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Last Updated: 25 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Overall Mine Action Performance: VERY POOR[1]

Performance Indicator


Problem understood


Target date for completion of clearance


Targeted clearance


Efficient clearance


National funding of program


Timely clearance


Land release system


National mine action standards


Reporting on progress


Improving performance





The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is contaminated by mines as a result of internal and international armed conflicts dating back to 1935, including the Italian occupation and subsequent East Africa campaigns (1935–41), a border war with Sudan (1980), the Ogaden war with Somalia (1997–98), internal conflict (1974–2000), and the Ethiopian-Eritrean war (1998–2000). The Afar, Somali, and Tigray regions bordering Eritrea and Somalia were the most heavily-affected parts of the country.[2]

As of March 2014, the precise extent of remaining contamination was unclear, although Ethiopian officials claimed during a meeting with ICBL that 5.9km2 of scattered contaminated areas remained to be released.[3] In 2004, a Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) identified mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in 10 of Ethiopia’s 11 regions, with 1,916 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) across more than 2,000km2 impacting more than 1,492 communities.[4] The Afar, Somali, and Tigray regions accounted for more than four-fifths of impacted communities.[5]

The Ethiopian Mine Action Office (EMAO) believed that the LIS had overestimated the number of both SHAs and impacted communities, citing lack of military expertise among the survey teams as the major reason for the overestimate.[6] Subsequent technical survey (TS) and non-technical (re-)survey (NTS) of SHAs identified during the LIS confirmed contamination in only 136 SHAs and found 60 previously unrecorded hazardous areas, covering a total of some 38km2. Of this area, EMAO had cleared 37km2 by June 2012 leaving 0.56km2 to clear, all in the volatile Somali region.[7]

Additionally, 358 SHAs across an area of 1,200km2 from the LIS data remain to be re-surveyed, four-fifths of which is located in the Somali region. In 2012, however, EMAO claimed that only some 6.5km2 of this area remained to be released, bringing the overall total of outstanding areas to be released to 7km2.[8] While EMAO expected to clear approximately 3km2 per year—thus completing clearance by the end of 2013[9]—Ethiopia has not provided a detailed update on its survey and clearance activities since September 2011, nor provided information on its plans to re-survey these areas. It appears that no further clearance has taken place since the transfer of EMAO’s responsibilities to the Ministry of Defence in 2012.

Cluster munition remnants

It is not known if the ERW threat includes a residual threat from cluster munition remnants. In 2004, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission concluded that Eritrea had conducted four cluster munition strikes on 5 June 1998 in the vicinity of a school in Ayder and at the airport near a neighborhood in Mekele town, both in Tigray region.[10] In June 2012, the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the UN in Geneva informed the Monitor that cluster munition remnants “are still found in the area” around the elementary school in Ayder.[11]

Other explosive remnants of war

Ethiopia does not report on the number of recorded ERW-contaminated areas, but ERW are reported to be found throughout Ethiopia.

Mine Action Program

In February 2001, following the end of the conflict with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers established EMAO as an autonomous civilian body responsible for mine clearance and mine risk education.[12] EMAO developed its operational capacities effectively with technical assistance from Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), UNDP, and UNICEF.[13] In 2011, however, EMAO’s governing board decided that the Ministry of Defence was better suited to clear the remaining mines because Ethiopia had made significant progress in meeting its Mine Ban Treaty clearance obligations and the remaining threat did not warrant a structure and organization the size of EMAO. It further asserted that a civilian entity such as EMAO would have difficulty accessing the unstable Somali region.[14]

In response to the decision to close EMAO and transfer demining responsibility to the army’s Combat Engineers Division (CED) division, NPA ended its direct funding support[15] and had completed the transfer of its remaining 49-strong mine detection dog (MDD) capacity to EMAO by the end of April 2012,[16] with some MDD handlers and support staff transferred to the federal police.[17] The CED assumed management of the MDD Training Centre at Entoto where it conducted training in demining in early 2012. In March 2013, a representative from the Ministry of Defence confirmed that transfer of all demining assets had been completed[18] and reported that it was preparing to deploy survey and clearance teams to the Somali region, the only confirmed mine-affected region remaining.[19] Since then, however, Ethiopia’s demining capacity has been reduced due to secondment of three demining groups to the UN peacekeeping operation in Sudan.[20]

Transition of the mine action program from EMAO to the Ministry of Defence was described as “ongoing” in April 2014 and was expected to be concluded “soon.”[21] Ethiopia also stated that it had spent 2012–13 building its own demining capacity by “developing mine action standards through combat engineer teams” with the aim of being able to conduct training and clearance activities at minimal cost from the units’ own budgets.[22]

Land Release

In 2002–11, Ethiopia cleared approximately 60km2 of land, predominantly in the Afar, Somali, and Tigray regions, destroying in the process 9,278 antipersonnel mines and 1,266 antivehicle mines.[23] In its most recent Article 7 transparency report covering 2011, Ethiopia reported total release of 770km2 through survey and clearance since 2005.[24] As of mid-April 2014, Ethiopia had not submitted an Article 7 report covering 2012 or 2013.

