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


Key developments since March 1999: Mine clearance and mine survey activities expanded significantly in Somaliland in 1999 and 2000, with donors contributing some $6.65 million. Clearance at Burao city has allowed the 70,000 residents to begin returning. The needs remain great. In 1999 the government for the first time tried to systematically collect data on mine victims, and estimates that there have been more than 3,500 mine casualties since 1988. The parliament passed a resolution calling for a unilateral ban on landmines; the President has endorsed the resolution.

Mine Ban Policy

The self-declared Republic of Somaliland cannot become a signatory of the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) until it receives international recognition as an separate state. Nevertheless, on several occasions, Somaliland affirmed its willingness to abide by the MBT.

On the occasion of the signing ceremony of the MBT in Ottawa, the President of Somaliland, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, wrote a letter to Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs indicating that Somaliland was willing to sign the MBT.[1] On 1 March 1999, on the occasion of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, the Somaliland House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the government to unilaterally ban landmines. In a December 1999 meeting with the Landmine Monitor researcher and representatives of the ICBL, the President of Somaliland indicated his desire to see the parliamentary resolution become law, but to date no legislation has been drafted.[2]

In November 2000, at a regional workshop on the menace on landmines in the Horn of Africa organized by the Somaliland Coalition against Landmines (SCAL), the Chairman of the Guurti (Traditional Elders) in the Upper House of Parliament, affirmed his community’s willingness to cooperate with international organizations on landmines.[3] This was confirmed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives speaking during the opening session of the workshop.[4]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Somaliland is not known to have ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines. The Ministry of Defense of Somaliland claims that its national army has not purchased or transferred any landmines since reconstituting its National Army in 1991, but admits that large stocks of landmines have been inherited from the now disbanded army of the Somali Democratic Republic.[5] Most of these stocks are thought to be in the hands of militia or private individuals.[6] The government has not programmed the destruction of its landmine stocks.[7] Somaliland does not appear to be a transit point for landmines.

After two decades of conflict, Somaliland enjoys relative peace, having resolved its last major internal conflict in 1995 and there is no indication or evidence that landmines were used in Somaliland after 1995. Moreover, Somaliland has not been and is not now engaged in armed conflict with any of its neighbors.

Landmine Problem

At least twenty-four types of AP mines from ten countries have been identified in Somaliland (Belgium, Pakistan, China, the U.S., former Czechoslovakia, former East Germany, Egypt, former Soviet Union, United Kingdom and Italy).[8]

Between 1977 and 1978, the Somali Democratic Republic went to war with neighboring Ethiopia in the frontier area between northern Somalia (now Somaliland) and Ethiopia and the corridor between the Ethiopian city of Dire-Dawa and the border. This border remains heavily mined, including along important access routes. Between 1981 and 1991, the Somali National Movement (SNM), a rebel army of mostly northern Somali following, waged an armed insurrection against the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre which saw indiscriminate use of landmines against the civilian population and their homes, farmland, and water reservoirs. The then-regional capital of Hargeisa (now Somaliland’s capital) was heavily mined around military bases, refugee camps, private homes and the airport. Between 1994 and 1995 fierce battles in Hargeisa and in the areas south and east of Hargeisa saw extensively mine use.

According to the Somali Mine Action Center (SMAC), there are twenty-eight mined roads in Somaliland. There have been several mine incidents on the coastal road between the port city of Berbera and neighboring Djibouti, and a section of this road just east of Berbera has at least one minefield of undetermined size. Sections of the regular Djibouti-Jidhi-Borama road are also mined and traffic has been diverted into alternate routes for the past eight years. The regular unpaved road between the largest towns of Somaliland, Burao and Hargeisa, has been abandoned, in part due to landmine threat.

There are more than eighty minefields in Somaliland, sixty-three of which have been confirmed by SMAC. The majority of minefields are found near the Ethiopian border. Somaliland is a pastoral society and the frontier area is the most important grazing area for Somaliland livestock. Each season, tens of thousands of nomads and their herds cross the border on foot in search of water and pasture and are therefore at risk from the mines. No systematic demining has taken place in this frontier area and there are no paved roads in the area, nor are there any hospitals or health care centers.

