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Country Reports
ETHIOPIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: In the 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, it appears that tens of thousands of new mines were laid. Each government has alleged that the other laid mines and observers have expressed concern that both sides may have used mines. Casualties are now on the rise as a result of new use of landmines.


In May 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea went to war over a disputed border area. There have been many allegations that more than 100,000 landmines have been used in this war along the disputed frontier area. New use is compounding what was already a difficult landmine problem in Ethiopia and Eritrea. On 18 June 2000, the two countries signed an Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities. Article 8 of the agreement obligates both parties to demine the conflict frontier zone to allow UN peacekeeping forces and humanitarian agencies safe access.[1]

Mine Ban Policy

Ethiopia signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997. In a statement at the signing ceremony, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the treaty, and as a mine-affected nation, urged the international community to adhere to the articles of the treaty dealing with assistance for mine clearance and mine victims.[2] In March 1999, and again in May 1999, the Ethiopian government stated that it had “already triggered” the procedure for ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty,[3] but to date Ethiopia has not ratified the treaty.

Ethiopia attended the First Meeting of States Parties in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 1999 as an observer. Its delegation included officials of both the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. The head of delegation stated, “Ethiopia attaches paramount importance to the convention and would continue to work and cooperate with all states and groups for the implementation of the cardinal principles of the convention.”[4]

The government has not attended any of the meetings in Geneva of the five Standing Committees of Experts of the Mine Ban Treaty, established to foster implementation of the treaty.

Ethiopia voted in favor of the December 1999 UNGA resolution supporting the treaty, as it had with previous pro-ban UNGA resolutions in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

It is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons. While a member of the Conference on Disarmament, Ethiopia has not been noted as a supporter or opponent of efforts to negotiate a landmine export ban in that forum.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Ethiopia does not produce landmines. At the Mine Ban Treaty signing ceremony, Ethiopia indicated that it had not imported any landmines since the overthrow of the regime of Mengistu Heilemariam in 1991.[5] The size of Ethiopia’s landmine stocks is not known.[6]

Recent Use

Soon after the start of the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia in May 1998, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of planting landmines in the conflict zone and areas of Ethiopia controlled by Eritrea. Ethiopia has alleged that Eritrea planted 110,000 mines.[7] In late May 2000, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of planting mines in border towns before losing control of them to Ethiopian troops.[8]

The Eritrean government alleged to Landmine Monitor in early 2000 that Ethiopian forces have been using landmines in the disputed territories,[9] and that the mines are to a large extent not mapped or marked.[10] The Eritrean government in late May and early June 2000 accused Ethiopia of laying mines in the towns Ethiopian forces were occupying. In particular, when Eritrean forces recaptured the town of Barentu two weeks after it had been taken by Ethiopian troops, there were press accounts stating that the Ethiopians had looted and mined the town.[11]

In an aide-memoire dated 17 July 2000 to the OAU and UN, Eritrea said that “Ethiopia has and continues to plant new mines inside sovereign Eritrean territory, particularly in the areas which fall within the temporary security zone.”[12]

Landmine Monitor has not been able to independently verify whether or not Ethiopia has used antipersonnel mines in the recent conflict. It is clear that mines were used by one or both parties to the conflict. In early June 2000, humanitarian sources told the UN Humanitarian Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) that there was much concern that both countries had mined border areas, and that “it would appear to take some time before people are confident enough to go back to their homes” in areas affected by the conflict.[13] Landmine casualties among the civilian population are already reported to be on the rise.[14]

Additionally, South Mogadishu strongman Hussein Farah Aideed has claimed Ethiopian troops occupying some parts of southern Somalia have used landmines.[15] In 1998 and 1999, the Ethiopian army made a number of incursions into Somalia, claiming that factions opposed to Ethiopia--Itihad and militia of the Oromo Liberation Front, aided by Eritrea--were launching attacks from bases in southern Somalia.[16]

The government of Ethiopia denies that it has used antipersonnel landmines in the conflict with Eritrea or anywhere else since signing the Mine Ban Treaty.[17]

