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Landmines in Africa

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Landmines in Africa is a massive economic and cultural problem for all of Africa. After WWII, Italy attacked Egypt, and invaded Africa, and had help from German forces, and when Britain helped defend Egypt, after it was all over, Egypt was left as the country with the most landmines. With and estimated 19.7 Million landmines (A. I. Mahmud, p.233). But it’s not just Egypt, all of Africa has been affected. Including, but not limited to; Egypt, Somalia, Libya, Angola, and Mozambique. There have been great efforts removing these landmines, using metal detectors, dogs, mechanical clearance, and even rats. APOPO is a non-profit organization that clears landmines using rats that sniff TNT, they are highly trained and highly effective. But through all their efforts, 4,200+ people a year, 42% of which are children, have fallen victim to landmines (Aziz). Farmers and their families getting injured or killed by landmines can cause a big ripple through their community, culture, and economic stability. Those farm lands are a huge source of income for those tiny communities and one loss could be very dangerous. June 10, 1940, during WWII, Italy declared war on Britain and France, which includes Italian colonies and colonists located in Africa.  Italians attacked Egypt, and the British, allied to the Egyptians by the 1936 treaty, counterattacked and occupied Cyrenaica. The Italians asked for help from their German allies; as a result, the Germans entered the North African theatre of war. The war continued with no decisive victory until the German-Italian forces were defeated in late 1942. German-Italian forces withdrew from Egypt and Libya to Tunisia. The British, with the help of their American allies, defeated their opponents on 12 May 1943, ending the North African campaign.

One of the United Nations missions estimated there are 19.7 million mines in the western desert of Egypt. In 19197, an interview with Major-General Ibrahim Abdul-Fattah, chief of military engineers in the Egyptian armed forces. He stated that 8,301 Egyptian persons (civilian and military) were affected by landmines by 1997. Of them, 7,611 were wounded and 690 were killed (A. I. Mahmud, p.250). Many NGOs are coming to Africa and helping the demining efforts; APOPO, Our Africa, HALO trust, and even a Princess. APOPOs main detection service includes TNT sniffing rats that are highly trained over the course of nine months. They work in over 4 countries at the moment, with 4 other countries marked as closed. Our Africa is a community started non-profit started in and for clearing landmines Angola. Our Africa is an evolving collection of videos of life in Africa, as seen through the eyes of young people across the African continent. ‘Our Africa’ let’s children film their lives and countries – the way they see it. They have informative and heartwarming videos on most countries in Africa. HALO trust is a demining NGO, their mission is to lead the effort to protect lives and restore livelihoods for those affected by war. They use manual demining methods because it is highly effective and provides jobs for the local community, but use mechanical clearance if terrain and debris is too dangerous. No formal qualifications or experience is needed, and all recruits go through a three-week training course before going into their first minefield. Princess Diana has done annual visits to Angola for over 20 years, and during those visits, she walks through recently cleared minefields, she met with landmine victims at the Red Cross’s prosthetic clinic.


At this time, negotiations on the Mine Ban Treaty were ongoing and Diana’s visit to the minefield and her subsequent advocacy helped galvanize public opinion against anti-personnel landmines. She highly focused on the victim assistance situation in Angola. Since her death in 1997, other members of royalty has stepped forward to help the cause as well.  Jordan’s Prince Mired bin Raad,  Princess Astrid of Belgium, and Diana’s younger son, Prince Harry have all helped bring attention to the matter and to keep the Peace Treaty. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or more commonly, the Mine Ban Treaty. This treaty aims to eliminate anti-personnel landmines around the world. Most recently, 163 state parties have signed the treaty, 33 UN states, the United States, Russia, China, and India have not signed the treaty (ICBL). 47 out of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have joined the Mine Ban Treaty (ICBL). Progress to remove the millions of landmines in Angola has been slow. Mine removal is a lengthy and expensive procedure. It can take experts an entire day to clear 20-50 square metres of land (when mines can be spread at a rate of 1,000 per minute). Land mines pose a huge danger to the population, particularly to the young. Angola already has 70,000 amputees, 8,000 of whom are children (Our Africa). Naturally curious, children are much more likely to pick up devices if they find them. And when the mines explode, their small bodies are more easily injured. Those children who do survive a mine explosion are often left permanently disabled. Mozambique has removed its last known landmine after two decades of work to get rid of the explosives. Close to 171,000 landmines were removed, according to the Halo Trust, a British charity that led the clearance. The landmines were left after a long fight for independence followed by a civil war. Many were planted up until the 1990s. The charity says it is the first large mine-contaminated country to be completely cleared of mines. The last mine was removed from the base of a railway bridge in the centre of the country. The work of CNIDAH is supported by HALO, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which have collectively helped clear 56% of known landmine contaminated land since the end of the civil war in Angola (HALO). However, funding cuts threaten the continuation of this work. The ongoing downward movement in world prices for Angola’s export commodities has hit its national mine action agencies’ clearance efforts, while international funding for mine clearance in Angola has fallen by more than 80% between 2008 and 2015 (Richard). In April 2017, on International Mine Awareness Day, UK Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel announced £100 million in UK funding to support mine action globally over the next three years, including an extension of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) Global Mine Action Programme (GMAP). The UK had, however, ended direct aid to Angola in 2011, stopping its £2m mine action program.

Mine clearing is broken up into 3 stages: Detection, removal, and disposal. Current detection methods range from high-tech electronic (ground penetrating radar, infrared, magnetic resonance imaging) to biological detection schemes (dog sniffers and insects or bacteria) to simple brute force detonation methods (flails, rollers and plows) and the use of hand-held mechanical prodders. Most of these methods are very slow and/or expensive and have an alarming rate of false alarms (UIA).  Since 1989, mine clearance responsibility has moved in large measure to the United Nations. A typical UN demining program includes: mine-awareness; mine-clearance training; minefield survey, planning and management; mine clearance. The last three phases are carried out by professional and experienced staff, often private firms under contract with the UN. The UN is leading an international effort to clear land mines from former battlefields in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, the former Yugoslavia, Liberia, Rwanda and Somalia that still kill and maim thousands of innocent people every year (UIA). Landmines in Africa is a massive economic and cultural problem for all of Africa. In Egypt alone, there is nearly 20 million mines, and millions more in other countries.


This many landmine in an area already having troubles financially, and socially, the landmines are destroying the backbones of these countries. Many of the landmines are hidden away in farmer lands, chance of an accident happening is extremely high. No one else can take care of the farms as well as the farmers, maybe their children, but that’s not as likely. These mines need to be removed, else these countries will suffer avoidable damage they can’t afford. More than 4,200 people, of whom 42% are children, have been falling victim to landmines and ERWs annually in many of the countries affected by war or in post-conflict situations around the world (Aziz). Many NGOs are coming to Africa and helping the demining efforts; APOPO, Our Africa, HALO trust, and even a Princess. APOPO specializes in TNT detecting rats, Our Africa lets us see Africa through the eyes of the children who live there. HALO Trust creates thousands of jobs for the local communities and helps clear their mines. And Princess Diana has created a massive amount of traction and attention for the demining cause. Through tough, smart, and hard work, demining all of Africa’s mines will be a long process. But every mine cleared, a potential life saved, families not mourning, and village working harder to accommodate the loss. Complete demining in Africa is one very important step in raising the quality of life for the people who live there, and will ultimately benefit all of humanity.

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