by Stephen Powers [ Mine Action Information Center ]
Sudan currently consists of two major political groups under a single government. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement1 in 2005 created the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan. The GNU is recognized as the government of Sudan but the term is also used to politically differentiate northern Sudan from the southern region which is represented by the GoSS. The formation of the GNU allowed for the creation of a new governing body to represent South Sudan in the national government. The Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, the main military and political organization in southern Sudan formed the GoSS, a semi-autonomous region. Under the Compressive Peace Agreement the SPLA/M is now represented on the national level by the GoSS. Both the GNU and the GoSS operate the country as a type of coalition government and have since signed multiple peace treaties in efforts to unite the country.
The division of Sudan stems from two civil wars (1955–1972 and 1983–2005) following the country's independence from British rule in 1956; because of these years of conflict, Sudan has been left with one of the largest explosive remnants of war2 problems in the world. While recent peace agreements between the GNU and the GoSS have brought an end to the conflict, a more recent conflict (2003–present) has broken out in Darfur. The conflict in Darfur has increased political and military tensions between the GNU and the GoSS. In addition, the expansion of the Darfur conflict into Chad has led to a large refugee problem and foreign pressure on the GNU. The conflict in Darfur remains an obstacle to future mine-action efforts due to the instability it has caused in Sudan and its neighboring countries. Recent peace efforts have helped address these issues.
Extent of Contamination
As a major battleground during both civil wars, the central and southern areas of Sudan have the heaviest contamination of mines and ERW. During both wars, armies widely used landmines, which resulted in a large range of areas being mined, including major roads, urban centers and rural communities. The extent of contamination has made travel difficult and significantly affected the basic infrastructure of the country. The clearance of mines in these regions has become an essential part of larger humanitarian relief efforts.
Conventions and Treaties
The government of Sudan (consisting of both the GNU and GoSS) signed the Ottawa Convention3 in 1997 and ratified it in 2003.4 In 2004, the Convention went into effect for both the GNU and the GoSS.5 Previous to the formation of a single coalition government under the GNU and the GoSS, northern and southern Sudan were represented by various governments and political groups. In the years approaching the Comprehensive Peace Agreement several other peace- and mine-related agreements were made between these representative bodies.
The signing of the Ottawa Convention incorporated these previous peace- and mine-related agreements and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Further agreements, such as the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Eastern States Peace Agreement, have helped stabilize the country and create a workable atmosphere for mine-action efforts.
The majority of mine-action efforts are headed by international organizations, including DanChurchAid, the HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group and Landmine Action, among others. These organizations provide fairly comprehensive mine-action efforts, but because of the division of the country and lack of governmental help, their efforts are limited in size. The formation of the National Mine Action Authority and the Southern Sudan Demining Commission constitute significant achievements for future sustainable mine-action efforts in Sudan.6 These national institutions will still require significant training and technical support, but their existence serves as a large step towards sustainable national mine-action efforts.
Previous mine-action efforts have concentrated on four main goals:
- Clearance and opening of primary roads to ensure the safety of the United Nations Mission in Sudan personnel as well as returning refugees and internally displaced persons7
- An urgent need to quickly survey and mark areas for better targeted clearance and safety7
- An increase in mine-risk education targeted at returning refugees and IDPs
- Efforts to increase capacity development7
These goals continue to serve as a framework for mine-action efforts.
The UNMIS plans to assess 14,543 kilometers (9,037 miles) of major roadways and clear 2,721 kilometers (1,691 miles) in 2007.1 Additionally, MRE efforts will focus on returning refugees and IDPs. The UNMIS will continue efforts to build and train national mine-action institutions. According to the National Mine Action Authority, the GNU currently has 14,485 anti-personnel mines in its inventory and plans to destroy 9,485 of them, leaving 5,000 for training purposes.8 This disarmament demonstrates one of the first major compliance commitments from the GoSS. To date the GoSS has cleared approximately 14 square kilometers (5.4 square miles), reopened 12,000 kilometers (7,456 miles) of road after assessment, and cleared 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) of road of mines and UXO.8 Furthermore, a total of 1.1 million people have received MRE through the NMAA.8
As the national mine-action institutions gain momentum, international nongovernmental organizations remain critical to supporting victim assistance efforts. Currently the International Committee of the Red Cross provides the most victim assistance in Sudan.9 Sufficient funding for victim assistance remains a constant problem for both the national and international organizations, but efforts from national mine-action institutions and international funding have recently increased. Currently, the United Nations Mine Action Service has developed a two-year work plan to provide victim assistance, thereby strengthening one of the weaker aspects of mine-action efforts in Sudan.9
Established in 2005 after the peace agreement forming the GNU and GoSS, the United Nations Mission in Sudan remains the most prominent mine-action effort in Sudan. The existence of the GNU and GoSS has resulted in most organizations adopting a similar division with separate operations for the north and the south. Despite this separation, most mine-action and humanitarian efforts have continued to work effectively. UNMIS and other national and international NGOs head many of the mine-action efforts in Sudan.
Sudan has taken several significant steps toward reducing the ERW contamination found in the country. The signing of the Ottawa Convention and bilateral agreements to stop the use of landmines has made mine-action efforts much easier. On the negative side, however, is the reality that continued conflict in Darfur and the possibility of future instability between the GNU and the GoSS may result in renewed conflict.
In the short term, mine-action efforts will have to rely on the various international organizations currently operating in Sudan for support. In the long term, it is hoped that the formation of the National Mine Action Authority and Southern Sudan Demining Commission will create effective national mine-action institutions for future efforts. The larger humanitarian situation inside Sudan also remains critical. Any mine-action efforts must fit into a larger rebuilding effort. If the humanitarian and political situation does not improve, then renewed fighting between the GNU and GoSS could erase recent gains.
Stephen Powers joined the Mine Action Information Center in July 2007 as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action. He plans to graduate from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Arts in history and continue his education in graduate school.
- For consistency, all of the acronyms used in this article, coincide with those used by the United Nations And Partners Work Plan For Sudan. Work Plan For Sudan 2007 Vol. I. United Nations, 2007. http://www.unsudanig.org/workplan/2007/index.html. Accessed 22 February 2008.
- Editor's Note: Some organizations consider mines and ERW to be two separate entities, since they are regulated by different legal documents (the former by the Ottawa Convention and Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the latter by CCW Protocol V). However, since mines are explosive devices that have similar effects to other ERW and it is often impossible to separate the two during clearance operations, some in the community have adopted a "working definition" (as opposed to a legal one) of ERW in which it is a blanket term that includes mines, UXO, abandoned explosive ordnance and other explosive devices.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 7 February 2008. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
- "Sudan." Landmine Monitor Report. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/sudan.html. Accessed 18 July 2007.
- In the case of the Ottawa Convention both the GNU and the GoSS are seen as comprising Sudan. The convention does not make a distinction between the complex political arrangements between the GNU and the Goss or the semi-autonomy of the GoSS.
- E-mail interview with Sharif Baaser, Project OfficerMine Action, UNICEF. 2 August 2007.
- "Sudan." E-MINE: The Electronic Mine Information Network. U.N. Mine Action Service. http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=25. Accessed 25 July 2007.
- Mine Action Progress: Republic of the Sudan. PowerPoint presentation provided by the National Mine Action Authority in Sudan. April 2007.
- E-mail interview with Davide Naggi, Victim Assistance Consultant, United Nations Mine Action Service. 29 July 2007.
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