Use by Non-State Actors

Insurgents opposed to the government of Ethiopia, particularly the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) are believed to have used landmines—antivehicle and possibly antipersonnel--in Ethiopia recently. There were three incidents in 1999 of mine attacks on the Ethiopian-Djibouti Railway.[18] According to press accounts, OLF took responsibility for at least one of the attacks,[19] claiming that the train was transporting war material for Ethiopia and young Oromo men used by the Ethiopian army as “cannon fodder” and “mine sweepers.”[20] In southern Ethiopia, the Oromo Liberation Front claimed that it mined roads between Kenya and Ethiopia and some areas in northern Kenya.[21] ONLF is also thought to have been behind a number of landmine incidents in the Somali National Region of Ethiopia, including an accident that seriously damaged the emergency medical ambulance in the region.[22] Neither the OLF nor the ONLF have made statements about banning landmines.

The U.S. State Department reported in February 2000 that Eritrea has provided support for armed opposition groups attempting to overthrow the Ethiopian government. These groups, mostly based in Somalia and Kenya, used landmines inside Ethiopia in 1999, according to the U.S.[23]

Landmine Problem

Landmines have been used in Ethiopia during various conflicts for decades. For thirty years, Ethiopia fought with the Eritrean People’s Liberation (EPLF) for the control of Eritrea. Until 1993, Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia, which had annexed the former UN Trusteeship of Eritrea in 1963. Landmines were used extensively both by Eritrean liberation movements and Ethiopia during that war, mainly along the border between the two countries.[24]

In 1977, Somalia invaded and occupied Somali-inhabited areas in eastern and northeastern Ethiopia until 1978. Both armies used mines extensively.[25] As a result of that war, many minefields are found along the 1,626 km long border with Somalia, but also from the war between the former military regime of Siyad Barre in Somalia and Somali oppositions groups based inside Ethiopia.[26] Other areas with known mine contamination are: Gondar and Dessie, the northern Shewar region, along the road between Djibouti and Awash, the Somali National Region, and the western area around Walega and West Arosa.[27] Landmines have also been used along the border with Sudan, where insurgents opposed to the Government of Sudan have been active.[28]

While the Ethiopian government estimates the number of uncleared landmines in Ethiopia at more than 1.4 million, the U.S. Department of State puts the number of existing mines in Ethiopia at 500,000.[29] Contaminated areas include Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Gamela, Oromiya, and Beni-Shangul.[30] Even before the most recent border war, the border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia was heavily mined.[31]

Mine Action Funding and Mine Clearance

The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense operates the Ethiopian Demining Project (EDP). The EDP Headquarters in Addis Ababa is the sole mine action entity in the country, but the war of 1998-2000 has disrupted EDP mine action work. It has conducted historical research, mine awareness education, and demining. There have been no nationwide or systemic surveys in Ethiopia, but the EDP has so far identified over 100 minefields. The German NGO Santa Barbara Foundation has signed an agreement with Ethiopia for a Level I Survey, but has not yet conducted one due to lack of funds.[32]

The largest mine action donor for the country has been the United States. Between 1993-1999, EDP received $8.8 million from the U.S. for demining programs,[33] including $335,000 in fiscal year (FY) 1999. The estimated U.S. contribution for FY 2000 is $2.3 million,[34] which is to be spent on mine detecting dog capability, training in explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance, and the purchase of equipment.[35]

In 1999 Ethiopia was certified by Germany as being eligible to receive military surplus equipment for demining operations.[36]

The U.S. Department of Defense indicates that the EDP mine clearance program has so far cleared 37,000 AT and AP mines and 364,000 pieces of UXO.[37] In addition, the Ethiopian government claims that it has removed 30,375 landmines in 1999 and 40,000 landmines in 2000 in the northern conflict zone in areas that had been occupied by Eritrea since May 1998.[38]

