11 May 2014
Mozambique demining team. Photo©HI
Over one hundred states will gather in the Mozambican capital Maputo in late June 2014, to assess progress made in addressing the problem of antipersonnel mines worldwide, and to draw a roadmap to finish the job.
The ICBL calls on the international community to take up the Completion Challenge – to ensure that the work of ridding the world of landmines is completed as soon as possible, and no later than 10 years after the Maputo Conference.
In the lead up to this milestone Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL is shining the spotlight on key countries impacted by the scourge of antipersonnel landmines. This month the focus is on Mozambique, which will take up the treaty presidency 15 years after the first Meeting of States Parties was held in the country.
Commit to Complete!
The ICBL welcomes Mozambique’s commitment to complete its mine clearance obligations by the end of 2014, which provided inspiration for the ICBL’s Completion Challenge. It additionally challenges the country to:
- Ensure that its National Disability Plan fully integrates the needs of mine/ERW survivors by 2015
- Clearly identify to donors where international resources—both financial and technical—are needed to guarantee complete implementation of the National Disability Plan by 2019
- Sustain the provision of physical rehabilitation services throughout the country with increased national and international resources
Origin and impact of the landmine issue
Antipersonnel landmines were extensively used in all ten provinces of Mozambique over a thirty-year period starting with the independence struggle in the 1960s, and followed by a devastating internal conflict that ended in 1992 after killing an estimated one million people and displacing another million. In addition to being used to restrict access to towns and vital resources like wells, large quantities of landmines were planted around infrastructure including dams and electricity pylons throughout the country.
Mozambique also shares with Zimbabwe one of the world’s densest border minefields, laid by Rhodesian troops in the 1970s.
Mozambique and the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty
Having suffered directly from the terrible impact of antipersonnel mines, Mozambique was among the states that signed the Mine Ban Treaty when it opened for signature on 3 December 1997. It quickly ratified the treaty and became a State Party on 1 March 1999, when the treaty officially entered into force. As a sign of its commitment to the treaty, Mozambique hosted the first Meeting of States Parties in May 1999. In the Maputo Declaration, States Parties underscored the relevance of the location of the meeting, noting the humanitarian focus of the treaty:
“Meeting here in one of the most mine-affected continents on earth and in a country which has experienced the ravages wreaked by these weapons on the Mozambican people and the social fabric of the nation, we focus our minds and strengthen our conviction on the need to make the killing fields of anti-personnel mines that have terrorized, maimed and killed people, destroyed lives and hope for too long, a relic of the past.”
What Mozambique has done so far
Stopping mine use
Neither the Mozambican armed forces nor anyone else in the country is known to have laid antipersonnel mines after the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty. This thorough respect for the Mine Ban Treaty’s core interdiction by virtually all States Parties is deemed as a major success in the field of International Humanitarian Law. Mozambique, as one of many States Parties that experienced widespread use of AP mines in the past, has contributed to this success by making sure no actor has used mines since joining the treaty.
Destroying stockpiles of landmines
Mozambique never produced or exported antipersonnel mines – the parties to the internal conflict rather imported them from a variety of countries. Mozambique finished destroying its entire stockpile of antipersonnel mines in 2003. It kept a small number of mines for training in detection techniques, as authorized by the Mine Ban Treaty.
Clearing mined areas
Mozambique has made considerable progress in clearing mined areas and has successfully used survey techniques to reduce its estimate of contamination over the years. Much of the remaining mined areas lie along the border with Zimbabwe, where access from the Mozambican side is very difficult in some areas. A long-pending Memorandum of Understanding with Zimbabwe would enable access from Zimbabwe, but it has yet to be signed.
While initial estimates of landmine contamination in the early 2000s amounted to many hundred km2, further survey during the next decade showed that the total contamination was approximately 34 km2. In March 2014, when Mozambique last made a public report, there was still around 5.4km2 that required clearance of antipersonnel mines, and the national authorities committed to finishing the job by the end of 2014. Mozambique is also contaminated with explosive remnants of war and is currently verifying its cluster munition contamination, which is believed to be very limited.
“In 1999, President Chissano estimated that clearance of Mozambique’s landmines could take 160 years to complete. While the true number of landmines in Mozambique was much lower than the original estimates (…) Mozambique will be an epic success story for the Mine Ban Treaty.”
