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Country Reports
Somalia, Landmine Monitor Report 2004


Key developments since May 2003: There has been ongoing use of antipersonnel landmines in various parts of Somalia by a number of factions. In November 2003, a UN Security Council expert panel report found that landmines had been delivered to Somalia from Ethiopia and Yemen, in violation of the UN arms embargo. The Survey Action Center began a comprehensive Landmine Impact Survey in Puntland in August 2004, which is being implemented by the Puntland Mine Action Center. With the assistance of the UNDP, the Puntland Mine Action Center was established in August 2004 in Garowe. UNDP has also been training police Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams in Puntland and Middle Shabelle.

Key developments since 1999: Continuous conflict, including use of landmines by different factions, has prevented any meaningful mine action throughout most of the period, outside of Somaliland. The United Nations Mine Action Program, which had in 2000 and 2001 taken exploratory steps to set up mine action offices in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Garowe, was forced to abandon its efforts in 2002 due to insecurity in all of those areas. The Puntland Mine Action Center was established in August 2004 and a Landmine Impact Survey began the same month. In November 2002, 16 Somali factions (including Puntland and two representatives of the TNG) signed the Geneva Call “Deed of Commitment” to ban landmines and cooperate on mine action. Since 1999, ICRC-assisted hospitals treated more than 519 mine/UXO casualties. Since 2001, there have been at least 539 new mine/UXO casualties in Somalia.

Mine Ban Policy

Since the fall of the government of Siyad Barre in 1991, Somalia has remained without a central government. Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG), formed in 2000, controls only parts of Mogadishu and slivers of territory elsewhere. It has not been recognized by the world community, and therefore cannot accede to the Mine Ban Treaty. In July 2000, shortly after its formation, the TNG parliament passed a resolution that included putting mine clearance on top of the agenda of the interim government.

Following a workshop organized by Geneva Call in Eldorect, Kenya, 16 Somali factions (including representatives of the TNG, Puntland, Jowhar Administration and Rahanweyn Resistance Army) signed on 11 November 2002 the “Deed of Commitment” to ban landmines and cooperate on mine action. Some major factions ¾ including those headed by Qanyare Afrax, Muse Suudi Yalaxow, Barre Hiraale and Said Morgan ¾ did not sign, and some of the leaders who did sign do not control any territory or armed militia.[1] Geneva Call conducted a field assessment mission in September 2004 to follow up on the commitments.

Northeastern Somalia established the state of Puntland as an autonomous region in 1998, and in 2000, the president issued a decree banning the use of antipersonnel landmines. Northwestern Somalia proclaimed an independent Somaliland in 1991, and in March 1999, its House of Representatives passed a resolution in favor of a total ban of landmines; see separate Landmine Monitor report on Somaliland for further information. In 1998, the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), which operates in the lower Juba River region, released a statement to the ICBL affirming that the SPM would unilaterally observe the Mine Ban Treaty.

Production, Transfer, and Stockpiling

Somalia is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel landmines. However, large stocks are believed to be in the hands of, and used by, competing factions and private individuals. Both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines are plentiful in Somalia, and can be bought from weapons markets in Mogadishu and other towns, particularly the largest weapons market in Mogadishu, Barkat.[2]

In November 2003, the United Nations released an expert panel report on violations of the UN Arms Embargo in Somalia under Resolution 1474. This report indicated that the arms embargo had been systematically violated. Among other things, the panel found that “explosives are readily available for purchase throughout the country. For the most part, these are obtained by dismantling land mines, large quantities of which have been delivered to Somalia in recent years – principally from Ethiopia and Yemen.... The panel has learned, however, of recent attempts by extremist groups to procure explosives on the Mogadishu arms market, as well as on-going militia training in the use of explosives. The availability of explosives in Somalia is the direct result of large-scale violations of the arms embargo in recent years with respect to landmines.”[3] Landmine Monitor has asked the governments of Yemen (a Mine Ban Treaty State Party) and Ethiopia (a Mine Ban Treaty signatory) for a response to this UN report.

The TNG alleged in July 2003 that landmines were part of shipments of weapons arriving from Ethiopia and destined for opposition factions. The TNG made similar charges in 2002. These charges have been denied by Ethiopia.[4]


Landmines were first used in Somalia during the 1977-78 war between the regimes of Mohamed Siyad Barre in Somalia and Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia. Mines were employed between 1981 and 1991, as Somali opposition militia fought to overthrow the Siyad Barre dictatorship. After the fall of Siyad Barre, landmine use continued by all factions vying for power in Somalia, although many of the charges of ongoing use have been unclear and lack detail.[5]

The Somali Center for Research and Documentation (SOCRED) collects information on reported mine use and its consequences. According to SOCRED:[6]

  • Throughout 2003, there were continuous reports of landmines laid in many parts of the Bay, Bakool and middle Shabelle regions by warring militias. There were also frequent complaints about road closures. Owners of public transport expressed anxiety about this.
  • There have been many casualties resulting from the mines laid on the main Mogadishu-Kismayo route around the Bravo and Jilib area. Militias based in the Haramka area of Jilib district, who are opposed to Jubba Valley Alliances (JVA), reportedly planted mines on the main Mogadishu-Kismayo road. In one incident in October 2003, a minibus hit a landmine on the road killing at least one person and injuring many other civilian passengers.
  • In Galgadud region, fighting between two clans at Herale village near Abudwaq district led to the militias reportedly laying mines on feeder roads. In October 2003, seven persons traveling by car hit a landmine, resulting in six deaths and one injury.