Mine Action Coordination

In 1997, the Somaliland government constituted a National Demining Agency (NDA) to coordinate all demining, mine awareness and victim assistance programs by the government and national and international NGOs. At about the same time, the United Nations Development Program established a Somali Mine Action Center (SMAC) managed by the Somali Civil Protection Program (SCCP) of UNDP to coordinate its landmine activities in Somaliland.

The UN Secretary-General’s October 1999 annual report on Assistance in Mine Action stated that, “Improved co-ordination and institutional support would benefit the myriad of demining organisations involved in north-west Somalia. The implementation of centralised control over data collection and management activities would ease the ultimate transfer of these responsibilities to local authorities.”[9]

Survey and Assessment

In 1999, CARE International completed thirty-eight Level I and Level II surveys in Awadal and Galbeed regions. HALO Trust started in September 1999 and completed in 2000 a Level I survey of the entire Awdal region which added to information gained by CARE.[10] In 1999, Danish Demining Group established a base camp at Adadley, a former military camp seventy kilometers west of Hargeisa, and started Level I and Level II surveys and clearance.

SMAC is currently negotiating with donors for funding for comprehensive Level I and Level II surveys and mine clearance projects in Awadal and Togdheer regions.

Mine Action Funding

In spite of the gravity of the landmine problem, Somaliland’s status as a self-declared state has made it difficult to attract funding for mine action projects. While some limited mine clearance took place between 1991 and 1993, since 1998 a number of mine clearance activities have been launched. Funding for mine action totaled only some $546,000 in 1998, but has increased dramatically to about $6.65 million in 1999 and early 2000. Donors include Denmark, European Commission, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, and UNDP.

Mine Tech of Zimbabwe was contracted by the UNDP/SCPP in 1998 to began a small mine action project in the mine-affected city of Burao. The project budget, funded by UNDP, was $202,000 in 1998 and in 1999-2000 the program was expanded with a further $400,000 funding.

CARE International received $343,817 from the U.S. in 1998 to start a Level II survey in Somaliland contracted to Mine Tech and to support the SMAC.[11] The project started in March 1999 and has been further expanded with $600,000 in funds from the European Commission and the U.S. Department of State.[12]

The Danish Demining Group (DDG) was awarded 4 million Kroner (approximately $600,000) from the Danish Foreign Ministry in January 1999.[13] After completing an initial feasibility project, the DDG received another $1.4 million from the Danish Government to continue and expand its mine clearance project in Somaliland.

HALO Trust has been funded with $1.25 million in 1999 and approximately $1.3 million for 2000 by the U.S. State Department for a multi-year mine clearance program.[14] A sub-grant of $150,000 was awarded for capacity building of the National Demining Agency (NDA). In addition, the British Ministry of Defense has donated four front loaders and four bulldozers to HALO Trust for use in Somaliland.[15]

The Santa Barbara Foundation has received funds from the German government and private foundations to undertake a $500,000 demining project in the Gabiley district west of Hargeisa.[16]

The SMAC is spending $400,000 on mine action coordination and mine action policy formulation.[17] SMAC is currently negotiating with donors for further funding of $4.25 million for a comprehensive Level I and Level II surveys and mine clearance projects in Awadal and Togdheer regions and for clearance of missiles and bombs from around Hargeisa and Berbera.

Mine Clearance

In 1998, UNDP funded a three-month commercial demining project to begin the demining of Burao. MineTech of Zimbabwe was contracted to do a feasibility study using previously trained Somali deminers. Sixty-three Somali deminers, two mine detection dogs and expatriate technical advisors have now cleared approximately 73,000 square meters of Burao city removing 107 antipersonnel mines, fifteen antitank mines and 63 UXOs at a clearance cost of $2.75 per square meter and a total cost of $202,000. Under a separate contract from HABITAT, the team also cleared a 1.5 kilometers of road leading to the water reservoir of nearby Sheikh town. More than 70,000 former residents of Burao, the second largest Somaliland city, had been unable to return and live in a makeshift camp on the eastern outskirts.[18]

The UNDP/Somalia Civil Protection Program expanded their mine clearance program in 1999 and awarded a demining contract to the UK-based Greenfield Associates (now European Demining).[19] Mine clearance in Buroa has now enabled some sections to be repopulated. The reopening of important public facilities such as the airport, the bank, a few schools and a number of main streets have made it possible for the majority of people to move from a 70,000 strong makeshift town just outside of Burao town.

