Somalia is one of the world’s most fragile states and sits within a troubled region sometimes referred to as the ‘arc of instability’. Somalia has a long history of armed conflict, resulting in high levels of contamination from mines and other explosive remnants of war.
During the Ogaden War with Ethiopia (1977-1978) and the Country’s Civil War, which broke out in the late 1980s, thousands of landmines have been used to defend key ground across the country. Clan-based and territorial disputes have also led to periodic, localised armed clashes – which have added to the explosives contamination of the country.
The country remains separated between the relatively stable self-declared independent state of Somaliland, semi-autonomous Puntland, and the four newly formed states that make up Southern Somalia.
Armed non-state groups continue to contest rural areas in Southern Somalia with Federal Government of Somalia troops, supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other international military support, making significant gains in recent years. These interventions have created the humanitarian space for aid and development projects.
For two decades, Somalia existed without a formal government. The Federal Government of Somalia established itself in 2012. The legitimacy and authority of the government has increased following parliamentary and presidential elections in 2016 and 2017, but there is a long road ahead before Somalia’s federal system is declared a success. Somaliland on the other hand continues to make democratic progress and has recently held its third presidential election since the 1991 declaration of independence.
Following decolonisation by the British and Italians, the Somali Republic was formed on 1 July 1960 through the union of the former British Somaliland protectorate and Italian Somalia. Following a military coup in 1969, the country was ruled by Mohamed Siad Barre, who led Somalia into a disastrous war with Ethiopia over control of the Somali Ogaden region in 1977, in which Somali forces were defeated and landmines were laid along the length of the border. A period of civil war and the lack of a functioning government for over 20 years led to descriptions of Somalia as a ‘failed state’. Somalia now has an internationally recognised government and is slowly recovering control of the country from Al-Shabaab, the radical Islamic insurgency, together with help from African Union troops.
Following decades of conflict, Somali communities are still facing threats from landmines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance across the country. Widespread instability and dangerous operating conditions for NGOs has meant that access to the remote communities most severely affected by these issues has been impossible until recently, often because of mines and IEDs laid along roads. Somalis continue to be killed and injured by these devices even as the fighting subsides.
Somaliland is a self-declared independent state, unrecognised by the UN and its member states. Somaliland is located in the north-west region of Somalia. It is formerly a British protectorate, declaring independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 following a three-year civil war between the pro-independence Somaliland National Movement (SNM) and the Somali National Army (SNA). Mines were laid throughout the country during this period, adding to those already laid along the Ethiopian border as a result of the Ogaden War (1977-78). Many communities in Somaliland since have had to suffer with the destructive legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war continue to kill and seriously injure ‘at risk’ civilians. The livelihoods of thousands of Somalis, some of the world’s poorest people, are affected. Landmines prevent land from being cultivated, foraged and grazed, and block access to water, markets and other vital services. Those displaced by the fighting are also prevented from returning home.
In addition to these threats, the prevalence of unexploded ordnance and munitions stockpiling present further threats to life and livelihoods in communities across Somaliland.
The HALO Trust has operated in Somaliland since 1999, conducting manual and mechanical mine clearance, battle area clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, physical security and stockpile management, and mine risk education.
As of 1st November 2017 HALO have cleared 23 km² of hazardous area and conducted over 1,000 community visits to destroy munitions. Teams have disposed of over 4,570 landmines, 33,100 items of unexploded ordnance and 215,000 items of small arms ammunition. This has directly secured the safety of over 51,000 people who use the cleared land and roads. A further 60,000 people, who use them infrequently, have also benefitted.
The HALO mission is to clear Somaliland of all high priority minefields by mid-2019, thus securing livelihoods, enabling economic growth, and ultimately saving lives. To do this HALO seeks to maintain its high clearance capacity in Somaliland so skilled workers, and time is not lost. Concurrently HALO will also continue its long-standing capacity building programme with the Government of Somaliland by training, mentoring, and partnering a national demining capacity to assume future mine action responsibilities.
The programme is ever grateful to our current donors for supporting HALO work in Somaliland: the UK (DFID), US Department of State (PMWRA), Germany (German Federal Foreign Office), Ireland (Irish Aid), Finland (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Netherlands (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Thanks must also go to previous donors, the Norwegian Government (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Switzerland (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs/Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)), Belgium (Federal Government of Belgium) and Canada (Canada International Development Agency). However, HALO urgently needs continued donor support in order to clear Somaliland’s remaining high-priority minefields and then conduct the subsequent land release to local communities.