Somalia has a long history of conflict and was ranked as the sixth least stable country in the world in the Global Peace Index 2015. During the Ogaden War with Ethiopia (1977-1978) and the Somali Civil War, which broke out in the late 1980s, thousands of landmines were laid across the country.
The country remains separated between the relatively stable self-declared independent state of Somaliland, semi-autonomous Puntland, and the 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), making significant gains in recent years. This has created the humanitarian space that now allows aid and development projects to be implemented.
Somalia was without a formal parliament for more than two decades before the internationally-backed government was installed in 2012. The first democratic government elections are scheduled during 2016 to select a new Federal Government in Mogadishu. Somaliland continues to make good democratic progress and will hold its third presidential elections in 2017.
Somaliland is a self-declared independent state, yet to be recognised by the international community, located in the north-western region of Somalia. Somaliland, formerly a British protectorate, declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, following three years of 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 laid along the Ethiopian border as a result of the Ogaden War (1977-78). Many communities in Somaliland have had to deal with the destructive legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war ever since.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war continue to kill and seriously injure civilians. The livelihoods of thousands of ordinary Somalis, some of the world’s poorest people, are affected as mines prevent land from being farmed and block access to water, markets and vital services. Those displaced by the fighting are prevented from returning home, too.
In addition, the prevalence of unexploded ordnance and munitions stockpiling by communities present further threats.
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 the end of 2015 date we have cleared 18.7 km² of hazardous area and conducted over 1,000 community visits to destroy munitions. We 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 frequently use the cleared land and roads. A further 60,000 people, who use them infrequently, have also benefitted.
Our mission is to clear Somaliland of all known hazardous areas by the end of 2018, thus securing livelihoods, enabling economic growth, and saving lives. To do this HALO is seeking to maintain its current clearance capacity in Somaliland so skilled workers, and time is not lost.
We are grateful to our current donors for supporting our work in Somaliland: the 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 also go to previous donors, the Norwegian Government (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), UK (DFID), 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 to make Somaliland the next territory after Mozambique to be declared mine free.
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.
In 2015 HALO began non-technical survey operations in Southern Somalia. Working along the Somali – Ethiopian border, which spans the newly formed states of Galmudug State, South-West State and the forming State of Hiran and Middle Shebelle, HALO is seeking to locate the mines that were laid during the Ogaden War.
Since the start of operations HALO has conducted a series of non-technical surveys across its area of operations, identifying a significant unaddressed landmine problem. This has involved working in a security challenged environment where HALO is often the first organisation to have established a presence and support to the communities there.
By surveying these impacted areas, we hope to build a picture of the landmines and ERW contamination present allowing clearance operations to begin in 2016. By working closely with local and national stakeholders across our area of operation, HALO’s 16 years of experience in region will be significant in establishing a clearance capacity in Southern Somalia while helping make the remaining areas of the least stable country in the region a safer place for those communities living there and opening access for humanitarian organizations delivering vital aid.
Our activities in Somalia are supported by Government of Japan through the Voluntary Trust Fund administered by UNMAS. We urgently need to expand donor support to continue our work in the area and help open access for governmental and non-governmental organisations who are likely to follow.