Analysis: The problems of demining in Chad
Abacus of mine counting in Chad -- not so easy (file photo)
N'DJAMENA, 18 June 2010 (IRIN) - Almost US$27 million – half from donor funds and the rest from the government – was invested in demining activities in Chad from 2000 to 2008, but the country still cannot identify the number and location of landmines. Efforts to clear at-risk communities have been hobbled by lack of money, mismanagement, delays distributing funds in the field, inappropriate equipment and tough terrain, say officials and international demining NGOs.
Some 1,000 people have died because of landmines or other explosives (unexploded ordnances or UXOs) in Chad over the past decade; more than half in the north
, which only represents 1 percent of the population.
The Japanese government donated $5 million through the UN in late 2008 to help fund a technical survey, but administrative delays locked the money in the UN for 15 months, said Tamar Gabelnick, the anti-personnel mine ban convention
implementation director of the NGO International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). State parties to the convention promise to destroy all anti-personnel mines - smaller and harder to spot than anti-vehicle mines - within 10 years of ratification.
When asked if there was a better way for donors to get money to the field more quickly, the director of the Mine Ban Treaty’s implementation support unit, Kerry Brinkert, replied: “Some donors are constrained by domestic policy or legislation to use solely the UN as a funding channel, even if there are more efficient ways to channel the funds… Perhaps these donor states could ask some hard questions regarding why it is taking so long for their funds to actually reach the intended implementing actors.”
Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is mobilizing staff and equipment for a technical survey and restarting demining activities at Ouaddi Doum in the northern region of Ennedi. Demining in Ouaddi Doum stopped in 2005 when the money ran out. It will take six demining units working 45 weeks a year for five years to demine nearly four million sqm of mined fields, based on a 2008 government estimate.
“What happened to the transfer of knowledge?” asked the government coordinator of the national demining centre, Saleh Hissein Hassan. “The UN is here to build our capacity. We should not still be supervised by them after a decade. Is the UN here to finance us or are we financing them?” Hassan said consultants sent to work with the government were often ill-equipped to improve the government’s management skills.
“We do not need any more foot soldiers but rather advisers on senior management. These may be qualified technical experts, but that is not what we need,” Hassan told IRIN.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Michele Falavigna acknowledged there had been too little transfer of know-how. “Chad is a railway station through which many international staff pass. These staff may displace local staff without training or boosting local jobs.”
He added that the government-led demining process, which the UN supports, can only improve if state actors “speak up about priorities and how to build capacity”.
In a 2008 government report explaining demining delays and funding problems, the government identified international NGO costs as “prohibitive”, with staff salaries “not ceasing to increase without commensurate results”.
Teams trying to open 10km of a road in Fada, capital of the northern region of Ennedi, have had to stop because of the depths at which the mines are buried. “We are demining manually and can only continue the job with machines. These mines are 2-5m in the ground,” said Hassan.
Until now, the government has not used machines. “The climate and terrain conditions have only gotten worse with time and we cannot continue manually,” he added.
Hassan told IRIN the next step is to work with the UN Mine Action Service to look at mine contamination and costs in Fada.
A 2005 government presentation explaining why it would not meet its deadline under the anti-personnel mine ban convention to destroy mines by November 2009 listed insufficient resources, a government that “breaks its promises”, “disappointed donors” and despite there being too many staff, too few were working in the field. Without a technical survey
- only now under way - the government has not been able to estimate how long destruction would take.
The government restructured its national demining centre in June 2007 and cut 400 staff the following year to 268, while increasing the number of demining units from two in 2007 to eight in 2008, with the support of MAG.
The state reported in 2008 destroying 25 anti-tank landmines, 12 anti-personnel mines and 55,770MT of explosives spread out over 2.8 million sqm of land.
The national demining centre estimates there are more than one million landmines to destroy, mostly in the north, but that the real figure cannot be known until the technical survey is completed.
“It is not often states have an opportunity to declare victory over a humanitarian issue, and this opportunity must not be missed,” said ICBL’s Gabelnick. “But there is still a long road ahead until the Mine Ban Treaty fully delivers on its promises to mine-affected communities.”