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Country Reports
SOMALIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999



Somalia has been without a central government since the fall of the regime of Siyad Barre in 1991. Opposing factions or warlords have carved up most of Somalia’s 637,700 square kilometers into fiefdoms loosely controlled by armed militia. In 1991, the Somali National Movement, one of the factions that fought for the overthrow of the Siyad Barre dictatorship, proclaimed an independent Somaliland in the five northern regions that constituted territorially the former British Protectorate of Somaliland. In 1998, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) established an autonomous regional administration, Puntland, in the northeastern section of Somalia. Somaliland and Puntland enjoy relative stability compared to the rest of Somalia. Information on the landmine situation in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland can be found in a separate report.

Mine Ban Policy

Somalia remains without a central government. Two faction leaders, Ali Mahdi and Hussein Aideed, have at various times claimed to have constituted central reconciliation governments in Mogadishu, the capital of the former Democratic Republic of Somalia (SDR), but their claims have been contested by many of the more than twenty other factions. In 1997, Ali Mahdi and Hussein Aideed began organizing a joint administration for Mogadishu and the Benadir region.[1] This joint administration, which is also contested by other Benadir- and Mogadishu-based factions, has not issued any statements on landmines.

On 20 August 1998, the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), which operates in the lower Juba River region released a statement to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) affirming that the SPM would unilaterally observe the Mine Ban Treaty. [2] The Puntland State of Somalia (NE Regions) issued a landmine policy statement in January 1999 that included support for the Mine Ban Treaty.[3] In June 1997 the USC/SNA, the main faction in central and southwest regions of the country issued a letter of intent to support the Mine Ban Treaty but it has been silent since.[4]

Concerned Somali citizens residing outside of Somalia operate anti-landmine NGOs. These NGOs include the Somali Canadian Society in Toronto[5] and the Somali Campaign to Ban Landmines, which originally operated from Nairobi and is now based in the Netherlands.[6]

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Somalia is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel mines. There have been allegations of recent small arms shipments to factions operating inside Somalia,[7] but whether landmine stocks were included in these shipments is not known. All militia and factions in Somalia are thought to have landmine stocks. Antipersonnel mines from twenty-four countries, the majority from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Pakistan and Belgium have been identified in Somalia.[8]


Landmines were first used in Somalia during the 1977-78 war between the regimes of Mohamed Siyad Barre in Somalia and Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia. Mines were heavily employed during this war. Between 1981 and 1991, Somali opposition militia fought to overthrow the Siyad Barre dictatorship. These militia operated from the Ethiopian side of the border; consequently the Somali army used landmines extensively along the border. Almost 70 percent of all landmines in Somalia are estimated to lie within seventy to ninety-six minefields along the border with Ethiopia.[9]

Between 1988 and 1991, the Somali National Movement (SNM) attacked the northern towns of Hargeisa and Burao and the surrounding countryside—which are part of Somaliland. UNDP estimates that between 400,000 and 800,000 mines were used in this period.[10] One hundred thousand landmines were reported to have been used in Hargeisa alone.[11] The Somali National Movement also used mines during this period, largely along bridges and access roads to military installations.[12] (See report on Somaliland.)

Landmine use continued after the fall of Siyad Barre by all factions vying for power in Somalia. In 1992, a 5-kilometer section of the Bur Dhubo-Qandhadere road was mined, and mines were heavily used in Kismayo, the Juba River valley and along the Shebelle River near Beled Weyn.[13] An area between Galkayo, Dusa Mareb and the coastal town of Obbia is also mined.[14]

Factional and inter-clan wars continue in much of southern Somalia. The Rahanweyn Resistance Army and the Digil Salvation Army continue their efforts to oust Hussein Aideed’s militia from the Baidoa region. An Islamic fundamentalist group, Al Ittihad, opposed to Ethiopian influence, is also active in the Luq-Bardheere area. Although direct evidence that landmines are being used is not available, all of these groups have used landmines in the past. In addition, recent reports indicate that at least three nations, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Libya, all non-MBT ratifiers, have recently supplied the various warring factions with large amounts of small arms[15].

In the Lower Juba region, two factions, those of General Mohamed Said Hersi (Morgan) and General Aden Gabyo, have been engaged in a protracted war over the port city of Kismayo. General Gabyo[16] and General Morgan have been accused by many human rights organizations of atrocities committed during the 1988-91 civil war in northern Somalia.[17] General Gabyo was then Siyad Barre’s Defense Minister and General Morgan commanded the 26th Division of the Somali Army fighting in the Hargeisa region. General Morgan’s division used landmines as weapons of terror in this civil war. General Gabyo has now signed on behalf of the SPM a letter pledging non-use of landmines.

