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ICE Case 96, Angola's Landmines
Sean D. Morris (June 1996

I. Case Background
II. Environment Aspect
III. Conflict Aspect
IV. Env. - Conflict Overlap
V. Related Information


1. Abstract

In 1994 the two warring sides in the Angolan civil war signed the Lusaka peace accords and subsequently have slowly retreated from their entrenched positions. However, due to the heinous number of land mines Angola will remain a country afflicted by the scourge of war for decades to come because the devices act as a silent enemy not allowing the population to progress and rebuild. Estimates of the number of Angolan land mines range between 10 and 20 million which equates to at least 1 to 2 land mines for every person in the country.

U.N. estimates put the number of Angolan amputees resulting from the silent killers at 70,000. For three decades mines were scattered in Angola's fields, villages, roads, and other unexpected places to intimidate, maim and kill innocent victims. Land mines have a devastating affect upon the environment by restricting the movement of people, deterring farming, disrupting economies, and killing and mutilating many innocent men, women, and children. In 1993 a UN General Resolution moratorium on the sale and export of antipersonnel land mines was passed. However, international consensus has yet to be achieved and Angola's problem continues unabated.

2. Description

Angola is blessed with abundant natural wealth including petroleum,
diamonds, agriculture, and fishing resources and is destined to
become one of Africa's richest nations.  The country has a
population of approximately 11 million people and a territory of
approximately 480,000 square miles or about twice the size of

Angola became a hot spot in the international media in 1961 when
independence protests against the Portuguese erupted.  The
protracted nationalist uprising continued until 1974 when Portugal
suffered a motion of dissent from within its own borders in the
form of a military coup.  Although it gained its independence from
Portugal in 1975 Angola was left open for internal conflict and
international manipulation.  Its people were starved of education
and training by several centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and
thus were ill equipped to develop the countries rich resource base
and counter corruption and greed within the elites.  Instead the
three main nationalist movements fought one another invoking a type
of totalitarian stagnant rule void of looking to the future for its
people and ironically similar to the one it had known during
colonial times.

Today Angola has finally emerged from more than two decades of
civil war, due in part to the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation
in the world, with its economy in tatters and its whole society
down-trodden.  As one scholar on Angola recently put it �only one
out of every six Angolans alive today has experienced an absence of
war.  The war also lead to a serious migration of people from
their rural places of origin, infrastructure has been destroyed,
and most trade activity has disappeared.   The early 1990s showed
promise for an economic recovery following the signing of the
Bicesse peace accords and the restoration of security in most
areas.  The period was marked by larger crop yields, and the
repairing of most roads and some bridges allowing for freer
movement.  By the end of 1992 however, the short lived peace was
disrupted and the country was again emersed in war after UNITA
disagreed with the results of a close presidential election.  
The post Bicesse accords war (the third war) was the most brutal
that Angola had experienced in its protracted thirty year war. 
Factories, banks, schools, and health centers were further
destroyed and left inoperable.  The level of destruction can
clearly be seen by the 22.6% decrease in GDP and the 11 fold
decrease in the countries currency (Kwanza (NKz)) in 1993.  In
addition to the deterioration of the basic infrastructure the
reduction of health services have left Angola with poor water and
sewage systems which in turn have led to a huge increase in endemic
disease and thus Angola is left with one of the highest infant
mortality rates in the world, 209/1000 live births.  

Landmines cost as little as $3 to manufacture and are classified
into two different groups, large tank mines and antipersonnel
mines.  Anti tank mines were first used during World War II and
require several hundred pounds of pressure to detonate.  Anti-
personnel mines are much smaller, difficult to detect (often being
made of predominantly plastic materials) and are designed to injure
rather than kill because an injured soldier is more of a burden to
an army than a dead one.  However, what is rarely considered in the
design process and the strategy of deploying the landmine is its
use after the conflict has been concluded.
U.N. estimates claim that Afghanistan is riddled with 12 million
and the former Yugoslavia saw the laying of 60,000 mines a week at
the height of its recent conflict.  The U.S. State department
estimates that there are more than 85 million land mines scattered
throughout 56 countries.  U.N. estimates are higher at as many as
105 million, one for every 50 people on the earth.  Costs for
clean up are put at about $1,000 per mine or between $200 and $300
billion in total. 

In countries such as Afghanistan and Cambodia international
assistance has made a dent in the removal of land mines, but Angola
has not received any significant help due to its protracted civil
war.  Since the most recent cease fire and the deployment of 7,000
U.N. troops, under the mandate stipulated in UNAVEM III, some
assistance has been forthcoming to the ailing country, but to date
the remedy has been far outweighed by the problem.

