit on a mine-free world ended in the Kenyan capital,
Nairobi, on Friday with delegates adopting a declaration renewing
their commitment to rid the world of the weapons and endorsing a
comprehensive five-year plan aimed at expediting the clearance and
destruction of landmines.
"We renew our unwavering commitment to achieving the goal of a
world free of anti-personnel mines in which there will be zero new
victims," the delegates said in their Nairobi Declaration. "We will
strengthen our efforts to clear mined areas and destroy stockpiled
anti-personnel mines in accordance with our time-bound obligations.
We will assist mine victims and vigorously promote the universal
acceptance of the convention [against landmines]."
The summit was the first review conference of the 1997 UN
Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production
and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, also known as the Ottawa
Convention. The convention was ratified by 144 countries and is
looking for new member states.
The plan of action commits governments to a wide range of measures
to combat mines and provide care for victims of the weapons during
the next five years. Member nations are obliged to promote the
universalisation of the convention, expedite mine destruction
efforts, meet their 10-year, mine-clearance deadlines and continue
providing care to mine victims.
"State parties will enhance the care, rehabilitation and
re-integration efforts during the period 2005-2009," according to
"Only action will save lives and restore victim's dignity," Peter
Herby, head of the mines unit of the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC), said. "This plan must now be used by people who
care about mine victims to ensure more and better action and better
resources in the crucial five years ahead." He added, however, that
the plan was "solid".
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) vowed to keep up
the pressure to ensure the universal implementation of the mine ban
treaty. It described the five-year Nairobi action plan as "concrete
"The summit has given us renewed energy, focus and commitment for
the hard work ahead," said Jody Williams, co-laureate with the ICBL
of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. "The Nairobi Summit will be measured
by how vigorously the action plan adopted this week is carried
The ICBL, however, noted that some important issues were not
addressed during the summit. They include whether anti-vehicle
mines that have sensitive fuses, such tripwires or tilt rods that
could easily be set off by a pedestrians, are banned.
It also failed to discuss the question of what activities are
allowed during joint military exercises with states that are not
party to the convention and the issue of the number of
anti-personnel mines retained for training by state parties to the
convention, according to ICBL.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said anti-vehicle mines were also
a threat to human beings.
"We cannot rest until all landmines are cleared and these
indiscriminate weapons [are] banished forever," Annan said in a
speech telecast from New York to delegates at the end of the
summit. "We must persuade more states, including some of the
world's largest, to become parties to the treaty."
Hailing what he described as a "resounding success of the
conference", the president of the Nairobi Summit, Wolfgang
Petritsch of Austria, said the convention was "an outstanding
example of multilateralism working the way it should".
Anti-landmine campaigners were encouraged by the participation of
23 states that are not party to the treaty, including China, Cuba,
Egypt, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sri Lanka, according to
"Even countries outside the Mine Ban Treaty are taking steps
towards it and are complying in many ways," said Stephen Goose,
head of ICBL's delegation in the Nairobi Summit. "This shows that
an international norm that rejects landmines is taking hold."
Handicap International said more resources were needed to ensure
the success of mine-action programmes.
"Without increased and sustained resources, and lacking better
prioritisation of mine action, many states will not be able to meet
the 10-year deadline for clearance provisioned by the treaty," the
aid agency said in a statement. "This would potentially translate
into the death and maiming of thousands of more mine victims."
According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2004, published by the
ICBL, there are currently 300,000 to 400,000 mine survivors. In
2003, 86 percent of the new casualties reported were civilians and
23 percent children, according to the report.
Africa: Well-known and invisible killer littered throughout Africa
26 November, 2004
They threaten the peace, stability and development of the world's
poorest continent and kill or mutilate 12,000 people each year.
This was the reason that African governments agreed recently to a
landmark initiative aimed at eliminating an estimated 40 million
landmines from the continent.
At the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, a new
"common African position" was unveiled on 17 September 2004. It
aims to ensure that the continent becomes an anti-personnel mine
(APM) free zone, with a framework largely centred on the 1997
Ottawa Convention. The initiative also stresses inter-African
cooperation as a vital issue in successful mine clearance and calls
for more support for victims and greater transparency by
Among the innovations that were agreed on was a call by African
nations to countries which have laid landmines throughout the
continent during World War II to "devote a reasonable percentage of
their military budgets" to clearing them.
In Egypt, for example, some 17 million landmines remain buried in
the desert, a deadly legacy of World War II.
The new position was agreed ahead of the Nairobi Summit in November
2004 on a Mine-Free World that will look at the progress made in
the last seven years since the Ottawa Convention was drafted.