Mine Awareness Education

The EDP as well as non-governmental organizations, primarily Handicap International, carry out mine awareness and education activities in Ethiopia. According to UN Mine Action Service 1998 mission report, the EDP runs radio and television programs, distributes flyers and runs newspaper ads to convey messages on the danger of landmines.[39] There is little coordination, and a lack of community involvement in the EDP mine awareness activities.[40]

Since 1997, Handicap International has run mine risk awareness programs in the Somali refugee camps in northeastern Ethiopia. As of 1999, Handicap International had trained nine educators. Approximately 100,000 refugees have also benefited from these training programs. In 1999, the European Commission granted HI $257,000 for mine awareness education.[41] At the end of 1999, an Ethiopian NGO RaDO started a mine risk education program in northern Ethiopia, with the technical assistance of UNICEF.

Landmine Casualties

Landmine casualties are not recorded systematically. Before the 1998-2000 border war, there were an estimated 4,200-4,600 amputee mine victims.[42] Although landmine incidents were beginning to subside and were thought to be relatively low in 1998,[43] casualties are now on the rise as a result of new use of landmines in northern Ethiopia, with reports indicating a casualty rate of between five and seven per week. Civilians returning to the conflict zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia are now under considerable landmine threat.[44] Ethiopian government sources claim that landmines in the northern Ethiopian conflict zone have caused the death of some 100 people in the 1998-1999 conflict period, and have forced 50,000 to abandon fertile agricultural land.[45] Local government officials in the border town of Zala Anbesa claim that seventy-seven people were killed by landmines in the area.[46]

Landmine casualties continue to occur in the Somali National Region of Ethiopia, along the frontier with Kenya and along the Djibouti-Ethiopian rail line, where both cargo and passenger trains have been derailed by landmines on three occasions in 2000. These casualties are not systematically tallied. In the Somali National Region a landmine explosion destroyed one of the two functioning ambulances and seriously injuring the driver. A local doctor was also killed by a landmine accident at Qabridahari and another incident injured a nurse and a driver working on the National Polio Immunization Campaign.[47]

Landmine Survivor Assistance

All mine-affected regions of Ethiopia are extremely underdeveloped with poor infrastructure and poorly equipped health care facilities. Few hospitals are capable of performing emergency surgery and most local health posts are not competent to provide emergency care to mine victims.

The Department of Rehabilitation Affairs of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs runs three prosthetic/orthotic centers in Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Mekele and Harar. The Addis Ababa prosthetic center was established in 1961 by the Ethiopian government, while the Mekele and Harar centers were established by the ICRC in 1992 and 1982 respectively. The Addis Ababa center is one of the premier such centers in all of Africa and its products, wheel chairs, mobility devices and components are used in many African countries. In addition, its serves as a reference center, providing training and counseling internationally to other centers in mine-affected countries.

The ICRC, through a Special Fund for Disabled (SFD), supports prosthetic/orthotic centers in Ethiopia. The Italian Red Cross, in collaboration with the ICRC, assigned two permanent staff to the center in Addis Ababa to help train prosthetists and orthotists and to develop their skill in the polypropylene technique. In 1999, fourteen ICRC prosthetists/orthotists on their first missions attended a two-week instruction course, and twenty-seven others from eight countries completed a one-month course. During these training courses, eighty-two amputees received new prostheses. Since July 1998, the U.S. has supported the SFD project in Addis Ababa with $1 million, through the ICRC, for this training.[48]

In addition, to the training courses, the SFD-supported expatriates carried out follow-up technical visits to SFD-supported projects every month. In 1999, technical visits lasting about two weeks were made to twenty-nine projects in seventeen countries. During these visits, the SFD staff gave further training in fitting techniques and reviewed the condition of equipment and polypropylene components. In SFD-supported projects, 4,788 polypropylene prostheses were produced in 1999. The Prosthetic/Orthotic Center in Addis Ababa supplied an increased number of ICRC projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.[49]

Since 1997, HI and RaDO have conducted a joint project to implement rehabilitation services in the main hospitals of the country (Axum, Maychew, Bahir Dar, Debre Tabor, Woldia, Nekempte, Mettu, Sodo, Hossana, Dire Dawa). These services, established in coordination with the respective regional and local health bureaus, provide basic physiotherapy treatments and walking aids to in-patients and to disabled persons.