In December 2003, Puntland forces seized the town of Las Anod in the Sool region, which is claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland.[7] As of mid-2004, armed forces continued to face-off around Las Anod. Members of international agencies have expressed concern to Landmine Monitor about possible use of landmines by both sides.[8] Both Somaliland and Puntland authorities deny that their forces have deployed any antipersonnel mines.[9]

Mines are sometimes used for non-combat purposes. For example, farmers in southern Somalia have allegedly laid mines to protect their crops from livestock. In 2001, Landmine Monitor reported that camel herders were using landmines to stop the widespread cutting of trees, a source of food for nomadic people, by charcoal smugglers.[10]

Mine Problem and Mine Action

Central and southern Somalia are heavily contaminated with landmines and UXO. Galguduud, Bakool, Bay, Hiran and Lower Jubba are the most affected regions. According to the UN, “A major problem is that the location and extent of mined areas is largely unknown and therefore the magnitude of the problem to be contained has not been determined.” [11]

Conflict in much of Somalia has largely prevented mine action efforts, including planned survey, clearance and mine risk education activities.[12] Little mine action of any type has occurred outside of Somaliland (see separate Landmine Monitor report). The United Nations Mine Action Program, which had in 2000 and 2001 taken exploratory steps to set up mine action offices in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Garowe, was forced to abandon its efforts in 2002 due to insecurity in all those areas.

There have been no systematic surveys undertaken in Somalia, outside of Somaliland. In January 2001, the UK-based MAG conducted a one-week operational assessment in Puntland. The Survey Action Center was slated to begin a comprehensive Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) in Puntland in 2003, with funding from the European Union. Delayed for security reasons, this survey finally began in August 2004. The Puntland Mine Action Center will implement the LIS.[13]

In 2003, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reinitiated some programs, including assisting local authorities in establishing a coordination body. In February 2004, the Puntland Mine Action Center was established in Garowe.[14] UNDP has also been training police Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams in Garowe (Puntland) and Jowhar (Middle Shabelle).[15] Training started in March 2004 for three teams (18 police) in Garowe and one team (four police) in Johwar.[16]

UNDP estimates that the mine and unexploded ordnance problem in Somalia can be solved within seven to ten years, provided adequate resources are identified.[17]

Landmine Casualties

In 2003, at least 75 new landmine casualties were reported, of which 40 people were killed and another 35 injured, including at least five children.[18] This represents a significant increase from the 53 landmine casualties reported in Bay, Gedo and Middle Shabelle region in 2002.[19] However, landmine casualties are not systematically recorded in Somalia and the number of casualties is likely understated. Hospitals in most regions keep fragmentary data on casualities, and the data is not pooled. The Somali Center for Research and Documentation in Mogadishu collects casualty data in their field research. SOCRED also recorded 16 UXO casualties in 2003, including one person killed and 15 injured; twelve were children.[20] Casualties continue in 2004, with five people killed and one injured in two landmine incidents in January 2004.[21]

The total number of mine casualties in Somalia is not known. Between 1995 and 2000, 4,357 landmine casualties were recorded in Bay and Bakool regions, including 2,626 people killed and 1,731 injured.[22] In 2001, ICRC-supported hospitals treated 405 mine/UXO casualties. Other sources reported at least 253 mine/UXO casualties, including at least 83 people killed in 2001.[23]

Survivor Assistance

According to the Peace and Human Rights Network, there are no special programs for landmine survivors in Somalia.[24] The health infrastructure in the country is very poor with hospitals lacking equipment, medicines and adequately trained health personnel. In some major cities, such as Mogadishu and Bosaso, there are private clinics and hospitals, but the majority of people cannot afford the costs. In the remote areas, which are the most mine-affected, the situation is even more acute. The security situation makes it difficult for humanitarian organizations to deliver health services for mine casualties and the general population.