In 1999, DDG established a base camp at Adadley, a former military camp seventy kilometers west of Hargeisa, and started Level I and Level II surveys and clearance in addition to reconstruction of a boarding school and a health post. To date DDG has cleared UXO from two battlefields at Adadley, in addition to the road to the stone query at Dheenta, the Dhobato bridge, the Haleya Bridge, the Makhayada Inanta culvert and the Abdalla culvert. The DDG work cleared a total of 178,426 square meters of battle area and a total 23,156 square meters of mined areas, destroying twenty-nine AP mines, one AT mine and 15,495 UXO.

In September 1999, HALO Trust started its program with a confirmatory planning survey and deminer training. In March 2000, HALO Trust deployed five mine clearance teams, totaling sixty-two demining lanes in important grazing and cultivation areas. To date it has destroyed 653 AP mines, 94 AT mines and 535 UXO and completed a Level I survey of the entire Awdal region which added to information gained by CARE in 1999.[20]

In 1999, CARE International completed thirty-eight Level I and Level II surveys in Awadal and Galbeed regions, trained medical personnel, and started a mine awareness project with a voluntary youth group.

Mine Awareness

Mine awareness training has not been commensurate with the need. A number of NGOs have printed Information, Education and Communication (IEC) messages in the Somali language and one occasionally sees a poster on a bulletin board, but even known minefields are not marked to warn civilians. Nomads use branches or sticks to mark suspected landmines, but these are not easily recognized.

In conjunction with its demining activity SCPP/SMAC trained thirty-five local women as civilian trainers and educators in the city of Burao.[21] CARE International has started, in collaboration with a voluntary youth group, a mine awareness project in Somaliland. The youth group uses circus performances to promote mine awareness. CARE and Mine Tech Zimbabwe are also collaborating with the Somaliland Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SORRA) on comprehensive mine awareness campaigns throughout Somaliland. A pilot was started on 5 May 2000.[22] The Danish Demining Group is also working with a local NGO on mine awareness and education. These projects are in their initial stages.[23]

Landmine Casualties

In 1992, Physicians for Human Rights conservatively estimated that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 landmine amputees in Somaliland.[24] Mine-related casualties have considerably subsided as people become more aware and avoid problem zones. Moreover, nomads and local communities especially in the frontier areas have often hired freelance deminers to demine areas they knew had landmines. In April 1998, doctors in Berbera Hospital indicated that on the average they were treating victims from one mine accident every month. Most of the victims in Berbera were from the heavily mined city of Burao, about two hours driving distance from Berbera.[25]

Data on landmine accidents or casualties are not collected systematically. In a retrospective study, NDA has compiled mine victim statistics for the past ten years. The data compiled by NDA show that from 1988 to 1998 landmines caused 3,014 deaths and 576 injuries, destroyed 604 vehicles, as well as killing 5,502 camels, 2,391 cattle, 12,713 sheep and goats, and 1,2343 donkeys. NDA has a breakdown by region and district, which is available from Landmine Monitor.

This data was collected and compiled by the NDA during the first three months of 1999. It represents the first effort by the NDA to get an overview of the mine and UXO victim situation in Somaliland and it is a first step in systemizing data collection of mine and UXO related problems. The NDA recognizes that the methodology utilized has been imperfect and that the data obtained may be questionable in some respects. The survey relied on the recollection of respondents of events that happened many years ago.

Landmine Survivor Assistance

Somaliland, which even in normal times had few health care or other social service facilities, has suffered through two decades of conflict and instability and its entire infrastructure remains in ruins. The majority of health care workers, like other skilled professionals, have left to escape the insecurity and have not yet returned. In 1991, during the peak of mine incidents, there were only eight general surgeons and two orthopedic surgeons in the whole country. There is no evidence that the picture has changed at all. There are only three hospitals capable of providing surgery in Somaliland, and they are all poorly equipped.

Currently, two NGOs provide some post-operative assistance to landmine victims. The Somaliland Red Crescent Society (SRCS), with funding from the Somaliland government, and the Norwegian Red Cross provide plastic lower limb prostheses to amputees. Handicap International (HI) provides orthesis, crutches, orthopedic shoes and wheelchairs, and runs a physical therapy clinic for amputees and other handicapped individuals.[26] Both centers are located in Hargeisa, and except for occasional travel to other districts, their patients are confined to victims who can seek assistance in Hargeisa.

