Report from the Inter-Agency Mine Action Assessment Mission to Uganda, Jul 2004



1. There are three areas reporting mine/UXO contamination in Uganda. Firstly, the Luwero district north of Kampala, also referred to as the "Luwero Triangle," is reportedly affected by UXO as a result of fighting in the early Eighties between government forces and members of the National Resistance Army (NRA). Contamination also exists in the western Rwenzori Mountains as a result of infiltration in the late Nineties by the United Democratic Forces (UDF). Finally, for the past 18 years the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), headed by Joseph Kony, has waged an armed struggle against the Ugandan government in the northern districts, often from bases in southern Sudan, resulting in mine and UXO contamination that spiked in 1996/97 and in 2002.

2. While Uganda was an original signatory of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty and ratified it on 25 February 1999, it suffered allegations of continued use, production and collaboration with known users after the treaty entered into force on 1 August 1999. The Ugandan authorities have made significant progress since 2000 in conforming to the norms of the treaty. The sole mine producing factory at Nakasongola was decommissioned and inspected by resident foreign military advisors in July 2001. Uganda submitted its first report required under Article 7 of the treaty on 24 May 2002. In July 2003 in advance of its treaty obligation, Uganda destroyed over 4000 anti-personnel mines of its stockpile, with 2,400 or less retained for training purposes. Since funds became available through the Sponsorship Programme administered by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the authorities have participated in all intersessional meetings and meetings of States Parties. The government is not a state party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

3. No central coordination mechanism for mine action exists at the national level. Activities or interest fall under five government bodies; Office of the Prime Minister/Disaster Management, Ministry of Internal Affairs/focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Ministry of Health/Disability Office, Ministry of Defense/UPDF Engineering Section and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Disarmament Office. At the district level, under Uganda's decentralized governmental structure, no formal coordination related to the landmine problem exists and the roles of the elected District Local Councilor (LC5) and the Resident District Commissioner, representing the President, are unclear.

4. The nature of contamination in the different regions of Uganda varies significantly. The extent of the mine problem that exists primarily in the north is unclear due to the sporadic nature of mine usage by the LRA and the overall security environment. An estimated 80% of the population in the northern districts are confined to camps to protect them from the LRA, which further limits the knowledge and exposure of local inhabitants for the time being. Systematic mine clearance in the north is not possible due to the sporadic, spot nature of LRA mine usage. Ad hoc clearance is carried out by the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) engineers, though with inadequate procedures and equipment. UXO are the main problem in the western region and, to a lesser degree, in the center of the country. Due to insufficient surveillance mechanisms, it is unclear how many victims of UXO have occurred in the West though anecdotal evidence is plentiful and UXO now impede the return of IDPs to their homes.

5. Mine risk education (MRE) is offered in both the north and the west by nongovernmental organizations working with district officials and the UPDF, and in coordination with the Ministry of Health in the north. Activities began as a preventative measure in response to growing numbers of victims. These efforts have taken place mostly in isolation without reference to existing international standards, drawing on local capacities in a manner reminiscent of early mine action efforts in other mine-affected countries.

6. The surveillance of mine victims is not comprehensive. Reporting of deaths is limited and no central data gathering method or repository exists. Available statistics in the north show 385 people suffered amputations as a result of mine or UXO accidents between 1999 and 2003, the largest single recorded cause of disability in the region. While some emergency medical and physical rehabilitation assistance exists, coverage is limited and little follow-on vocational or psycho-social care is available.

7. In response, the assessment mission makes the following recommendations:

To the Government of Uganda:

  • Form bodies at the policy and executive levels to coordinate and regulate mine action in Uganda,

  • Seek bi-lateral support for mine clearance capacity building for the UPDF by another Member State,

  • Establish a uniform information collection system and centralized database for accidents and victims,

  • Institute legislation as required under its Treaty obligations.

To the United Nations system:

  • Offer the assistance of a mine action technical advisor to assist the government in the establishment of the programme,

  • Facilitate a coordinated Government, UN and NGO resource mobilization strategy for mine action in Uganda using the Portfolio process,

  • Assist in the establishment of a central database, potentially to be hosted by OCHA's proposed information system.