The ICRC provides medicines, technical advice, training and financial support to four major surgical facilities in Somalia, including Keysaney Hospital, run by the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), and Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, Baidoa Hospital in Bay and Mudug Regional Hospital in Galkayo. Since 1999 ICRC-assisted hospitals treated more than 519 mine/UXO casualties: 21 in 2003, 28 in 2002, 405 in 2001, and 65 in 2000. The ICRC also assists 25 SRCS health posts in southern and central Somalia.[25]

The Norwegian Red Cross continues to support three rehabilitation centers, run by the SRCS, in Mogadishu, Galkaiyo and Hargeisa. The centers provide physiotherapy treatments, prostheses, orthoses, crutches, a repair service, and also training for physiotherapists. Since 2001, the three centers produced 2,027 prostheses (449 for mine survivors), including 521 (138 for mine survivors) in 2003. In addition, 2,982 people (112 mine survivors) received physiotherapy treatments, 338 prostheses were repaired, and 1,165 crutches were distributed in 2003. The program is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NORAD.[26]

The UNDP proposal to support the Somalia Mine Action Program in 2003 had a component of survivor assistance which included establishing a victim assistance policy; formulating plans, and coordinating the implementation of activities, in cooperation with UNICEF, NGOs, and regional authorities; strengthening local capacities for victim assistance; and training local professionals, and coordinating existing resources and acquisition of additional resources.[27] However, security concerns have limited any progress.

In February 2002, a Minister of Disabled and Rehabilitation was named in the new cabinet of the Transitional National Government of Somalia.[28]

(See Landmine Monitor entry for Somaliland.)

[1] These four faction leaders control substantial militias and are major players in Somalia’s current civil war. Signatories who do not control any land or militia include Abdulaziz Sheikh Yusuf (Southern Somali National Movement/Somali National Alliance), Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail (SSNM/BIREM), Mowlid Ma'ane Mohamud (Somali African National Movement/Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council) and Hilowle Imam Omar (Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council Co-Chairman).
[2] Landmine Monitor has photos of antivehicle mines taken at the Barkat Market, and researchers in Mogadishu have regularly observed landmines in this market.
[3] “Report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1474 (2003),” delivered to the President of the Security Council on 4 November 2003 (Ref. S/2003/1035), paras. 136-137, pp. 31-32.
[4] Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 549-550; Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 517.
[5] Previous Landmine Monitor Reports have chronicled allegations of such use. See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 205-206; Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 211; Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 258; Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 743-744; and, Landmine Monitor Report 2003, pp. 683-684.
[6] SOCRED, “Landmines in Somalia,” Mogadishu, April 2004.
[7] “Puntland Takes Full Control of Sool,” IRIN (Nairobi), 30 December 2003.
[8] Landmine Monitor has heard allegations of mine use from members of international agencies who have contacts in the conflict area, but who have not personally traveled to the region in recent months.
[9] Email from Edna Adan Ismail, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland, 22 June 2004; email from Saleeban Haji, Puntland Mine Action Center, 23 June 2004.
[10] Osman Hassan, “Somali Herders Laying Land Mines,” Associated Press (Mogadishu), 18 July 2001.
[11] “UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects,” April 2001, p. 210.
[12] Prior to UNOSOM’s departure, 11 local commercial contractors and 200 deminers are reported to have cleared 127 square kilometers of land and 438 km of road, removing 32,511 landmines and 72,741 UXO; see, U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p. 46.
[13] Email from Mike Kendellen, Director for Survey, Survey Action Center, 29 September 2004; Email from John Dingley, UN Chief Technical Advisor, Mine Action, UNDP Somalia, 8 July 2004.
[14] Email from Mike Kendellen, Survey Action Center, 29 September 2004.
[15] Email from John Dingley, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP Somalia, 21 February 2004.
[16] The training was scheduled to be completed in August 2004. Email from John Dingley, UNDP, 8 July 2004.
[17] UNDP Update, Intersessional Standing Committee Meetings, Geneva, 9-13 February 2004.
[18] SOCRED, “Landmines in Somalia,” Mogadishu, April 2004; “Thirteen killed after land mine explosion in south-central Somalia,” HornAfrik Online, 11 April 2003.
[19] Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 684.
[20] SOCRED, “Landmines in Somalia,” April 2004; “Thirteen killed,” HornAfrik Online, 11 April 2003.
[21] SOCRED, “Landmines in Somalia,” April 2004.
[22] UNDP/UNOPS, “Somalia Mine Action Progress Report, January–June 2001,” p. 6; Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 261-262.
[23] For details see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 745.
[24] The Peace and Human Rights Network is a coalition of 32 organizations throughout Somalia. Landmine Monitor held a meeting with members of the network in Hargeisa in February 2002.
[25] ICRC Special Reports, “Mine Action 2003,” Geneva, August 2004, p. 25; “Mine Action 2002,” July 2003, p. 25; “Mine Action 2001,” July 2002, p. 20.
[26] Response to LM Questionnaire by Anne Kirsti Vartdal, Resident Representative–Nairobi, Norwegian Red Cross, 25 August 2004; Response to LM Questionnaire by Ole Trapness, Coordinator External Resources, Norwegian Red Cross, 9 April 2003 and 6 May 2002; Mogadishu SRCS Rehabilitation Center records for 2003.
[27] UNDP, “Support for Somalia Mine Action Program 2003.”
[28] HI, “Landmine Victim Assistance: World Report 2002,” Lyon, December 2002, p. 133.