Michael P. Moore, landminesinafrica.wordpress.com
A remarkable feature of the mine clearance programme is the close partnership between Mozambique and one of its donors. Through a special multi-year agreement, Norway committed to closely accompany Mozambique’s efforts towards completing clearance by 2014. While Norway would mostly contribute to demining activities in accordance with priorities set by Mozambique itself, it was also agreed that Norway would support the Mozambican authorities in their search for additional funds from other donors, and would help find expertise to make demining processes even more efficient. The two countries would develop common positions on issues related to the Mine Ban Treaty, and most importantly, their respective mine action experts would meet regularly for an in-depth assessment of progress and needs. This emphasis on partner responsibilities was highlighted as a good innovative practice by States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.
Other major donors in recent years included Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Technical advice is provided by the UN Development Program.
The Mozambican mine clearance programme is also known for its use of mine detection rats operated by the humanitarian organization, Apopo. Other non-governmental organizations, including The HALO Trust as well as ICBL members Handicap International and Norwegian People’s Aid, chose to rely on the more traditional methods of manual
and mechanical clearance. Each operator is free to select the clearance method deemed most suitable for the area where it works.
In the interest of time and cost-efficiency, a district-by-district approach was adopted – demining teams or survey teams would only move out of a district after visiting every village and ruling out any remaining suspicion of contamination. One by one, districts and provinces were declared “mine-free.” This has allowed populations to use the land with full confidence that it is safe.
Assisting survivors, their families, and affected communities
- Estimated landmine casualties: 2,447 casualties confirmed; estimates of 10,000+
- All recorded landmine survivors: at least 1,052; estimated 10,901
In 1999, when Mozambique began to implement the Mine Ban Treaty, the country faced serious challenges to ensure access to and availability of medical care, physical rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration opportunities to the many mine/ERW survivors in need of these services. Thirty years of armed conflict had damaged or destroyed some 40% of Mozambique’s medical facilities and most other important infrastructure throughout the country.
Most survivors lived (and still do) far from the few services that were available and lacked affordable transportation to reach these services in provincial capitals. The rebuilding of these facilities has been slow, but important progress has been made.
Survivors have seen some improvements in the availability of medical care in rural areas, and six rehabilitation centers have been renovated.
By 2009, the government of Mozambique assumed responsibility for the management of all medical and rehabilitation centers in the country, many of which had previously been managed by international organizations such as POWER, Handicap International (HI) and the Mozambique Red Cross. The Ministry of Health launched a national training course for prosthetists and orthotists in 2009, the first of its kind in the country, with the aim of improving both the quality and availability of services.
While the government has reported on efforts to provide social protection for the most vulnerable mine/ERW survivors, fewer to almost no government efforts have been made to provide survivors with economic inclusion opportunities, though some international and national NGOs have attempted to fill these gaps. The national network of mine victims, RAVIM, has worked to address these needs for over a decade but struggles with extremely limited funding and government support.
What Mozambique should do now
Finish clearing all mined areas
Operators and authorities are on the right track to complete clearance by the treaty-mandatory deadline of 31 December 2014. There have been concerns, however, that the low-intensity insurgency re-ignited by rebel movement RENAMO in Sofala province may hamper completion if no peace agreement is reached soon. Finalizing the Memorandum of Understanding with Zimbabwe on border mine clearance would also help reaching some border minefields more easily accessed from Zimbabwe.
Recommit to meeting the needs of mine/ERW survivors and fulfilling their rights
The government of Mozambique has recognized that much more must be done to address the needs of survivors and promote their rights. In an effort to make this happen, the national mine action center, (IND), has worked with the National Disability Council to include a component on assistance to mine/ERW survivors within the National Disability Plan 2012–2019. Efforts are currently underway to operationalize this component and the plan more generally. However, the plan lacks dedicated funding- a serious obstacle to its full implementation.
In the area of physical rehabilitation, while the government manages all rehabilitation centers, it remains dependent on international financial assistance for prosthetic materials. A decline in this assistance in 2012 suspended production of prosthesis in all centers into 2013. This left Mozambican survivors with no national option to get their first prosthetic limb, replace old limbs, or repair existing limbs. National and international resources must be budgeted for these materials to ensure the mobility of survivors – a critical first step to the realization of their rights and their full inclusion in society.
Gaps in the availability of economic inclusion opportunities and psychosocial support for mine survivors, as well as other persons with disabilities, are clearly identified in the National Disability Plan. Filling these gaps will also be critical if survivors are to support themselves and their families and achieve their rights. Sustainable peer-to-peer support through RAVIM would be a cost effective way to provide survivors with psychosocial support and referrals to existing services.
Mozambique mine victim©HI