8. As the result of internal conflict and external unrest in the region, Uganda has a landmine and UXO problem, as documented in two previous NGO assessment reports by the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and the Mine Awareness Trust (MAT), in at least three of its four regions, but no survey has ever been conducted. Following discussions with the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator/Representative, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) fielded an inter-agency and multidisciplinary assessment mission to Uganda from 30 March to 7 April 2004. Mr. Justin Brady, UNMAS Programme Officer, led the mission. Mr. Michel Verreault, Consultant for the Mine Action Team of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) participated in the mission.

9. In accordance with the terms of reference of the mission, the objective of the assessment team was to 'define the scope and nature of the landmine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem in Uganda, to identify constraints and opportunities relating to the development of mine action initiatives, and to make recommendations for a comprehensive response.' Thus, the mission met with military officials, as well as relevant government representatives from a wide range of Ministries (at capital or district level), including: Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health, and the office of the Prime Minister. In addition, the team met with the UN Country Team, which includes representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV). The team also conducted two field visits: one to Kasese in the Rwenzori Mountains and a visit to Gulu in the north. Furthermore, the mission met with local and international non-governmental organizations and volunteer organizations operating in the country including: Uganda Red Cross, Anti Mine Network- Rwenzori (AMNET-R), CEDOVIP/Raising Voices, Landmine Survivors Association, Aid for Rural Development (ARUDEC), Good Hope Foundation, Kitende Land Mines Project, ICRC, Associa zione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale (AVSI), Mine awareness Trust (MAT) and Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR). Finally, the assessment team visited two vocational centres for persons with disabilities. The mission was unable to arrange meetings with donor nations while in Kampala due to scheduling problems.

10. The following report includes the findings of the mission, as well as conclusions reached and recommendations for future action.


2.1 Current environment

2.1.1 National political and security environment

11. Uganda gained independence from the United Kingdom on 9 October 1962. Until 1966, tension existed between those that supported a strong central government and those that preferred a looser federalist approach with the traditional kingdoms at its base. The Prime Minister, Milton Obote, formed an alliance with the military and one officer in particular, Idi Amin Dada, to ensure their loyalty, and subsequently to increase his own power. Uganda became militarily involved in the conflict in the Congo and when it appeared the intervention in the Congo was being used for the personal gain of Obote and other officials, the opposition used it to hold a no confidence vo te on the Prime Minister. Obote, with the assistance of Amin and the military, seized power, suspend the constitution and remove the president and vice president. The following year a new constitution was introduced that declared Uganda a republic with a strong central executive, while abolishing the kingdoms.

12. Obote continued to rely on Amin until the relationship soured and two attempts on Obote's life in late 1969 and early 1970, caused Obote to order the arrest of Amin and his supporters. Amin became aware of the arrest order and seized power. He began executing Obote loyalists, mostly from northern ethnic groups. Obote was granted refuge and support to organize resistance against Amin by neighbouring Tanzania.

13. Amin's rule was marked by erratic decision making and paranoia. Tens of thousands of people went missing as Amin sought to further secure his rule from perceived enemies and Obote sympathisers. Amin continued to exploit ethnic tension as well as religious tension, expanding contacts with the Islamic world through his rediscovered Muslim roots and breaking ties with Uganda's former ally Israel. Amin eventually ordered the invasion of Tanzania in November 1978 in response to what he saw as an undeclared war on his regime by Tanzanian President Nyerere. The attack solidified the exiled Ugandan fighters in Tanzania under the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), which along with the Tanzanian Army turned back Amin's forces into Uganda and caused Amin to go into exile.

14. In the aftermath of the Amin regime and the shaky interim fixtures that came, Obote was able to resume power, this time through a December 1980 election. Obote's victory sparked a lengthy and often bloody opposition struggle led by Yoweri Museveni at the head of the National Resistance Army (NRA). Fighting that took place in the centre of the country that resulted in the forced removal of almost 750,000 people from Luwero district into camps to eliminate rural support for the NRA. Fighting also took place in North Western Uganda where government soldiers took vengeance on the inhabitants of the West Nile District from which Amin hailed. Obote returned to the ways of his previous tenure, marked by increased government control. Eventually he was forced out in July 1985 resulting in the military rule of General Tito Okello. Okello's time was limited however, as the war weary troops he had left were unable to match the continued pressure of Museveni, who moved on the capital in January 1986 where he was greeted by enthusia stic crowds.

