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Country Reports
MALAWI , Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Malawi did not actively participate in international efforts to ban antipersonnel landmine before 1997, although it did co-sponsor the 1996 UN General Assembly resolution urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning antipersonnel mines. It was at the Fourth International NGO Conference on Landmines in Maputo in February 1997, during the government statements session, that General O.B. Binauli, High Commissioner of Malawi to Mozambique, stated that Malawi "condemn(s) the manufacture, export, import, use and stockpiling of any type of mines."[1] In April 1997, the Malawi Campaign to Ban Landmines (MCBL) was formed by NGOs which had participated in the Maputo conference and coordinated by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.[2] Since then, the Government of Malawi has worked closely with MCBL toward the global ban of landmines which eventually led to Malawi signing of the Mine Ban Treaty. Malawi attended the Bonn and Brussels treaty preparatory meetings but did not participate in the Oslo treaty negotiation. It endorsed the Brussels Declaration and has supported subsequent UN General Assembly resolutions on landmines.

Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mapopa Chipeta, signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997, and in a statement to the signing ceremony, he said that Malawi “unconditionally and unreservedly subscribes” to the ban treaty.[3] He also made a call for removal of mines: “We believe that the spirit of cooperation and collaboration so far demonstrated should continue as we enter the crucial phase of implementation. The huge number of mines planted all over the world calls for considerable resources in order to successfully carry out the demining exercise.”[4]

On 26 July 1998, the President of Malawi signed the instrument of ratification and this was deposited on 13 August 1998, making Malawi the thirty-first country to ratify and the second SADC country to ratify. Malawi has not passed implementation legislation. The government claims that the implementation legislation is awaiting recommendations from the Law Commissioner who is still studying the ratification instrument. Malawi has not signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons or its amended Protocol on landmines.[5]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

Malawi does not produce landmines and this has been confirmed by the Foreign Minister.[6] Malawi is not believed to have exported antipersonnel mines. Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, as well as the Malawi Army, were reluctant to provide information on stockpiling and use of landmines when Landmine Monitor inquired. It is an open secret that the United States supplied Malawi with antipersonnel landmines, as part of a broader military assistance packages to the Malawi Defence Force.[7] The US also supplied mine detention equipment to Malawi. This support was primarily provided to facilitate the continued use of rail traffic along the Nacala Corridor.[8] According to a 1993 U.S. Army intelligence report, antipersonnel mines in Malawi include:

- M 14 plastic-bodied blast mine (U.S.)

- M 16 A1 bounding fragmentation mine (U.S.)

- M 18 A1 directed fragmentation mine (U.S.)[9]

The Landmine Problem

Malawi has never been at war and does not have a big landmine problem, but there have been a few mine incidents. Most mines on Malawi soil have spilled across the country’s long border with Mozambique where Frelimo or Renamo laid them. There have also been a few reported incidents where landmines have been brought from Mozambique and used in criminal activities.[10]

Malawi is yet to map known sites within the country where minefields have been placed or mines encountered. Well-known sites include the border areas where refugees from Mozambique were camped, in the border districts of Mangochi, Dedza, Ntcheu, Mulanje and Nsanje. During the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministries' Conference held in Blantyre, Malawi in September 1998, SADC Executive Secretary Kaire Mbuende disclosed at the press briefing that over 1,000 kilometres of Malawi territory bordering Mozambique is infected with antipersonnel landmines.[11]

One army official has said that the Malawi Army has the skill and manpower to probe and demine infested areas.[12] Colonel Henry Odillo said that “while the Malawi Army has been receiving reports from the police of exploded ‘landmines’ that have either maimed or killed Malawians, there has not been any request for a possible demining or investigation of any possibly infested areas on the Malawi side.”[13] However, Army spokesperson Colonel MacLloyd Chidzalo said “the Malawi army neither has statistics nor information on explosives (landmines) under her soils, the desire for a probe is ruled out.” He further stated, “It requires the Commander-in-Chief to say so. It is meanwhile not necessary to investigate as Malawi has neither bought nor used landmines before. We have no area that has been mined in the country. It takes quite some expertise and it is expensive to carry out such an exercise (demining).”[14] He, however, admitted that it is possible that warring factions in Mozambique may have, at one point or another, trekked into Malawi and planted landmines behind them to keep their enemy at bay. Despite ratifying the treaty, Malawi is still reluctant to give out reliable data on landmines.

