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Country Reports
LIBERIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Liberia has not yet signed the Mine Ban Treaty. During the Ottawa Process, it attended the Brussels conference and Oslo negotiations as an observer. Liberia also co-sponsored the 1997 UN General Assembly resolution in support of the ban treaty. Liberia is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel mines, but various armed forces have used mines extensively in the past.

The Republic of Liberia was the first independent republic in Africa and together with Ethiopia, it is one of only two African states which have never been directly colonized. This West African state has experienced political instability since the 1970s and a military coup in 1980 which eventually led to civil war, in which landmines were used. After a dozen prior peace agreements, a new accord was signed in August 1995 in Abuja and a transitional government was sworn in on 1 September. Following multiparty presidential elections in 1997, Charles Taylor, a former rebel leader, became president.

Landmines were used in the nine-year-long civil war in Liberia. Rebel forces mined roads and ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces planted minefields around their installations. The U.S. Department of State estimated that approximately 1,000 antitank mines had been used and these killed twenty people in 1993, more than half of them civilians.[1] By July 1993 ECOMOG had uncovered 150 mines laid by rebel forces and had removed mines from the Pipeline road near White Plains, the Barnersville area, the Ria-Scheifflin road and the Caresburg area.[2]

In October 1994, two ECOMOG vehicles were destroyed and three troops killed by antitank mines planted on the Kakata-Bong Mines Road and the Harbal to Buchanan Road by National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) fighters.[3] On 11 October 1995, one civilian was injured in a mine explosion in Buchanan near ECOMOG's Seventh Brigade garrison. The soldiers had laid mines around the base for defensive purposes. Two Senegalese members of ECOMOG were killed in Liberia while laying landmines in 1993.[4] In February 1995, the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) attempted to survey the extent of the landmine problem in Liberia but due to continued fighting in the south-east and north-west found these areas inaccessible.

ECOMOG engaged in mine clearance operations during the conflict along the roads it used. In June 1995 two rival militia agreed to start clearing mines from the Kakata to Bong Mines road. The United Liberation Movement (ULIMO) faction controlled Bong Mines but the NPFL had laid siege to the town for ten months.[5]

There appear to have been no records made by the warring factions of where they laid their mines. UNOMIL conducted a mine survey in March 1995 and located seven minefields with an estimated total 18,250 antitank and antipersonnel mines in them at:

1) Grand Bassa County: LAC road and rubber plantation;

2) Rivercress County: Rivercress area;

3) Lofa County: Voinjama;

4) Lofa County: Foyakamura;

5) Lofa County: Mandekome;

6) Sinoa County: Greenville;

7) Maryland County: Harper.[6]

The United Nations has identified two types of mines in Liberia, both Romanian antitank mines: the MAT 62B and the MAT 76.[7]

Responding to criticism about the stalled peace process in December 1995, warlord Charles Taylor said that, "We have demined and opened up the roads to allow food convoys."[8] In March 1997, the commander of West African peace-keepers in Liberia, General Victor Malu announced that all mines had been cleared and that refugees should come home to vote in the presidential elections in May. He said, "Anybody can now travel in the country without fear of landmines."[9] Malu also said that the last mines were cleared at the Firestone rubber plantation north of the capital.

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, an NGO concerned with human rights and humanitarian issues, has expressed its concern as to whether there is a remaining landmine problem but has been unable to verify whether Liberia is now landmine free.[10] The U.S. Department of State in 1998 revised its assessment and declared Liberia mine-free.[11]


[1]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, December 1994, p.16.

[2]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, July 1993, p. 117.

[3]Liberia Country Report, UN Country Database, www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/ country/liberia.htm.

[4] Barbarcar Diagne and Alex Vines, 'Senegal: Old Mines, New Wars,' African Topics, no.22, January-March 1998.

[5]Liberia Country Report, UN Country Database.



[8]AFP, 12 December 1995.

[9]Reuters, 26 March 1997.

[10]Interview with Kofi Woods, Former National Director, JPC, The Hague, 29 March 1999.

[11]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p.A-2.