[1] Ethiopian and Eritrean foreign ministers signed the agreement in Algiers, Algeria on 18 June 2000. The President of Algeria, who holds the Presidency of the OAU for the 2000 cycle, brokered the agreement.
[2] His Excellency, Dr. Fecadu Gadarmu, Ambassador to Canada, Statement to the Signing Ceremony, Ottawa, 3 December 1997, p. 2.
[3] Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fax to the Ethiopian Consulate in The Hague, 17 March 1999, p. 2. Statement of Dr. Waktasu Negeri to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Maputo, 3 May 1999.
[4] Statement of Dr. Waktasu Negeri to the FMSP to the MBT, Maputo, 3 May 1999.
[5] Dr. Gadamu, Ottawa, 3 December 1997, p. 3.
[6] For information on mines found in Ethiopia, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 145-146.
[7] Ethiopian Government Spokesperson, “Total Victory for Operation Sunset,” Ethiopian News Service, Addis Ababa, www.telecom.net/~ena, 28 February 1999; Professor Addis Birhan, “Mine Eritrea’s Minefields,” Wata Information Service. www.telecom.net-et/~wata, 6 March 1999; Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 March 1999, p. 2; Statement of Dr. Waktasu Negeri to the FMSP to the MBT, Maputo, 3 May 1999; and Africa News, “30,375 Landmines Planted in Eritrea in Northern Ethiopia Demined,” Embassy of Ethiopia, 25 May 1999.
[8] “Ethiopia says Eritrea laid 7,000 mines in and around border town,” AFP, 6 June 2000. In a February 2000 report regarding Eritrean human rights practices, the U.S. State Department said, “According to UN officials, [Eritrean] government forces laid approximately 50,000 to 60,000 landmines in the Badme area during their 8-month occupation of this disputed territory.” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- Eritrea,” 25 February 2000, p. 3. This is repeated in the State Department’s Ethiopia country report. Use of mines by Ethiopia is not mentioned in either country report.
[9] Interviews with Ato Abraham Yohannes, Embassy of Eritrea, Washington, DC, 28 January 2000 and 8 February 2000.
[10] Interview with Eritrean National Demining Headquarters official, Asmara, January 2000.
[11] Some of these reports were unclear as to who laid the mines, and some said both sides may have mined the town. IRIN-CEA, “Civilians returning slowly to Mined Town,” 2 June 2000; “Eritreans Assess Damage in Barentu,” BBC World (Africa), 2 June 2000; Ann M. Simmons, “Destruction, Danger Await Eritrean Returnees,” The Times, 2 June 2000; Patrick Graham, “Eritreans Don’t Think the War is Over,” National Post, 4 June 2000; “Eritrean Town Looted by Retreating Ethiopian Army,” Reuters, 2 June 2000; “Ethiopian Forces Reported Still in West Eritrea,” IRIN News Briefs, 31 May 2000.
[12] The aide-memoire was subsequently provided the UN Security Council and circulated as UN Security Council document S/2000/726, 21 July 2000. See also, “Eritrea Complains Ethiopia Violates Peace Pact,” Reuters, United Nations, 24 July 2000.
[13] United Nations, IRIN News Briefs, “Ethiopia: Landmine Deaths in Irob,” 8 June 2000.
[14] “Landmines Kill Two Children, Injure Three Others,” Pan African News Agency, 8 June 2000.
[15] “Adid Accuses Ethiopia of Annexing Somali Territory,” AFP, 21 March 2000.
[16] “Ethiopians Pull out of Somalia,” BBC World, 4 January 1999, www.bbc.co.uk.
[17] For a recent denial, see: “Ethiopia Responds to the Times’ Special Report,” Letter to the Editor from Fisseha Adugna, Charge d’affaires, Embassy of Ethiopia, Washington, DC, Washington Times, 3 June 1999. Though the Mine Ban Treaty has not entered into force for Ethiopia, the use of mines by a signatory can be judged a breach of its international obligations. Under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, “A state is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when...it has signed the treaty....” Clearly, new use of mines defeats the object and purpose of the treaty.