Landmine Problem

Nearly three decades of warfare have left Somalia with a serious landmine problem..[18] Both the United Nations and the U.S. State Department recently have revised downward the estimate of the number of landmines in Somali soil from between 1.5-2 million in 1994 to one million in 1998.[19] The majority of landmines are in Somaliland (see separate section for Somaliland).

There are more than 100 suspected minefields along the border between Somalia and Ethiopia, most of which are in pasture areas toward the Somaliland border with Ethiopia.[20] Central and southern areas of Somalia are less heavily contaminated.[21] Minefields are, however, found in Beled Weyne, Bardhere, Luq, the port city of Kismayo and in the Juba River Valley,[22] and in the Galkayo-Dusa-Mareb-and coastal Obbia triangle.[23]

Somalia has also been contaminated with large amounts of UXO. Discarded UXO pieces ranging from unexploded mortars and bombs to surface-to-air missiles are found throughout Somalia, particularly at former military bases and at major airports.

Mine Action

All demining in Somalia ceased with the departure of the UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM) in March 1995. Prior to UNOSOM’S departure, eleven local commercial contractors and 200 deminers are reported to have cleared 127 square kilometers of land and 438 kilometers of road and of removing 32,511 landmines and 72,741 pieces of UXO.[24] (Most of the landmines were removed by Rimfire, a commercial firm working in Hargeisa, which is now the capital of Somaliland.) Security concerns severely limit mine action programs in most of Somalia and except for projects in Somaliland, no demining is currently underway. No systematic surveys have been conducted in Somalia.

In 1993, the UN launched a mine awareness campaign in schools to teach children landmine safety. The campaign also printed posters and pamphlets and produced two plays that were performed mainly in northern Somalia.[25] This campaign ended with the departure of UNOSOM.

Data on landmine accidents or casualties is no longer kept systematically in Somalia. The U.S. State Department reports that there are no current victim assistance programs in Somalia.[26]


[1]In 1998, at the urging of Egypt and Libya, Ali Mahdi and Hussein Aideed established a joint administration for Mogadishu including a joint police force. Osman Ali Atto and several other faction leaders are in strong opposition and factional fighting took place as recently as 14 March 1999.

[2]The SPM letter to the ICBL is currently with the Non-State Actors Working Group.

[3]“Puntland State Policy and Landmines,” Press Release, Garoe, Puntland, Somalia, 15 January 1999; “Fact sheet of Landmines in Puntland,” Garoe, Puntland, 15 January 1999.

[4]Letter sent to Belgian Embassy in Nairobi by Aideed administration from Mogadishu during the Global Ban of Landmines Conference held in Brussels in June 1997.

[5]The Somali Canadian Society, 2020 Don Mills Rd # 705, North York, Ontario, Canada, Fax 416 252-4474.

[6]Somali Campaign to Ban Landmines, c/o Groes 34, Eersel 5521 LX, The Netherlands.

[7]AFP, Horn Region Schedule, 15 February 1999, 7:44.

[8]The most common mines are: PRB M35 (Belgium); NMH2 (China); T-72a (China); PP-MI-SR (Czechoslovakia); PP-MI-SR-II (Czechoslovakia); T-72b (China); P2 mk2 (Pakistan); P4 Mk1 (Pakistan); PMD-6 (Russia); PMD-6M (Russia); PMN (Russia); POMZ-2 (Russia), POMZ-2M (Russia); MON-50 (Russia).

[9]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p.46.

[10]UNDP Somalia promotional document entitled “UNDP SOMALIA,” UNDP Somalia Information Office, Nairobi, Kenya, 1998.

[11]Somalia Handbook: Foreign Ground Weapons and Health Issues, U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center, December 1992, DST-1100H-107-92, p.8.

[12]Interviews with SNM commanders.

[13]UN Database, Country Report: Somalia, www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/ Country/Somalia.html

[14]Hidden Killers, 1998, p.46.

[15]AFP, Horn region schedule, 7:44, 15 February 1999.

[16]General Gabyo’s visa to Sweden was recently revoked after allegations of war crimes came to light. In 1997, after the discovery of mass graves near Hargeisa, a War Crimes Commission was appointed in Somaliland to investigate atrocities committed during 1988-1991. Commission members indicate that they have direct evidence of General Gabyo’s involvement in war crimes when he was Minister of Defense.

[17]Africa Watch (now human Rights Watch)and Amnesty International have written several reports on this period.

[18]Somalia Handbook, p.8.

[19]Hidden Killers, 1998, pp. 44-48. In the 1994 edition, the estimate was 1.5 million.

[20]Data compiled from the Somali Mine Action Center in Hargeisa, October 1998.

[21]African Rights and Mines Advisory Group, Violent Deeds Live On: Landmines in Somalia and Somaliland (London: African Rights and MAG, December 1993).

[22]UN Database, Country Report: Somalia.

[23]Hidden Killers, 1998, p.46.

[24]Ibid., p.47.


[26]Hidden Killers, 1998, p. 48.