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


Key developments since March 1999: Despite continued fighting, Sierra Leone is not seriously mine-affected. A bill to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty is currently before the parliament. UNMAS conducted an assessment mission in February 2000 and concluded that there had been very limited use of mines in the past. It recommended establishment of a Mine Action Office, but not a nationwide program of mine and UXO awareness education.


In early May 2000, a fragile peace process in Sierra Leone collapsed after rebel forces of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the leadership of Foday Sankoh took hundreds of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) soldiers hostage and for a short while threatened the capital, Freetown. Fighting between pro-government forces and the RUF has resumed, re-igniting the civil war that began in 1991 and was supposedly ended in July 1999 with the conclusion of a peace accord in Lomé, Togo. In February 1998 Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces entered the country and ejected the military government and its allies, who had staged a coup in May 1997. Antipersonnel mines are believed to have been used in this conflict in very limited numbers and the impact of the mine and UXO problem has been described by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as “extremely limited” and consisting more of UXO and booby traps, than AP and AT mines.

Mine Ban Policy

Sierra Leone signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 29 June 1998. In March 2000, the Minister of Parliamentary and Political Affairs, Abu Aiah Koroma, submitted a bill to the Parliament on ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty.[1] The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Sama Banya, told Landmine Monitor, “There is no doubt that the ratification process currently going through Parliament will soon be concluded. It is a package that will strengthen our implementation of the treaty in our country.”[2]

Sierra Leone voted in support of pro-Mine Ban Treaty UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54B in December 1999. It voted for similar UNGA resolutions in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Sierra Leone did not participate in the First Meeting of States Parties in Maputo and it has not attended the intersessional meetings of the treaty in Geneva, but both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and government officials interviewed by Landmine Monitor stated the government’s unflinching support for the treaty.[3]

Sierra Leone is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, and is not a member of the Conference on Disarmament.

A local NGO, SHARE (Save Heritage And Rehabilitate the Environment) has been active in campaigning for the government to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty and for no mine use in Sierra Leone.[4]

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Sierra Leone is not known to produce or export antipersonnel mines. It is believed to stockpile AP mines but no details are available on the size, composition, or countries of origin.[5] The then-Chief of Defense Staff, Brigadier-General Khobe told the UNMAS assessment mission team that he abhorred the use of landmines and was committed to the destruction of remaining stockpiles.[6] The UNMAS assessment mission team was shown a Romanian MAI 75 AP mine that ECOMOG forces claimed to have cleared.[7]


On 26 January 2000, Lt. Col. T.N. Momodu, a Staff Officer to the Chief of Defense Staff, said that the first Sierra Leonean Army (SLA) casualties due to landmines were in November 1992 when a mine he said was laid by the RUF destroyed a SLA tank in Wordu, Kono.[8] He claimed that there were “twenty recorded landmines with the RUF supplied by Liberia.” Momodu alleged that the AFRC-RUF junta “embarked on mine warfare in the wake of their rule in 1997 and employed anti-tank and anti-personnel mines as a means of deterring ECOMOG advance toward their position.”

In February 2000 UNMAS conducted a seven-day technical assessment mission in Sierra Leone.[9] The two-person UNMAS assessment team met with representatives of the government, the warring factions, UNAMSIL, UN agencies, the ICRC, and international and local NGOs and also travelled to Kabala in the north and Kenema and Daru in the east of the country. UNMAS concluded that the warring factions “had relatively little recourse to the use of landmines,” both AP and AT.[10] It noted, “Nuisance mining took place rather than the laying of protective or barrier mines per se.”[11] It also noted that while some weapons, such as unexploded mortar shells, hand grenades, and possibly RPGs had been handed in at disarmament sites, no landmines had been handed in.[12]

The Chief of Defense Staff “seemingly conceded” to UNMAS that a small number of landmines were used but claimed that they were all recorded and subsequently cleared between February and April 1998.[13] ECOMOG told the UNMAS assessment mission that other parties to the conflict had used a small number of mines beginning in 1991, and that there had been further AP mine use in the 1997 invasion and retreat, particularly in the Waterloo area.[14]