Under the convention, which came into force in 1999 and was signed
by 143 countries, nations that are party to the treaty must not
use, stockpile, produce or transfer APMs. Still, even though
African governments had backed the common strategy and some 48
joined the Ottawa Convention, a number of nations have not yet
ratified the treaty. These include Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco
Ethiopian officials told IRIN that ratification was in the pipeline
and a draft was expected before their parliament meets in the
coming months. They said delays in ratification had stemmed largely
from security concerns along their borders due to conflicts against
neighbouring countries like Eritrea in 1998 and Somalia in 1977.
However, Egypt, whose country is infested with an estimated tenth
of the world's 200 million landmines, is still reluctant to agree
to the convention.
"We do not believe in a total and free ban of landmines as long as
many actors, including the major producers, are still out of the
convention," an Egyptian diplomat told IRIN recently.
"There are three major shortcomings in the Ottawa Convention as far
as we see it," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "There
should be a real obligation, not moral obligation, to demine.
States should have the right to get assistance where their
countries have been mined and we also need to differentiate between
landmines for protection, for national security and those landmines
used for other purposes like terrorism. You should be given the
right to defend yourself."
Some 30 countries in Africa report being affected by landmines and
unexploded ordnance and 10, including Angola, Mozambique and Sudan,
say they suffer a high level of casualties.
Said Djinnit, head of the Peace and Security Council at the AU,
described the devastating effects of landmines on the continent and
their impact on development at the conference.
"We have seen innocent people, women and children amputated, lose
their limbs and other vital parts of their bodies - and end up
handicapped," he told delegates. "We have also seen landmines
destroy the healthy and productive part of our active population,
destroy fertile land for agriculture, destroy transport networks
and destroy important natural resources that support life."
Djinnit also told the conference, attended by diplomats, landmine
experts and other officials, that the AU had been at the forefront
of the campaign to ban landmines. Nonetheless, he said ending the
scourge of landmines on the continent had "not been pursued with
all the needed vigour and determination in Africa".
"Landmines continue to be the main impediment to post-conflict
reconstruction and development in our countries," the AU official
added. "Ridding the continent of this invisible and indiscriminate
weapon is crucial for creating conditions for peace, security,
stability and development in Africa, as well as reconciling and
healing societies from the trauma of conflict."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told IRIN that
the convention, seen as one of the most successful global treaties,
could also be a template for other weapons legislation. The
organisation believes a similar treaty could be designed around
small or light arms proliferation, a major factor causing
instability on the continent. The convention also contains the
potential for enforcement.
Under the Ottawa Convention, a system of verification exists,
whereby countries believed to be using AMPs, could be subjected to
international inspection. So far, said the ICRC, the verification
system has never been triggered.
The ICRC also stated that sanctions could be imposed on countries
where major concerns of non-compliance exist. While significant
progress has been made, UN landmine experts also noted caution.
Phil Lewis, of the UN's Mine Action Service and also in charge of
mine clearance for the UN peacekeepers monitoring the ceasefire
between Ethiopia and Eritrea, spelled out key concerns that need to
be addressed in adopting a common position. The geography, size and
number of landmines pose tremendous problems, Lewis said.
"Within these huge distances, the actual number of mines laid may
be few, but their effect is often disproportionate to these
numbers," he said. "The fear of entering areas affected by a few
mines remains psychologically the same."
He also noted that non-military forces have laid some mines with no
record of where they were placed. Medical facilities are also weak,
Lewis added. However, he praised the significant progress made in
mine clearance and stressed that the continent has a huge movement
of people willing to help demine.
Austria's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Wolfgang Petritsch, said
progress made in the fight against landmines meant total
eradication could be achieved.
"This is doable," Petritsch, who is president designate of the
Nairobi Summit, told IRIN. "With the achievements we have made in
the last five years, we can rid the world of landmines and make a
Kenya: Treaty signatory and host to the 2004 Summit
November 22, 2004
Kenya, the host of the upcoming summit of parties to the Ottawa
Convention - that calls for the ban of production and use of
anti-personnel mines (APMs) - has been one of the most active
parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. Kenya completed the destruction of
its stockpile of 38,774 APMs in August 2003, four years ahead of
the 2009 deadline stipulated in the convention, according to
Michael Oyugi, head of the secretariat of the committee organising
the summit, to be held in Nairobi from 29 November to 3 December
2004. Some 3,000 mines have been retained for training purposes, he
The decision to hold the summit in an African country is also
significant because the continent is most affected by the hazards
of landmines, according to Oyugi. Although Kenya does not have a
landmine problem, it has - over the years - emerged as a "hub for
humanitarian activities", a factor that makes Nairobi an
appropriate choice as host of the summit, which will also address
the humanitarian dimension of landmines, Oyugi said. Most of the
240,000 refugees in Kenya come from countries affected by the
landmine problem, including Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The refugees include some of those who have lost limbs to landmines
in their countries.
