Somalia bans antipersonnel landmines, despite ongoing conflict

All sub-Saharan African nations now on board the Mine Ban Treaty

(Geneva, 22 May 2012): Somalia has become the 160th State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, the United Nations confirmed today.

This morning the news was announced to delegates from more than 95 countries, assembled in Geneva for a global conference to discuss progress on the landmine ban.

By joining the Mine Ban Treaty, Somalia has recognised the humanitarian impact of landmines far outweighs their military use. It has taken this step despite the fact that conflict still plagues much of the country. It should serve as an example to other conflict-affected states who say they cannot join the treaty for security reasons,” said Kasia Derlicka, Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

Somalia’s accession to the 15-year-old treaty means all countries in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s most heavily mined regions and home to thousands of landmine survivors, have now banned antipersonnel mines.

Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), the legacy of the ongoing conflict in Somalia, devastate hundreds of Somali lives every year.

ICBL national campaigner Dahir Abdirahman, from the Somalia Coalition to Ban Landmines (SOCBAL) said: “We hope that our government will now take steps to establish a national programme to recognise the rights of survivors to lead fulfilling lives, and that being part of this treaty will pave the way for my people to cultivate the land without fearing landmines.”

The ICBL’s Landmine Monitor recorded at least 159 casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war in Somalia (excluding Somaliland) in 2010, including 19 children killed and 86 children injured. The true casualty figure is likely to be much higher, however. The number of survivors in Somalia is not known, but there were at least 1,619 people with injuries caused by landmines or ERW recorded by the end of 2010.

Somalia has never been known to produce antipersonnel landmines but the weapon has been widely available in the country during the years of conflict, and a survey conducted in 2008 before escalation of the conflict showed that nearly 200 communities in 300 different areas are living under the deadly shadow of landmines.

There is no information yet about whether government forces have a stockpile of antipersonnel landmines, but most factions involved in armed conflict in Somalia are believed to possess mines.

The Mine Ban Treaty requires States Parties to ban all use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines, to destroy all stockpiles within four years, to clear all contaminated land within 10 years, and to provide assistance to victims of the weapon.

Somalia will become legally obliged to comply with these terms once it becomes a full State Party on 1 October 2012, after the waiting period mandated by the treaty.