In April 2014, Ethiopia reported to the Standing Committee on mine clearance that in January–November 2013 its rapid response teams had visited more than 10 ERW-impacted communities in “Amhar, Oromiya, south and Somalia regional states” clearing more than 100,000m2(0.1km2) and destroying 10 antipersonnel mines and 176,000 items of unexploded ordnance.[25] No details were given as to the exact location of the spot tasks.

Summary of mine clearance in 2009–13[26]


Area cleared (km2)

Antipersonnel mines cleared

Antivehicle mines cleared

























Note: N/R = not reported

Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, Ethiopia is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 June 2015.

In 2010, Ethiopia said it would clear all mines by 2013 (two years ahead of its deadline) if sufficient funding were available.[27] By March 2013, however, following the closure of EMAO and transfer of responsibility for mine action to the Ministry of Defence, Ethiopia reported it was unlikely to meet its Article 5 deadline due to secondment of demining units to Sudan and gaps in training, equipment, and funding.[28] Aside from a brief report on capacity-building efforts, no details have been given on efforts to raise the US$10 million Ethiopia has claimed is needed to clear the remaining mined areas.[29]

With no functioning mine action program and little progress reported in clearance since September 2011, the full extent of demining undertaken in 2012–13 and Ethiopia’s future plans are unclear. With the lack of progress displayed since EMAO’s closure, Ethiopia is not expected to complete clearance by June 2015, although Ethiopia has yet to formally inform States Parties. As of the end of April 2014, Ethiopia had not submitted an Article 5 extension request; but during the April 2014 Standing Committee meetings, Ethiopia indicated informally that it intended to request a two-year extension to its Article 5 deadline until June 2017.[30]

Support for Mine Action

In 2012, EMAO reported it needed US$10 million to clear the remaining mined areas yet secured just $2.5 million for clearance and victim assistance activities combined in 2012. No international funding has been reported for 2013. No national funding has been reported for 2012 or 2013.


·         Ethiopia should establish an independent mine action program and/or coordinating body as the Ministry of Defence has made little progress in survey and clearance.

·         Because an extension request had still not been submitted as of early June 2014, Ethiopia is not acting in accordance with the extension request procedure agreed by States Parties at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties. It should either submit a request as a matter of utmost priority, or undertake all necessary measures to complete clearance by 1 June 2015.

·         Ethiopia should improve transparency by reporting its activities regularly and in detail at Mine Ban Treaty meetings and through Article 7 reports.


[1] See “Mine Action Program Performance” for more information on performance indicators.

[3] ICBL meeting with Muez Gebre Tsadik, Head of Obstacle Construction and Removal Section, Combat Engineers Division (CED), Ethiopian Ministry of Defence, in Geneva, 10 April 2014.

[4] Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), “Landmine Impact Survey Report, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” May 2004.

[5] Survey Action Center, “Landmine Impact Survey, Ethiopia, Final Report,” Washington, DC, January 2008, p. 9.

[6] Interviews with Gebriel Lager, Deputy Director, EMAO, in Ljubljana, 14 April 2008, and in Geneva, 4 June 2008.

[7] Pascal Simon, “Transitioning Mine Action Programmes to National Ownership: Ethiopia,” p. 3; and statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 24 May 2012.

[8] NPA, “Exit Plan and Strategy 2012,” Addis Ababa, Draft as revised on 26 March 2012; and statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 24 May 2012.

[9] EMAO, “Draft Strategic Planning 2011–13.”

[11] Letter from the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the UN in Geneva, 13 June 2012.

[12] Council of Ministers, Regulation No. 70/2001, 5 February 2001.

[13] Axel Borchgrevink et al., “End Review of the Norwegian People’s Aid Mine Action Programme in Ethiopia 2005-2007: Final Evaluation,” Norad Collected Reviews 36/2008, June 2008, p. 5.

[14] Statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 24 May 2012.

[15] Email from Aubrey Sutherland-Pillai, Programme Manager, NPA, 22 August 2012.

[16] Email from Kjell Ivar Breili, Programme Manager, NPA, Ethiopia, 25 May 2010; and Pascal Simon, “Transitioning Mine Action Programmes to National Ownership: Ethiopia,” Geneva, March 2012, p. 11.

[17] Email from Aubrey Sutherland-Pillai, NPA, 22 August 2012.

[18] Presentation of Ethiopia, Ministry of Defence Combat Engineering, African Union/ICRC Weapon Contamination Workshop, Addis Ababa, 5 March 2013.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 9 April 2014.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Pascal Simon, “Transitioning Mine Action Programmes to National Ownership: Ethiopia,” Geneva, March 2012, pp. 16–17.

[25] Statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 9 April 2014.

[26] Pascal Simon, “Transitioning Mine Action Programmes to National Ownership: Ethiopia,” Geneva, March 2012, pp. 16–17; and statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 9 April 2014.

[27] Statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 23 June 2010; and statement of Ethiopia, Tenth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 December 2010.

[28] Presentation of Ethiopia, African Union/ICRC Weapon Contamination Workshop, Addis Ababa, 5 March 2013.

[29] Statement of Ethiopia, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 24 May 2012.

[30] ICBL meeting with Muez Gebre Tsadik, Ministry of Defence, in Geneva, 10 April 2014.