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Country Reports
GUINEA-BISSAU, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: Guinea-Bissau ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on 22 May 2001. The nongovernmental organization HUMAID began demining operations in January 2000, and through February 2001 had cleared some 44,392 square meters of land, removing 1,284 antipersonnel mines, 45 antitank mines, and 264 UXO, mostly in Bissau city. In mid-2000 the UNDP began support aimed at creation of an integrated mine action program in Guinea-Bissau. A national mine action coordination body, the National Center for Coordination of Anti-mines Actions (CAAMI), was established in late 2000, and a draft National Humanitarian Mine Action Program (PAAMI) was prepared in early 2001.

Mine Ban Policy

Guinea-Bissau ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on 22 May 2001, the 116th country to ratify. The treaty will enter into force for Guinea-Bissau on 1 November 2001. It had signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa on 3 December 1997. Guinea-Bissau did not attend the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000, nor did it attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000 and May 2001. It did, however, attend the Bamako Seminar on Universalization and Implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty in Africa in Mali on 15-16 February 2001. Guinea-Bissau was absent from the vote on the November 2000 UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty. It is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Destruction

Guinea-Bissau is not known to have produced or exported AP mines. It appears to have obtained most of its mines after independence from Portugal, Belgium and France although some Russian and Spanish made mines have also been found.[1]

On 7 February 1998, the government destroyed between 2,000 and 3,000 mines from its stockpiles,[2] but since then there has been no more government activity on stockpile destruction. Government officials have said that all stocks would be destroyed.[3] The current size and composition of the stockpile is not known.

Landmine Problem

With the outbreak of conflict in 1998/1999, landmines became a real problem in the capital Guinea-Bissau.[4] HUMAID (a local NGO managed by a former US Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau, John Blacken) estimated some 5,000 mines were laid in thirteen locations during the war of liberation and 4,000 in the 1998/1999 conflicts.[5] The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) estimates that between 2,000 and 3,000 landmines were laid during the 1998/1999 conflicts.[6] More recently, a UN document stated, “There could still be in excess of 20,000 mines in the areas of Bissau recognized as having been on or near the front lines.... The former front line, north and northwest of Bissau, and an area located south of the airport, is still heavily mined.”[7]

Combatants used mines principally in five locations: around the Bissau airport, along the demarcation line within Bissau, along the border with Senegal, around the psychiatric hospital in Bissau, and along main routes in the south of the country.[8]

The government requested the UN Development Program’s assistance to establish a mine and UXO clearance program and a chief technical advisor arrived in Bissau in September 2000.[9]

The following areas have been identified and marked as contaminated with the exception of the minefield along Antula River: Alto Bandim coastline (1.5 kilometers); three hundred meters area east of the road to Bor; four hundred meters area near the site of the project “Action for Development;” area near the Bra prison; outer perimeter of part of the Penha Bairro (Diplomatic area); Guinea-Telecom antenna site; Jolo Papel sector; Bairros of Plaque, Contum, and Madina; six hundred meters bordering on the “Estrada de Volta” of Bissau; and an area on banks of the Antula River leading from Bissau towards Cumere.[10]

In 2001, the United Nations said that the landmines situation “presents a serious obstacle to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Bissau. The inhabitants live with the constant fear of mines planted in economically important areas. Mine- and UXO-suspected areas are often part of the land where people are growing market crops such as rice in small flooded valleys, cashew nuts and subsistence fisheries in coastal mangroves bathed by salt water. The most vulnerable groups are women and children.”[11]

Mine Action Funding

In 2000, a mine clearance program estimated at US$4 million was approved and given a priority. HUMAID received a total of US$216,307 from four donors.[12]

Donor funding for HUMAID in 2000

Amount & Currency Used
US $ Equivalent
Purpose of Funding
20 May 2000
Training, equipment and operating costs
July 2000
Equipment C
Approx. US$9,000
Anti-fragmentation suits
6 October 2000
FCFA 49,804,740
Operating Costs including salaries
28 October 2000
9 October 2000
FCFA 7,150,462


Source: HUMAID. At exchange rate FCFA740 = US$1.00.