At Lopiding, close to the Kenyan-Sudanse border area of
Lokichoggio, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
runs one of the largest field hospitals in the world, treating
mostly those affected by war in southern Sudan. In 1992, the ICRC
set up an orthopaedic workshop at the Lopiding hospital that makes
artificial limbs for amputees, including victims of landmines, and
fitting those with disabilities with orthoses. Fighting between
Ethiopian troops and rebels of the Oromo Liberation Front has
occasionally spilled over into Kenya, and in the late 1990s there
were several reported cases of the rebels planting mines on the
Kenyan side of the border to prevent Ethiopian forces from pursuing
them. The mines were removed by the Kenyan military mines,
according to Oyugi.
The Convention on the Prohibition on the Use, Stockpiling,
Production and Transfer of APMs and their Destruction, came into
force on 1 March 1999 and has been widely hailed as the most
successful global disarmament and humanitarian treaty ever, having
been ratified by 143 states. According to Oyugi, Kenya will gain
from a "raised international profile" due to the media focus on the
summit as an estimated 1,500 delegates gather to review the Mine
The gathering is widely seen as the most significant meeting of
world leaders to address the global landmine problem since the
historic Convention signing in Ottawa, Canada, in December 1997.
"There is likely to be a tourism spin off from the summit," said
Oyugi, referring to the increased exposure Kenya’s tourism
industry, one of the country’s foreign exchange earners, is likely
to gain during the meeting.
Mereso Agina, the research coordinator of the Kenya Coalition
Against Landmines, hoped that the successful hosting of the mines
summit would lead to the "upgrading" of the United Nations Office
in Nairobi with a view to holding more such international meetings
in Kenya. "That would be a direct benefit to Kenya, promoting the
country as a conference destination with the expected benefits to
the hospitality industry," she said. Nairobi hosts the headquarters
of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United
Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
The Nairobi Summit is aimed at reviewing issues critical to the
Convention, including deadlines for mine clearance and destruction
of mine stockpiles by state parties to the convention and providing
help to those maimed by landmines. "Some countries may need
assistance to meet the [mine clearing] deadline, for example Angola
- mine clearing is a tedious exercise," said Oyugi. He said the
Nairobi Summit is expected to come up with two documents. One of
them will be a programme of action on how the goals of the
convention are to be achieved, while the second one will be a
political declaration by state parties re-affirming their
commitment to the convention. "The summit is expected to
re-invigorate the convention - give it a new lease on life," Oyugi
Although Kenya does not have a landmine problem, parts of the
country’s arid and semi-arid pastoral north and eastern areas are
contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) left behind by foreign
and Kenyan armed forces carrying out training exercises. Regular
military training exercises have been carried out around Archer’s
Post in the Eastern Province and Dol Dol in Northeastern Province,
exposing an estimated 600,000 people to potential danger.
In July 2002, the British government agreed to pay compensation of
4.5 million pounds (about seven million euros at that time) to more
than 200 Kenyan members of the Maasai and Samburu nomadic
communities, who were injured or maimed by UXOs left on their land
by the British army. Britain’s defence ministry said it accepted
"limited liability" for what happened during a 50-year period
during which, British forces conducted live-fire exercises on land
used for grazing by Maasai and Samburu livestock herders.
UXO-clearance operations have been carried out in the affected
areas by the British army in conjunction with the Kenyan military.
According to last year’s report by the International Campaign to
Ban Landmines (ICBL), UXO-clearance teams working in the Archer’s
Post area in 2001 and 2002, found four to five pieces of ammunition
per sq km. A Kenyan army-demining unit, serving with the UN Mission
in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), has been involved in mine
clearance along the two countries’ border. Ethiopia and Eritrea
fought a bloody two-year border that ended with the signing of a
peace agreement in 2000.
To facilitate travel to Nairobi for registered delegates who will
attend the summit, Kenyan embassies abroad are issuing visas free
of charge, Oyugi said. Delegates from countries where Kenya does
not have embassies will obtain visas on arrival from a special
immigration counter that will be set up at the Jomo Kenyatta
International airport in Nairobi.
The summit’s official opening ceremony will be held in the Kenyatta
International Conference Centre in central Nairobi on November 28,
presided over by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, a day before
delegates shift to the UN complex for the rest of the conference.
It will be attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
According to ICBL, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the most
heavily mined region in the world, are parties or signatories to
the Mine Ban Treaty. There are 23 mine-affected countries in
sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Mozambique and Sudan. In 2002 and 2003, new landmine casualties
were reported in 20 of the 23 mine-affected countries, according to
In many of the mine-affected countries in the African region,
medical facilities and rehabilitation services are in poor
condition, mostly due to a lack of financial resources. Armed
conflict, whether ongoing or in the past, has also taken a heavy
toll on the health infrastructure in several countries, meaning
that landmine survivors have had little hope for rehabilitation and
re-integration into society.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see