15. Since Museveni took power, the government has maintained a strict "no party" political system meant to prevent internal conflict. The government has faced challenges from rebel groups based in the Congo and Sudan. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has operated for the past 18 years in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The conflict has seen increased government military pressure and cooperation with Sudan that began in 2002, but no resolution to the conflict appears at hand. In 1996, the United Democratic Forces (UDF) launched attacks against the government from the Congo into Western Uganda. While the government was able to defeat the UDF by the first years of the new decade, involvement in Congo became more complicated as described below.

2.1.2 International environment (relationship and treaties with other countries)

16. Uganda shares a border with Sudan (to the North), Kenya (to the East), Tanzania (to the South), Rwanda (to the South) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (to the West). The five countries are States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (also known as the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) or the Ottawa Convention).

17. Uganda signed the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention on 3 December 1997, ratified on 25 February 1999 and became a State Party to the Convention on 1 August 1999.

18. Sudan has a landmine problem that stems from the long-running civil war between the Khartoum based Government and the southern SPLM rebel group. According to UNHCR, the majority of the approximate 200,000 refugees in Uganda are from Sudan. Uganda has accused Sudan of supporting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) including the supply of landmines. Sudan has denied the accusations and recently began allowing the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) to operate in southern Sudan to attack LRA bases. The peace process in Sudan between north and south is nearing a formal agreement, though hostilities have ignited in the Western Darfur region between militia and local rebel groups. The Government signed the Convention on 4 December 1997 but did not ratify until on 13 October 2003. Sudan is being assisted by an UNMAS lead mine action programme working with government and SPLM officials. UNDP also has a mine action STA present to assist with capacity building.

19. Kenya signed the treaty on 5 December 1997 and ratified on 23 January 2001. Kenya reportedly has a minor problem with mines in the north of the country. Kenyan military deminers are currently working under the auspices of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) on humanitarian demining tasks related to the UNMEE mandate. Nairobi is to host the first review conference for the Ottawa Convention starting 29 November 2004.

20. Tanzania also signed the APMBC on 3 December 1997, and ratified on 13 November 2000. According to the report the authorities submitted under Article 7 of the Convention, Tanzania is not mine-affected.

21. Rwanda signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 13 June 2000. The treaty entered into force for Rwanda on 1 December 2000. Rwanda is mine affected dating back to insurgents in the early 1990's and conflict in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide. Rwanda established a mine action office in 1995. Rwanda's 2003 Article VII report states there are 18 minefields in the provinces of Byumba, Gisenyi, Kigali and Ruhengeri covering almost 1 square kilometre. In 2002, Rwanda was accused of using anti-personnel mines and supporting the DRC-Goma rebels that also used mines inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

22. Finally, the DRC acceded to the Convention on 2 May 2002. DRC has experienced internal conflict since the unrest in Rwanda and Burundi caused a wave of refugees into the country in 1994. The overthrow of President Mobutu by Laurent Kabila, which was initially supported by Uganda, led to a regional war that pitted Uganda and Rwanda along with rebel groups against the Kabila Government which was backed by Angola, Zimbabwe, Chad, Sudan and Namibia. Unrest continues in the East of the country. DRC is host to a UN peacekeeping mission, MONUC, which includes an UNMAS managed mine action programme.

2.1.3 Socio-economic environment

23. Uganda has four regions-Central, Northern, Western and Eastern composed of 56 districts. According to a 2003 estimate, Uganda has a population of 25.6 million with an estimated 2.8% population growth rate. 80% of the population lives in rural areas.

24. In the southern half of the country, rich soil and rainfall permit extensive agriculture and, in the drier and less fertile northern areas, pastoral economies are common. Approximately 21 percent of the land is cultivated and 45 percent is woodland and grassland, some of which has been cleared for roads, settlements and farmlands in the south. Approximately 13 percent of the land is set aside as national parks, forests and game reserves. Population density is heaviest in the South of the country.

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