Government and rebels using antipersonnel mines

14 September (IRIN)

Both government and rebel forces in Sudan are continuing to use antipersonnel mines despite claiming to adhere to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (ICBL) said on Wednesday. In its Land Mine Monitor Report for 2001, ICBL said, there were "strong indications" that mines were being used by forces loyal to the Sudanese government, and by southern rebel groups, including the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

The southern regions of Equatoria, Bahr al-Ghazal, Upper Nile, the Nubah Mountains, the Jonglei and Blue Nile regions and Bahr al-Arab were all mine-affected, the report said. According to ICBL, in contested areas of the country such as the Nubah Mountains, the government has used mines to prevent rebel SPLA attacks on government-held garrison towns. Populations in these towns, and in the so-called "protected villages", were forcibly contained by mines laid around them, it said.

Although The Sudanese government has been "vocal" about its intention to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty - which it signed on 4 December 1997 - it had not yet done so, the report said. Mines have been used within these fortified villages to prevent internally displaced persons (IDPs) from returning to their villages to salvage their property after government raids, the report claimed.

"I was returning to my house after the army had attacked from the garrison in Hayban. It was still smouldering, but it wasn't too badly damaged, so I went inside to find what I could save. There was a huge bang. When I woke up my leg was missing," the report quoted 55 year-old Osman Luma Kodwar from Uru village in Hayban District as saying. Soldiers of the 5th Division, stationed in the Nubah Mountains, had also used land mines in ambushes along civilian routes, including paths to water holes, markets and orchards, the report added.

The SPLM/A has also declared its intention to stop using mines. The ICBL quoted an SPLM/A representative, Edward Lino Abyei, as saying on 27 March 2000 that the rebel group was committed to the Deed of Commitment for adherence to a total ban on antipersonnel mines. The SPLM/A committed itself to not using anti-personnel mines under any circumstances, the report said.

However, ICBL quoted the US State Department as saying that both the SPLA and the rebel Sudan People's Defence Force (SPDF) had "laid land mines indiscriminately on roads and paths that killed and maimed both soldiers and civilians." ICBL quoted military and humanitarian sources as saying that Sudanese government towns captured by the SPLA have subsequently been mined.