Between 1993 and May 1999, the SRCS rehabilitation center provided prosthesis to 1,082 patients. Forty percent (382) of the patients were mine victims. On the average, the center makes plastic prosthetics for thirteen to fifteen patients each month. Handicap International, which makes low-cost wood mobility devices, also runs a wheelchair-making workshop. Notably, the Somaliland Handicapped Persons Association does some of the work on wheelchairs. Twenty percent of HI’s patients were amputees, however, the number of landmine amputees is not specified. In 1999, HI/Action North South assisted 382 patients including twenty-two amputees. While most mine victims are now assisted at the Somaliland Red Crescent Society Handicap Center in Hargeisa, HI provided three below knee prosthesis for mine victim amputees in 1999. A total of 313 of the 531 SNM veterans disabled by war registered with the 1999 Registration and Evaluation Program in Hargeisa were mine victims.[27]

<SOMALIA | Americas>

[1] Letter from Somaliland President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal to the Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, 26 November 1997.
[2] Meeting between Landmine Monitor and ICBL representatives Jody Williams and Steve Goose and President Egal, Washington DC, 4 December 1999.
[3] SCAL is an NGO coalition formed in 1998 to work against the use of landmines and composed of the Institute for Practical Research and Training, the Somali Relief and Rehabilitation Association, the Somaliland Red Crescent Society, and the local offices of Handicap International and CARE International.
[4] Report on the Workshop on the Menace of Landmines in the Horn of Africa, 23-24 November 1999, Hargiesa, by the Institute for Practical Research and Training, April 2000, pp.5-7.
[5] Interview with Rashid Haji Abdillahi, Somaliland Minister of Defense, Hargeisa, 20 January 2000.
[6] Interview with Col. .Mohamed Ali Ismail (ret), Director of National Demining Agency, 26 November 1998.
[7] Interview with Rashid Haji Abdillahi, Somaliland Minister of Defense, 20 January 1999.
[8] Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Landmines: A Deadly Legacy, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), p. 225.
[9] “Assistance in Mine Action: Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly,” A/54/445, 6 October 1999.
[10] Email from Richard Boulter, Caucasus Desk Officer, HALO to Landmine Monitor (Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch), 28 July 2000.
[11] Somalia Mine Action Program (SOMAP), CARE International, October 1998.
[12] www.zimtrade.co.zw/profiles/minetech/index.htm
[13] Berlingske Tidende, (Copenhagen), 20 January 1999.
[14] U.S. Department of State, “FY 00 NADR Project Status,” p. 3.
[15] Matthew Hovel, HALO Trust, Presentation to the Workshop on the Menace of Landmines in the Horn of Africa, Hargeisa, Somaliland, 23-24 November 1999.
[16] www.stiftung-sankt-barbara.de
[17] Communication from Jab Swart of the Somali Civil Protection Program (UNDP), 10 May 2000.
[18] UN Assessment Mission to Northwest Somalia, June 1998.
[19] www.landmine-solutions.com
[20] Email from Richard Boulter, Caucasus Desk Officer, HALO to Landmine Monitor (Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch), 28 July 2000.
[21] UNDP promotional document, 1998 op. cit.
[22] SORRA and Mine Tech are now running a daily advertisement campaign in the Somali language newspapers. Interview with Ahmed Mohamed Madar (SORRA) and Mohamed Abdi Galbeedi of SCAL, 5 May 2000.
[23] CARE works with the Hargeisa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVAYOCO), while DDG works with Mine Awareness and Information Association (MISA).
[24] Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Landmines: A Deadly Legacy, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), pp. 221-223.
[25] Meeting between doctors working for Coperazione Italiano (COOPI) and a visiting delegation lead by U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, Hon. Lange Schermerhorn, Berbera, April 1998. Notes taken by author.
[26] Communication from Florence Thun, Handicap International Horn of Africa Coordinator, 11 November 1998; and Karen Perin, Handicap International, 8 May 2000.
[27] Dr. Mohamed Abdi “Arabayte,” Chairman of the Evaluation Committee of the Registration Program, presentation to the Menace of Landmines in the Horn of Africa, Hargeisa, 23-24 November 1999.