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Country Reports
LIBERIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force for Liberia on 1 June 2000. An independent panel of experts is investigating UN allegations that weapons including antipersonnel mines have been imported by Liberia in violation of the UN embargo. Despite fighting in Lofa county in Liberia there are no reports of mine use.

Mine Ban Policy

Liberia acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on 23 December 1999 and it entered into force for Liberia on 1 June 2000. There is no implementation legislation in place or in preparation. Liberia has not submitted its reports on transparency measures to the United Nations as required under Article 7 of the treaty, missing the deadlines of 28 November 2000 and 30 April 2001.

Liberia attended the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000, but did not participate in the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000 and May 2001. It sent a delegation to the February 2001 Bamako Seminar on Universalization and Implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty in Africa held in Mali. Liberia was a co-sponsor of the November 2000 UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty, but was not eligible to participate in the voting process.

On 7 May 2001 UN sanctions were imposed on Liberia, prohibiting, among other things, all travel by government officials, including the head of state. This effectively means that attendance at Mine Ban Treaty-related meetings (such as the forthcoming Third Meeting of States Parties in Managua in September 2001) is not possible until the sanctions are lifted or a special waiver is arranged through the UN Security Council Liberia Sanctions Committee. The sanctions are in force for one year and will then be subject to review.

Officials working in the Ministry of Defense were unaware of the existence of the Landmine Monitor and had to be briefed on the meaning and significance of the exercise. They were, however, aware of Liberia’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Liberia is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and did not attend the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to CCW Amended Protocol II in Geneva in December 2000.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, and Use

Liberia is not a known producer of landmines. The transfer of landmines to Liberia is illegal as they fall under the current sanctions regime put in place against Liberia, as well as being illegal under the Mine Ban Treaty. According to the UN, illegal arms imports into Liberia continue. At the time of writing the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia was investigating allegations that an arms shipment, including antipersonnel mines had been organized through San Pedro port, Cote D’Ivoire, for Liberia.[1]

There is a history of close cooperation between the dominant faction in the Liberian government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, which is known to have used landmines. According to UN sources in Sierra Leone, the RUF received a few antipersonnel landmines through Liberia prior to Mine Ban Treaty entry-into-force.[2] A UN Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone reported in late 2000 that arms to the RUF had transited through Liberian territory.[3]

Government officials, local residents of mine-affected areas and landmine victims confirmed that all factions in Liberia’s 1989-1997 civil war, including the faction that is now the ruling political party, used antipersonnel mines during the conflict. Since few mines have been destroyed, the assumption must be that Liberia still holds mines in stock, but their number, types and location is unknown.

There have been no further reports of destruction of antipersonnel mines since a publicized arms destruction exercise in June 1999 during which eighty landmines were destroyed amongst 19,000 small and heavy caliber weapons and three million rounds of ammunition.[4]

The government was reluctant to supply information on military stockpiles in view of the escalating war situation in Lofa County in the north of Liberia.[5] Landmines have not been reported to have been used in this conflict to date.

Mine Action Funding

Liberia has not received international support for humanitarian mine action programs, nor has it contributed, in cash or in kind. Some private organizations and hospitals have contributed to small-scale field activities related to mine victim assistance, rehabilitation and mine awareness. These activities are very limited in scope and are not coordinated.

Landmine Problem/Survey

A small, informal local group in 2001 started landmine and UXO survey work in the Buchanan area.[6] Efforts to set up a similar group in Monrovia are underway but have not yet provided results. Ongoing research has identified the following areas as being mine or UXO affected:

  • Buchanan: Sikobili Town, LAMCO Loop 5, Doequoph Town, Wleh Town, Nekreen Township, Little Bassa, Doequah Town, Woezehn Town, Gbayar Town, Blagbe, Glah-U-Way Town, Floe Town, Zangar Town, Kpazohn Town roads;[7]
  • Elsewhere in Liberia: Lofa County, Monrovia (especially the Paynesville area and an area known as Mount Barclay), Capemount, Bong Mines, the road between Bomi Hills and Kakata and the Kakata - Monrovia highway;
  • Greater Monrovia has a UXO problem.

In most of these areas, survey and demarcation have not taken place. Research in Buchanan confirmed that agricultural land, roads and footpaths are affected.

The ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) made records of the areas it mined in the 1990s, but has not made these publicly available. Upon leaving Liberia, ECOMOG took all its records, including those on landmine laying and destruction, to its new operational headquarters in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Unsuccessful efforts were made to obtain these records.[8]

Mine Clearance and Mine Awareness

There is no mine clearance being carried out in Liberia, nor is there any training underway. ECOMOG is known to have cleared its own minefields and sporadically, it was called in to remove mines, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense.[9] Prior to ECOMOG’s departure there has been some demining in the Bong Mine area, in Voinjama, Lofa County and in the Buchanan area.

There are no known marking exercises to indicate mined areas and no mine awareness education programs in place.[10] Local people have found ways to indicate mines. People in mine-affected areas make no distinction between a landmine and any other type of UXO (they are all called “rockets”) and have not been instructed how to act when they encounter a mine.