The US made its first contribution to mine action in Guinea-Bissau in fiscal year 2000, providing $164,145. In addition to the $99,145 the State Department provided to HUMAID for equipment, the Defense Department provided $65,000 for training.[13]

Mine Action Coordination

Following missions by UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in 1998 and UN Development Program (UNDP) in May 1999, the government of Guinea-Bissau requested the United Nations to provide assistance with the establishment of a mine action program. UNDP support for the project began in mid-2000. UNDP aims to help the government elaborate mine action policy and identify mine clearance priorities, as well as to coordinate, manage and oversee all mine related activities.[14]

A national mine action coordination body, the National Center for Coordination of Anti-mines Actions (CAAMI), was established in late 2000, and a draft National Humanitarian Mine Action Program (PAAMI) was prepared in early 2001. Plans call for the launch of a comprehensive technical survey, including minefield marking, in the first half of 2001.[15]

Mine Clearance

HUMAID is the sole mine clearance NGO in the country. In early 2000, HUMAID identified seventy-three former military deminers ready to join the organization, but due to lack of funding at the time, could only hire eight. As the organization had neither enough deminers nor equipment, it concentrated its operations on the removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from Bissau city, and also surveying and marking the perimeters of minefields with warning signs.[16] During January and February 2000 HUMAID’s deminers cleared 165 UXOs.

In March 2000 HUMAID shifted its priority from UXO clearance to marking mined areas for two reasons: ECOMOG soldiers had identified about half of existing minefields with ropes and colored ribbons which the local population liked to remove for their own purposes; and the upcoming cashew harvest season in April. The Guinea-Bissau Defense Ministry provided HUMAID with 1,018 metal mine warning signs, 500 cloth signs, and five rolls of marking ropes, which it used to mark all thirteen minefields by the end of April. In the Bra Bairro HUMAID had removed 149 mines during June with support from the British Government.

In October 2000, after receiving funds from the German government, HUMAID resumed full demining operations, clearing 231 antipersonnel mines and 26 UXO from 23,247 square meters of land. During the period 1 November to 31 December, it cleared 91 antipersonnel mines and eleven UXO, completing demining in the populated Bra Bairro, including the area around the primary school located in the area. Work then started at the Guinea-Telecom center and antenna site. The mined area in and around the Guinea-Telecom site extends in an arc about 500 meters in length and 50 meter in width.[17]

During January 2001 HUMAID removed 140 antipersonnel mines and twelve UXO and cleared 10,774 square meters of land in the Guinea-Telecom area. This area, before being mined was used not only by Guinea-Telecom as an antenna site, but also by the local population for growing food crops. The area is now available for full use.

On 10 November 2000, it destroyed 298 antipersonnel mines (242 PRB M409), seven antitank mines, and eleven UXO.[18] On 26 January 2001 with witnesses from the government, the Embassy of the Netherlands, the Special Representative in Bissau of the United Nations Secretary General, and prominent local citizens, HUMAID destroyed by explosion 191 antipersonnel mines, twenty antitank mines, and thirty-eight UXOs. This was done to inform the population that progress is being made in clearing the metropolitan area of Bissau of dangerous explosives. HUMAID’s normal practice is to destroy mines at the end of each workday.

Demining continued in Bra Bairro near the Guinea-Telecom center and Interramento throughout February 2001, with another 333 antipersonnel mines, 18 antitank mines and 11 UXO cleared, and a total of 10,371 square meters of land. With a few exceptions, the mines through the area were planted in a single zig-zag line and were M 411s of Portuguese manufacture.[19]

In sum, from January 2000 through February 2001, HUMAID cleared some 44,392 square meters of land, removing 1,284 antipersonnel mines, 45 antitank mines, and 264 UXO.

Mine Awareness

UNICEF established a Mine Awareness Committee (COAM) that has met biweekly since April 1999, to plan and coordinate all mine awareness activities and to provide a forum for decision-making. There are three main focus areas: information, training and logistics. Several organizations and NGOs attend these meetings. The awareness program is funded by the government of Canada and includes the production of marking ropes, marking triangles, T-shirts, labels, billboards, comic books and mine awareness posters. Free radio time is available.[20]

On 10 May 2000, HUMAID launched a series of radio announcements inviting people to report possible areas with mines or other UXOs. The announcement was broadcast twice a day for five days. The turnout was impressive, providing HUMAID with enough reports of UXO to keep its team fully occupied through May 2000. HUMAID sappers briefed local residents and community leaders about the location of minefields emphasizing the dangers posed by mines and UXO.