[18] See, Landmine Monitor Report 2000, Djibouti chapter.
[19] “Eritrea Warns against Changing OAU Peace Plan,” Reuters, 31 May 2000.
[20] Ibid.
[21] “Landmines Kill 14, Injure Four others in Kenya,” PANA (Nairobi), 23 March 2000.
[22] Mohamoud Issa, “Landmines in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia,” In Proceedings of the Workshop on the Menace of Landmines in the Horn of Africa, The Institute for Practical Research and Training, Hargeisa, 23-24 November 1999.
[23] U.S. State Department, 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia, 25 February 2000, p. 4.
[24] UN Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, 22 June 1998, p. 5.
[25] U.S. Department of State, Political Military Affairs Bureau, Office of International Security Operations, Pub No. 10098, July 1993, p.89; U.S. Department of State, “Background Notes: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” March 1998, Office of East African Affairs, www.state.gov.
[26] U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998.
[27] UN Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, 22 June 1998, p.2; U.S. Central Command, www.centcom.mil/demining/ethiopia.
[28] Human Rights Watch, Sudan: Global Trade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to all Sides in the Civil War in Sudan, (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1998), pp. 39-40.
[29] U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p. A-1.
[30] Ibid. Map-“The Three Most Mine-affected Areas in Ethiopia.”
[31] See, UN Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, 22 June 1998.
[32] Santa Barbara website at: www.stiftung-sankt-barbara.de.
[33] “FY 00 NDAR Project Status,” U.S. Department of State, Office of Humanitarian Demining Program, 5 May 2000. Numbers reflect funding for Department of Defense, Department of State, and some Agency for International Development programs, as cited in Human Rights Watch, “Clinton’s Landmine Legacy,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report Vol. 12, No. 3(G), July 2000, p. 26.
[34] HRW, “Clinton’s Landmine Legacy,” July 2000, p. 34.
[35] U.S. Department of State, “FY 00 NADR Project Status,” p. 2, in HRW, “Clinton’s Landmine Legacy,” July 2000, p. 34.
[36] United Nations Assessment Mission to Ethiopia (UNMAS), 22 June 1998, p. 6.
[37] USCENTCOM Demining Home Page, 11 June 2000.
[38] Africa News, Embassy of Ethiopia, 25 May 1999; “Ethiopia: 40,000 landmines removed from central front,” Ethiopian Television, Addis Ababa, in Amharic, BBC Monitoring, 20 June 2000.
[39] UN Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, 22 June 1998, p. 7.
[40] Ibid, pp. 7-8.
[41] “Multi-year Recipient Report: Ethiopia,” Mine Action Investments Database, UN Mine Action Service, available at: http://webapps.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/mai/Main.asp?sScreen= RECIPIENT, visited on 25 July 2000.
[42] Handicap International, MAG, and Norwegian People’s Aid, “Ethiopia, Portfolio of Mine-Related Projects,” 1998.
[43] UN Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, 22 June 1998.
[44] “Demining Underway in Northern Ethiopia,” AFP, 22 June 2000.
[45] Landmines in Ethiopia and the War with Eritrea, Arabicnews.com: Ethiopian Politics, 6 June 2000.
[46] Ibid.
[47] Mohamoud Issa, “Landmines in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia,” November 1999.
[48] U.S. Agency for International Development, “Patrick J. Leahy War Victims Fund, Portfolio Synopsis,” Spring 2000, in “Clinton’s Landmine Legacy,” HRW, p. 28.
[49] Interview with Maria Letizia Zamparelli, Studies and Planing Special Activities Service, Italian Red Cross, Rome, 24 April 2000.