Landmine Casualties

In August 2000 a Liberian newspaper reported six separate mine incidents resulting in nineteen casualties. Thirteen people were killed and six were injured by mines (all six lost one of their legs).[11] Seventeen of the casualties occurred in the Buchanan area and two in Monrovia. Nine were civilians. The nineteen victims were engaged in a variety of activities, including: en route (fourteen casualties, out of whom ten were killed in a single vehicle in the Buchanan area which struck an antivehicle mine); fleeing from battle; setting fish baskets; brushing the highway (i.e. removing grass); fetching dry wood.[12]

Landmine Monitor interviewed one landmine victim who had an accident in 1993.[13] Handicap International in Monrovia has records of two victims who have only now begun to be fitted with prostheses.

The Ministry of Health has no records referring specifically to landmine victims.[14] Sporadically, incidents of landmine accidents are reported in the local press. The first and so far only comprehensive study of disability was carried out immediately after the war and noted that 60.2 percent of the disabled had mobility problems; one-third (or 387 persons) of those due to an amputation.[15] However, the survey did not specify whether these amputations had happened because the victim had stepped on a landmine or had been shot in the leg or otherwise injured. [16] It did specify that 43.2 percent of all disabilities covered in the survey had been caused by war. A second, nationwide survey among former combatants has been planned by the National Commission of Ex-Combatants. The issue of landmines is to be included in this survey. Until now, lack of funds has prevented this particular study from being carried out.[17]

Survivor Assistance

Of the six people injured by mines as reported in August 2000, only three amputations were recorded; crutches were provided in one case and in two others prosthetic devices were issued.[18] There is no record of any wheelchairs having been provided to landmine victims. Psychiatric counseling is not available. The common fate for landmine victims is destitution.

There are two prosthetic workshops in the country; one is in Ganta, run by the Ministry of Health, and one is in Monrovia, run by Handicap International (Belgium). The main JFK hospital in Monrovia, the country’s biggest medical facility, was closed in February 2001 because of the absence of medicines. There is a church-run hospital (popularly referred to as the “Catholic Hospital”) and there are a number of private clinics that can provide for the physical and psychiatric needs of those who can pay for them.

Transport remains another major constraint. Monrovia has a few ambulances, but the rest of the country relies on public transportation, i.e. bush taxis, small buses and lorries. Rehabilitation and reintegration services are extremely limited.

The Handicap International (Belgium) facility has so far treated two known landmine victims. The Ministry of Health does not keep records of the activities in the Ganta Hospital. No disability laws exist in Liberia.

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[1] Information provided by UN Panel of Experts on Liberia, 1 July 2001.
[2] Interview with UNAMSIL Military Observer, Freetown, 16 May 2001.
[3] “Report of the panel of experts, appointed pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1306 (2000), paragraph 19 in relation to Sierra Leone,” December 2000, paragraph 183.
[4] Human Rights Watch interview, Monrovia, 22 September 1999.
[5] Interview with Quincy A.Q. Garnett, Special Assistant to the Minister of Defense, Monrovia, 21 April 2001.
[6] “Landmines, warlike materials fear in Buchanan,” The Inquirer, 30 August 2000.
[7] Information supplied by local sources, 23 April, 2001; also “Landmines, warlike materials fear in Buchanan,” The Inquirer, 30 August, 2000.
[8] Email correspondence with Linda Polman, Freetown-based freelance journalist, April-May 2001.
[9] “Landmines, warlike materials fear in Buchanan,” The Inquirer, 30 August 2000. This article mentions the removal in this fashion of three landmines in the Buchanan area.
[10] Confirmed by Deddeh Moore of Handicap International (Belgium) and the researcher’s Buchanan-based sources.
[11] “Landmines, warlike materials fear in Buchanan,” The Inquirer, 30 August 2000.
[12] Ibid.
[13] This is the story of Jamesetta Gedeh, twenty-two-years-old, living in Gunnegar Town. Buchanan stepped on a landmine in 1993 while running away from a battle between two warring factions. She was taken by missionaries to the Catholic Hospital in Monrovia - some 120 kilometers away by road - where she had her leg amputated. The same hospital provided her with crutches. Interview with Jamesetta Gedeh, Buchanan, 24 April 2001.
[14] Interview with Mr. Nmah Bropleh, responsible for planning in the Ministry of Health, Monrovia, 20 April 2001.
[15] National needs assessment survey of the injured and the disabled, conducted by the Centers for the Rehabilitation of the Injured and Disabled in 1997 and sponsored by UNDP and WHO.
[16] Nmah Bropleh, the official responsible for planning at the Ministry of Health indicated that he would welcome any systematic information regarding landmine victims, since his Ministry had not been able to begin compiling this kind of information. Interview, Monrovia, 20 April 2001.
[17] Interview with M. Johnson, vice-president of the National Commission of Ex-combatants, Monrovia, 25 April 2001.
[18] Alfred Sumo lost his right leg in a landmine incident on 25 August 1993; Solomon Forkpah lost his left leg in an incident in 1994. Both have been fitted with prostheses in 2001 and are still practicing how to walk again. Information supplied by Deddeh Moore, member of staff at Handicap International (Belgium), Monrovia, 25 April 2001; interview in Gunnegar Town, Buchanan, 24 April 2001.