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Country Reports
ZAMBIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Zambia gained independence from Britain in 1964, and Kenneth Kaunda became Zambia’s first president. Soon after independence Zambia began supporting independence guerrilla groups from Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Rhodesia and South Africa. This support increasingly made Zambia a target for counter-subversion. Violent incidents, including the use of landmines, occurred in Western Province border areas and along the Rhodesian and Mozambique frontiers. Only in late December 1979 following a lasting cease-fire in Zimbabwe did the situation improve.

Mine Ban Policy

Zambia signed the Mine Ban Treaty in New York on 12 December 1997, but has not yet ratified. Zambia endorsed the Brussels Declaration and participated in the Oslo negotiations. Zambia voted for the UN General Assembly resolutions in support of banning landmines. Zambian Foreign Minister Keli Walubita was asked in May 1998 by the Landmine Monitor when his country would ratify the ban treaty and replied, “Soon. This is a priority for my government. I represent a constituency that suffers from landmines. I am therefore determined to see this enacted into Zambian law quickly.”[1]

In September 1996, a group of students and staff at Lusaka’s University Training Hospital launched the Zambian Campaign to Ban Landmines in an effort to lobby the government and raise public awareness of Zambia’s and southern Africa’s landmine problem. Members of the campaign included the Zambian Red Cross Society, medical students and various NGOs. The ZCBL played an important role in raising public awareness of Zambia’s landmine legacy, reflected by increased media coverage of incidents.

In February 1999, the Zambia Campaign to Ban Landmines interviewed the Foreign Minister. He said that "We are very committed to the complete eradication of landmines and Zambia has always supported the ban. Zambia is a peaceful country and we have always campaigned for peace. We will certainly ratify the treaty. My colleagues at the Defense ministry are working on a Cabinet memorandum and we should ratify before the first half of the year."[2] Zambia is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons or its amended Protocol on landmines.

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Zambia is not a known producer or exporter of landmines. The Zambian Defense Forces maintains stocks of antipersonnel landmines, many of them provided to ZIPRA in 1979 by the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. After Zimbabwean independence the Zambian government assumed control of the mines. Nearly thirty types of antipersonnel mines from ten nations have been found in Zambia.[3] If the Defense Forces have begun planning for the eventual destruction of their mine stocks, that information has not been made available.


A number of antipersonnel landmines appear to have been planted in Zambia in 1999 for criminal or political reasons. In late January several antipersonnel mines were planted by a shop owned by businessman Hugo Batista. An 18-year-old youth died and another sustained injuries when they stepped on these mines.[4] Local residents have reported that the area between Zambezi Boma and Chinyingi is particularly dangerous for landmines. They claim that Angola’s UNITA rebels are responsible for laying them.[5]

Due to military operations in the 1970s and 1980s, Zambia has a limited landmine problem in Western and Eastern Provinces although there have also been incidents near Lusaka. The part of Western Province most affected by South African military actions was around Sesheke, close to the Namibian border, stretching northwest to the Senanga sector. This had been an area of tension since the start of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) nationalist activity in Namibia in the early 1970s.

The first documented landmine incident on Zambian soil occurred on 12 November 1970, when a Zambian Government vehicle detonated a landmine in Western Province. The driver survived but had to have his leg amputated. A Zambian police investigation identified the mine as being of British origin.[6] In 1971 there followed a number of mine incidents, all antitank mines probably laid by the South Africans during cross border operations against SWAPO rebels.[7]

South African forces also planted mines near the Angolan border in the 1970s, as did the Portuguese forces in an attempt to curtail MPLA infiltration. A number of antipersonnel mines were laid in these operations.[8] The conflict escalated seriously in 1978 and 1979, with the South Africans stepping up their clandestine operations. This resulted in the widespread mining of roads especially in the Imusho to Sesheke area. In 1980 the Zambian army laid minefields along the Caprivi border in anticipation of further South African cross-border raids. Even today villagers still regard some of these areas as “no go” zones, fearing the continued presence of landmines. [9]

The Zambian Defense Forces (ZDF) may have laid a few small minefields along the Angolan border in the mid-1980s in an apparent attempt to show solidarity with the Angolan government (Zambia had in the mid-1970s supported the UNITA rebels).[10] However, the ex-defense chiefs deny that their forces laid any landmines on Zambian soil.

The flow of weapons from Angola into western Zambia continued to be a concern to the Zambian police in the 1990s. In February 1995 police seized weapons, including antiaircraft guns and landmines, during a sweep along the border, where members of the Lozi ethnic group were demanding self-rule. Police estimated that at least 500 weapons, including landmines, could be in the hands of pro-secession villages.[11]

Rhodesian forces were responsible for the covert laying of a small number of mines on Zambian soil in Eastern Province in the early 1970s.[12] Rhodesian laying of mines in Zambian border areas to disrupt nationalist infiltration routes became more regular in the mid-1970s and peaked in 1979.[13] The Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) reportedly lost eleven men laying mines in such operations.[14] In June 1979 Rhodesian forces claimed to have destroyed more than 500 antitank and antipersonnel mines in a raid against a ZIPRA supply depot near Lusaka. ZIPRA used landmines to protect its bases from attack. In October 1979 two Rhodesian SAS soldiers were injured by shrapnel from two POMZ-2 fragmentation antipersonnel mines attached to either side of a trip wire during an operation against a ZIPRA camp.[15] Because of the Rhodesian incursions President Kaunda declared a nation-wide military mobilization in 1979. Some minefields were laid along what is now the Zimbabwe border, as well as around key bridges.