Landmine Casualties

There have been several landmine incidents on Malawi soil. Some landmine incidents occurred in the refugee camps when Malawi was hosting refugees from Mozambique. For instance, Edmund Chimaliro of the Malawi Red Cross who works as a project co-ordinator in Dzaleka refugee camp told Amnesty International in November 1996 that:

Landmines are not really a problem in Malawi, but there have been several incidents on Malawi soil. In Chikwawa at Changambika refugee’s camps, Mozambicans planted landmines for killing each other. During my time in these camps we had three incidents. In one incident, they had hung up a poster on a tree to attract people to read what it said. The landmine was placed under the poster and a person was blown up for his curiosity to read what was on the poster. In Nsanje, another person was blown up by a landmine planted outside the bathroom.”

Landmine incidents still occur. In 1998, three incidents were reported in the media, in which two people were killed in two separate incidents. Other incidents may have occurred without being reported in the media. All three incidents occurred along the border with Mozambique.

Case 1. On 27 October 1998, Esther Pulapato, a thirteen year old girl died suddenly after stepping on an antipersonnel landmine. Pulapato, a resident of Namwera village in Mulanje district, stepped on the mine when she was digging for fish bait on the Mozambique shores of the Muloza River. The incident was reported to Mulanje Police Station. The officer-in-charge of the police station together with the doctor of Mulanje District Hospital visited the scene of the accident and the doctor conducted a post-mortem at the site, which indicated that the death was due to landmine explosion.[15]

Case 2. Daudi Sinosi, a boy aged eight years, stepped on an antipersonnel mine in May 1998 while playing catching grasshoppers together with three other children of the same family in their village compound. All four children were injured but Sinosi was seriously injured as he stepped on the mine. The incident was reported to the Namwera police and the victims were evacuated to Mangochi Hospital. Sinosi was later transferred to Zomba Hospital where he died a few days later.[16]

Case 3. Saize is a carpenter from Makanijra in Mangochi district, which borders with Mozambique. In March 1998, he went with his assistants into the forest to saw and collect timber for his business. While in the forest looking for suitable trees, he came across on a beautiful and glittering object. He is already knew about landmines and hand grenades, so he suspected that the object was either one of the two. He reported the matter to Makanjira police who collected the object and sent it to Lilongwe police headquarters for identification. It is believed that the returning Mozambican refugees left the object, which was a landmine, in the forest. It was not planted in the soil but left lying on the bare ground.[17]

Some Malawian soldiers fell victim to landmines during the Mozambique civil war. This happened mostly along the Nacala Corridor where they were deployed to guard the Nacala railway line, which economically benefits Malawi. Lt. Colonel Chidzalo, Malawi Army spokesperson gave an estimated number of fifty landmine victims during the Nacala Corridor Campaign. Of the fifty landmine casualties, thirty died and the rest were injured. Of the injured, two continue to serve in the army while the others have since retired from the army. He also disclosed that victims were provided with medical assistance and that they were compensated in monetary terms.[18]


[1]“Malawi Government Position on Landmines,” presented by H.E. General O.B. Binauli, High Commissioner of Malawi to Mozambique, to the Fourth International NGO Conference on Landmines, Maputo, Mozambique, 27 February 1997.

[2]MCBL includes: the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), the Malawi Centre for Research, Advice and Education on Rights (Malawi CARER), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi.

[3]Honorable Mapopa Chipeta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, statement to signing ceremony, Ottawa, 4 December 1997.


[5]Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Malawi Ratifies Chemical Weapons and Landmines Conventions,” Media Release, 13 August 1998.

[6]“Malawi does not produce landmines but is constantly exposed to the dangers long after the war in neighboring Mozambique ended,” in Honorable Mapopa Chipeta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, statement to signing ceremony, Ottawa, 4 December 1997.

[7]U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Centre Intelligence Report, “Landmine warfare – Mines and Engineer Munitions in Southern Africa (U).”



[10]See Human Rights Watch, Still Killing: Landmines in Southern Africa (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), pp.60-61.

[11]Thom Khanje, “Ban Landmines“ Sadc Ministers,” The Nation, (Lilongwe), 5 September 1998.

[12]Gabriel Kamlomo, “Army Ready If Ordered,” The Binoculars, (Lilongwe), vol.1, no.23, 8-14 February, 1999.



[15]Horace Nyaka, “Landmine Kills Girl,” UDF News, vol.5, no.70, November 20-23, 1998.

[16]Gabriel Kamlomo, “Landmines Trouble Malawi,” The Binoculars, (Lilongwe), vol.1, no.10, November 9-15, 1998.

[17]LM Researcher Interview with B. Saize, Makanjira, Mangochi, October 3, 1998.

[18]LM Researcher Interview with Lt. Colonel Chidzalo, Lilongwe, 21 January 1999.