The Civil Defense Forces (CDF) “denies having used landmines” but their representatives told UNMAS that CDF members had found 28 landmines in Tonkolili and Moyamba districts in central Sierra Leone, and that seven of these mines had been handed over to ECOMOG.[15]

The RUF also “denies having used landmines” and “claimed that there are no mines planted in areas under RUF control.”[16] The leader of the AFRC told UNMAS that “a small number of anti-tank mines were used on the road to Lungi in 1997/8,” but claimed that these were subsequently cleared and that no antipersonnel mines had been laid by his forces.[17]

Since opening its office in Sierra Leone in 1999, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has attempted to verify whether Sierra Leona has a landmine problem. Its overall assessment is that most (if not all) the cases HRW has been able to investigate are a result of either booby traps or unexploded ordnance, not landmines.[18] In late 1999 and early 2000, HRW interviewed two cases of combatants injured by “landmines,” however eyewitnesses say both were injured by booby traps (a grenade tied between two trees) placed by member of the ex-SLA.[19] Both the ICRC and Handicap International told HRW that while they have treated patients injured by booby traps, they don’t recall ever having fitted a patient for a limb which was lost due to a landmine explosion.[20]

Landmine Problem

While access to all areas of the country was not possible when the UNMAS assessment mission visited, the team determined that Sierra Leone has a “limited” problem with landmines and UXO. While it said information received could not be confirmed, UNMAS listed the following areas as suspected to be mine- or UXO-affected:

Kono district, Kailahun district, the northern part of Moyamba district from Moyamba town, and the southern part of Tonkolili district from Maburaka town, and in Bafodia village.... In addition, a small area of land adjacent to a disused secondary school in Kabala has been identified as highly likely to be affected by either landmines or booby traps.[21]

UNMAS reports that landmines and UXO were not having any impact on peacekeeping operations, on agencies and organizations involved in aid distribution, on returning refugees and described any socio-economic impact as “extremely limited.”[22]

Mine Action

In his public lecture Lt. Col. Momodu stated that the SLA “endeavoured to keep records and maps of all landmines laid - that included anti-tank and anti-personnel which were demined by joint SLA and ECOMOG engineers.”[23] The UNMAS Assessment Mission reported that a “limited capacity exists within the armed forces and warring factions to deal safely with uncleared landmines and items of UXO.”[24] Under the terms of the peace agreement signed by the government of Sierra Leone and the RUF in Lomé, Togo in July 1999, all warring factions are expected to hand over maps of mined areas or areas containing explosive devises.[25] However, at this writing no side had complied to this provision and the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Rehabilitation (DDR) process had all but halted after the RUF took hostage some 500 UN peacekeepers in May 2000 and the warring factions again resumed hostilities.

Nine AP landmines were handed over to DDR officials between November l999 and May 2000, when the DDR process broke down.[26] These mines, all of which were destroyed in UNAMSIL supervised exercises during March and April 2000, were of Italian and Czech origin. Ten AP mines (believed to be of Chinese-origin) were captured along with hundreds of other arms and ammunition during a UNAMSIL operation to free 220 Indian peacekeepers and 11 unarmed UN military observers from their RUF captors on 15-16 July 2000 in the Kailahun District.[27]

UNMAS recommended that UNAMSIL prioritize the establishment of a Mine Action Office, which has since been set up, including the establishment of the IMSMA database.[28] It recommended that this office coordinate mine action within Sierra Leone, “in particular with regard to mine and UXO survey, detection and clearance, and with respect to necessary mine awareness education for the UNAMSIL peacekeepers.”[29] As of 5 June 2000, there were 11,350 UNAMSIL troops in the country, including 254 military observers, under Indian command.[30]

The UNMAS Assessment Mission reported that “it does not appear that a nation-wide programme of mine and UXO awareness education is warranted.”[31]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

On 23 November 1999, Jariatu Gbla, aged fifteen, had her foot amputated at Connaught Hospital after an explosion in the village of Tonkolili in Mathibo.[32] SHARE claims Gbla was the victim of a landmine while the UNMAS Assessment stated that “her injuries suggest that that the device may actually have been an unexploded hand grenade.”[33] In February 2000, a twelve-year-old boy lost an eye after an explosion at Yams Farm on the outskirts of Freetown. Media reported that “he stepped on a landmine.”[34] But subsequent investigations by Human Rights Watch indicated that the explosion was not due to a mine, and was more likely caused by “a bullet lodged in the tire.”[35]