The UN states, “An active and efficient mine awareness education programme has been established, with local NGOs operating under the coordination of CAAMI.[21]

Landmine Casualties/Survivor Assistance/Disability Policy and Practice

There continue to be mine casualties. HUMAID reported that there have been five mine incidents since June 2000.[22]

The system of health care and rehabilitation of landmine victims was seriously affected by the 1998/1999 conflicts. Most landmine victims are treated at either the Simoes Mendes Hospital or the Military Hospital at the airport. Once discharged the survivors become the responsibility of their families. There are two prosthetics facilities in Bissau; one is governmental and the other is run by Andes, with the support of Handicap International.

There is no law or decree available to assist disabled people in Guinea-Bissau.

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[1] The types of mines reportedly found in the Bissau area are TM 46, C-3-A, P-4-B and PMN. Some POMZ mines were once confiscated toward the eastern border, but have not been used in Bissau. Also Belgian-made PRB 409 and Portuguese-made M 411 have been found. Most of the mines have only “A/P Mine” stamped on the bottom side; a few have yellow lettering such as the following: “MINA A/P DE SOPRO M/969 - LOTE 1 - 2 / 72.” Landmine Monitor was shown footage filmed in November 2000 of antipersonnel stockpiles in Bissau that included crates with labels in Portuguese indicating that they were shipped via Casablanca, Morocco.
[2] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p.167; Le Soleil, 9 February 1998.
[3] Interview with Cesar Luis Gomes Lopes, Bamako Seminar, Bamako, Mali, 15-16 February 2001.
[4] See, Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp.154-5, and Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 168-169. Landmine Monitor reported use of mines by all fighting forces in that conflict, including by Guinea-Bisseau and Senegal, although all deny use. As recently as during the February 2001 conference in Bamako, the Bissau and Senegalese delegations disputed in public who was responsible for mine contamination in Guinea-Bissau, each blaming the other. Additionally, in an interview at the Bamako conference, Guinea-Bissau representative Cesar Luis Gomes Lopes said the main problem was that Senegal was not handing over maps of minefields in Bissau city that they had helped lay.
[5] UNDP, Mine Action Update, 1 March 2001.
[6] Major Herve Petetin, UNMAS “Mine Situation in Guinea-Bissau,” December 1998, p. 1.
[7] “UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects: Guinea-Bissau,” April 2001, p. 136.
[8] Major Herve Petetin, UNMAS “Mine Situation in Guinea-Bissau,” December 1998, p. 1.
[9] UNDP, Mine Action Update, 1 March 2001.
[10] HUMAID Demining and UXO Removal Activity Report, 1 January – 31 December 2000.
[11] “UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects: Guinea-Bissau,” April 2001, p. 135.
[12] HUMAID Demining and UXO Removal Activity Report, 1 January – 31 December 2000.
[13] US Department of State, “Demining Program Financing History,” dated 24 October 2000; US Department of State, “To walk the earth in safety-The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining,” Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs, 2nd Edition, July 2000.
[14] “UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects: Guinea-Bissau,” April 2001, p. 135.
[15] Ibid, p. 137.
[16] HUMAID Demining and UXO Removal Activity Report, 1 January – 31 December 2000.
[17] This area has a high concentration of mines. During the first eight days of work in January 2001, HUMAID’s deminers removed 94 AP mines.
[18] Until November 2000 the government had not given approval for HUMAID to destroy the mines it had removed. Accordingly, the mines had been stored in a sandbag bunker. Thirty-eight of the 298 were destroyed by a fire HUMAID used to clear heavy foliage from the Guinea-Telecom antenna site.
[19] HUMAID Demining and UXO Removal Activity Report, 1 January – 31 December 2000.
[20] Guinea-Bissau Technical Mission Report, 5 July 1999.
[21] “UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects: Guinea-Bissau,” April 2001, p. 137.
[22] Figure provided by Hospital staff.