Landmine Problem

In 1994, Zambia defense spokesperson, Major Jack Mubanga, said. “There are a lot of landmines in Southern and Western provinces, but it is too costly for the government to embark on an exercise to have them removed. It is very expensive to carry out such an assignment.”[16]

There are areas in Western Province along the Namibian border that are mine affected. In the early 1980s the Zambian Defense Force (ZDF), with multinational assistance, conducted mine clearing operations in the southern region of Western Province, near the Caprivi strip. The U.S. military has reported that in 1990 Zambia and Namibia conducted a joint mine-clearance exercise in the Katima Mulilo border area, although local Namibian and Zambian officials have told the Landmine Monitor the exercise never occurred.[17] Whatever the case, this area is still not considered safe by local residents. Former Zambian military officials also reported that in the early 1980s they spent significant resources on clearing landmines along the Angolan and Mozambican borders and at former nationalist bases.[18]

The Zambia Red Cross also reports that the clearing of the road to Shangombo in Western Province in 1996 was done by a commercial firm, using a bulldozer and grader. There had been no mine clearance on the road, and the bulldozer simply pushed the mines to the verges. A past employee of the Zambia Red Cross and founding member of the Zambian Campaign to Ban Landmines almost stepped on one of these “cleared mines.” [19]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited one former base, the Matondo farm in Lusaka West, and found there had been continued landmine incidents there. The Sri Lankan farm manger told HRW that although the army had cleared the area, he had mines explode on three occasions in 1993 when burning undergrowth. Although the explosions produced lots of shrapnel, nobody was injured.[20]

Public awareness of Zambia’s landmine legacy is growing. In March 1997, member of parliament Jerry Muloji asked when the Ministry of Defense would send military experts to clear landmines along the border areas with Angola in his district. Deputy Defense Minister Mike Mulomgoti told parliament, “It’s impossible to clear all landmines at the moment. They will only be cleared on an ‘as is found’ basis.”[21]

Landmine Casualties

Former Zambian military officials reported that there was a high number of landmine casualties amongst Zambia National Army soldiers in the 1970s because of South African and Rhodesian incursions. The government responded by conducting a nation-wide mine awareness campaign in areas along the Namibian, Angolan and Mozambican borders and within its armed forces resulting in a decline in landmine incidents.[22] However, Zambians continue fall victim to mines laid over fifteen years ago.

According to government statistics over 200 Zambians have been killed or maimed since Zimbabwean independence in 1980, but many believe the figure to be much higher.[23] The Zambia Red Cross estimates that there are several casualties a year in addition to a higher number of incidents related to unexploded ordnance. In November 1991 Sylvia Maphosa, a twenty-seven-year-old pregnant Lusaka housewife, stepped on a ZIPRA landmine while collecting firewood on a Lusaka West farm. The explosion left Maphosa half paralyzed. She cannot walk and speaks with difficulty. She sustained severe head wounds and had her right limb shattered. The farm served as ZIPRA headquarters, dubbed “Victory Camp,” during the liberation war.[24] Although the Zambian Army combed the area for mines in 1980 and 1981, Maphosa can attest that they failed to clear it of mines completely.

Fieldwork in 1998 by the ZCBL in Chiawa, 200 kilometers south of Lusaka has established that landmines and UXOs continue to be a problem. In the early 1980s antipersonnel landmines claimed 125 civilians alone and a Japanese sponsored water project had to be stopped because of the mines. People in the area have lost their livestock and as the population grows, the land area to accommodate the population is getting smaller.[25] In late January 1999 an 18-year old youth died and another sustained injuries when they stepped on a antipersonnel mine planted by a shop near Zambezi Boma in Western province.[26]


[1]Interview with Foreign Minister Keli Walubita, Ouagadougou, May 1998.

[2]ZCBL interview with Keli Walubita, Lusaka, 19 February 1999.

[3]U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center, Intelligence Report, “Landmine Warfare - Mines and Engineer Munitions in Southern Africa (U).”

[4]Times of Zambia, (Lusaka), January 28, 1999.

[5]Monitor, (Lusaka), February 12-25, 1999.

[6]Zambia Police, Annual Report, 1970, p.6.

[7]Zambia Police, Annual Report, 1971, pp.4-6.

[8]Zambia Daily Mail, (Lusaka), 8 December 1971.

[9]Times of Zambia, (Lusaka), 12 April 1989.

[10]Zambian Campaign To Ban Landmines, Landmine Workshop,, Lusaka, June 1997.

[11]Monthly Review Bulletin, April 1995.

[12]Zambia Police, Annual Report, 1970.

[13]Barbara Cole, The Elite: The Rhodesian Special Air Service (Transkei: Three Knights, 1984), p.208.

[14]Peter McAleese, No Mean Soldier: The Story of the Ultimate Professional Solider in the SAS and other Forces (London: Orion, 1994) , pp.152-153.

[15]Barbara Cole, The Elite, p.392.

[16]Times of Zambia, (Lusaka), 20 June, 1994.

[17]U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center, Intelligence Report, “Landmine Warfare - Mines and Engineer Munitions in Southern Africa (U);” Namibian officials denied to Human Rights Watch in 1996 that any joint clearance operation had occurred.

[18]Zambian Campaign to Ban Landmines Workshop, Lusaka, June 1997.

[19]Human Rights Watch Arms Project, Still Killing: Landmines in Southern Africa (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997) p.149.


[21]Post, (Lusaka), 3 April, 1997.

[22]Zambian Campaign to Ban Landmines Workshop, June 1997.

[23]Zarina Geloo/AIA, “Zambians Pay Heavy Price for Freedom of their Neighbors,” Lusaka, 26 February 1997.

[24]Weekly Post, (Lusaka), 29 November - 5 December 1991.

[25]Muleya Mwanayanda, “Field Notes,” no date, on file at Afronet, Lusaka.

[26]Times of Zambia, (Lusaka), January 28, 1999.