During the armed conflict, the health infrastructure of the country saw widespread destruction, including destruction of a reported 70% of the primary health care centers across the country.[36] UNMAS noted that surgical care could be provided to landmine and UXO survivors at Kenema Hospital in the east of the country, Connaught Hospital in Freetown, and by the ICRC, MSF-Belgium, MSF-France, and MSF-Holland.[37] Prostheses for amputees are manufactured and fitted by HI France and by the U.S.-based NGO Hope International, which also provides physical rehabilitation.[38]

<São Tomé e Principe | SUDAN>

[1] SHARE interview with Cecil F. King, Senior Assistant Clerk of Parliament, Freetown, 18 March 2000.
[2] Interview with Dr. Sama Banya, Foreign Minister, Accra, Ghana, 28 April 2000.
[3] SHARE interview with Charles Tom Kamanda, Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Freetown, 19 March 2000.
[4] SHARE press release, “Where are the Landmines used in the War,” 20 November 1999; SHARE press release “Landmines to prolong suffering in Sierra Leone,” 26 November 1999; SHARE public lecture on the topic of “Landmines, the Environment & Sustainable Peace in Sierra Leone,” 26 January 2000.
[5] In 1995, Jeremy Harding, an editor at the London Review of Books, was told by a diamond industry source that the British military equipment agent, J & S Franklin Limited, had procured landmines for the Sierra Leone government. Telephone interview with Jeremy Harding, London, 31 March 1999.
[6] UNMAS, “Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report,” 7 February 2000, p. 6.
[7] Ibid.
[8] He made these remarks at a public lecture organized by SHARE on the topic of “Landmines, the Environment & Sustainable Peace in Sierra Leone” to an audience of civil society organizations, government, armed forces and the international community at the British Council in Freetown. See, SHARE, Report of a Public Lecture on the topic: Landmines, the Environment and Sustainable Peace in Sierra Leone, 26 January 2000. Circulated on icblafrica egroup by ICBL Coordinator, 23 February 2000.
[9] See UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000.
[10] Ibid., p. 6.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., p. 7.
[13] Ibid., p. 6.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.; see also, Sulaiman Momodu, “Kamajors Discover 28 Rebel Planted Landmines,” Freetown Concord Times (Internet Version-WWW) 26 January 2000.
[16] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, p. 6.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Email from HRW Sierra Leone to Mary Wareham, HRW, 19 February 2000.
[19] In May 1999 in Mile 91, a “kamajor” lost his leg and in November 1999 in Kabala, one ex-SLA was killed and another injured. Email from HRW Sierra Leone to Mary Wareham, HRW, 19 February 2000.
[20] Ibid.
[21] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, p. 7.
[22] Ibid., pp. 7-8.
[23] SHARE, Report of a Public Lecture, 26 January 2000.
[24] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, pp. 9.
[25] Peace Agreement Between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone, Lomé, Togo, 7 July 1999.
[26] One Czech AP mine was handed over in Freetown in Nov. 1999, three Italian AP mines in Hastings, one Czech AP mine in Kenema, and two Italian AP mines were handed over in Bo. HRW interview with UNAMSIL U.K. Major Mike Godard, Freetown, 26 July 2000.
[27] HRW interview with UNAMSIL UK Major Mike Godard, Freetown, 26 July 2000.
[28] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, pp. 9.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Human Rights Watch, “Memorandum on Sierra Leone: Priorities for the International Community,” 20 June 2000.
[31] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, pp. 10.
[32] Elvis Gbanabom Hallowell, Executive Director, SHARE, in Report of a Public Lecture, 26 January 2000.
[33] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, pp. 8.
[34] “12-year-old Sierra Leonean loses eye in landmine explosion,” Agence France Presse (Freetown), 3 February 2000.
[35] Telephone interview with doctor who treated the boy. Email from HRW Sierra Leone to Mary Wareham, HRW, 19 February 2000.
[36] UNMAS, Sierra Leone Assessment Mission Report, 7 February 2000, pp. 9.
[37] Ibid.
[38] Ibid.