Some 340 types of mines are manufactured in 48 countries.  China
and Romania have state owned manufacturers, while the U.S. and
Italy have private companies supplying lucrative top secret
contracts.  Because of the secretiveness of the industry figures
are difficult to find which complicates attempts to comprehend the
magnitude of the problem.  Often the finger is pointed at the
Chinese and Romanians for irresponsibly supplying both sides of an
interstate conflict, but the U.S. and its allies are not innocent. 
During the Gulf war allied forces scattered over one million land
mines through multiple-launch system sub-munitions (an artillery
shell technique which detonates in mid air and scatters landmines). 
Such a technique does not leave the mines in pre-arranged patterns
as demanded by international convention and customary law.

In 1992 with Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Lane Evans as
its sponsors, a bill was passed in both U.S. houses which placed a
moratorium on the sales and export of U.S. anti-personnel mines. 
Later in the year, as the ban was nearing its end, the two sponsors
were successful in extending the ban to the end of 1996.   The very
fact that the bills were passed is extraordinary considering the
lobbying power of the U.S. weapons industry. 

With help from several international human rights organizations
such as Vietnam Veterans of America, Human Rights Watch, Physicians
for Human Rights in America and The Mines Advisory Group in England
enough international interest and support was galvanized to pass a
U.N. General Assembly Resolution on December 16, 1993 placing a one
year international ban on the export and sale of antipersonnel
mines.  In some respects the U.N. Resolution was an important step
because it showed that responsible nations were no longer willing
to allow irresponsible countries to export mass quantities of mines
to interstate conflicts around the world.  However, U.N.
resolutions are only recommendatory and countries such as China,
Italy, and Romania continue to sell and export antipersonnel mines. 
The U.S. leads the world in addressing the many problems that land
mines pose.  It has set up the Demining Assistance Program to
provide mine awareness training and mine clearance training to
nations plagued with mines.  It has also developed cost effective
forms of mine clearance techniques.  In that vein president
Clinton, in a September, 1994 address to the U.N. General Assembly
called for the eventual elimination of antipersonnel landmines and
the creation of an international control regime to regulate the
production, export and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines.  The
regime idea was clearly styled after the International Atomic
Energy Agency with the hope of emulating its past success in
limiting the number of countries with nuclear weapons capabilities. 
However, the production and distribution of antipersonnel landmines
is a much more difficult task.  Unlike nuclear weapons landmines
are cheaply manufactured and maintained, require no sophisticated
technology, are easily transported and are difficult to track and

The principle source of rules governing the use of land mines and
other similar explosive devices is the Land Mines Protocol.  The

     restricts use of certain conventional weapons which may
     be deemed to be excessively injurious and to have
     indiscriminate effects.  It applies only to international
     armed conflicts and to a limited class of wars of
     national liberation. 

During the 10 years of independence struggle and the 20 more years
of civil war as many as twenty million land mines were laid in the
fertile and resource rich Angolan soil.  According to Human Rights
Watch they kill 120 Angolans every month.  The civil war may have
ended, but land mines have replaced soldiers and are blocking the
rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.

Mines were deployed by both sides during the Angolan civil war as
well as by the Cubans and South Africans when Angola became an area
of contention for the Super Powers during the Cold War.  Prior to
that they were used in the independence struggle against the
Portuguese.  In all cases their use was offensive in terms of their
military strategy.  Lacking stronger fire power mines were used as
a substitute for artillery.   The landmine was designed as a
defensive measure for western conflicts, but during both the
Angolan colonial and civil war the landmine was used as a weapon. 

Land mines affect Angola on a daily basis.  Refugees are often
unable to return to their homes and farm their land.  In those
cases where people attempt to rebuild around the mines many lose
their lives in the process.  In addition, animals are kept away
from centuries old watering holes leaving them confused and likely
to die in the harsh elements of the bush.  Landmines are also
causing  difficulties for the Angolan government as it attempts to
incorporate democracy and rebuild the shattered country with as
little social discontent as possible.  In short, there is total
disruption to human life and the environment.  

Landmines leave no visible damage to the environment, but that is
not to say that their impact is any less severe than
desertification and deforestation in other parts of the world. 
Landmines, it could be argued, do not allow man to alter the soil
by cutting down trees, extracting minerals, or dumping chemicals. 
However, by their very nature, landmines are a man made pollutant
and adversely alter the environment for future generations.  For
example, in Angola thousands of miles of riverbanks, and tens of
thousands of acres of farmland, pastures, and forest are now
unusable.  In addition, the landmines have lead to a large
migration of people from the countryside to towns and cities.  The
increased numbers of people in certain parts of the country place
a strain on the resources of the land.  Areas where refugees have
been forced to move have been stripped of wood and wild game while
water supplies have been depleted and contaminated leading to
increases in reported cases of dysentery, malaria and cholera.  In
time the areas will be prone to desertification as the land is
further stripped by the refugees in their attempts to survive.  

Due to Angola's lack of infrastructure it is difficult to find
figures indicating the destruction that landmines have caused, but
a U.S. State Department report estimates that in 1993, following an
escalation in fighting between UNITA and MPLA troops, the Angolan
harvest was reduced by more than 30 percent.  Further complicating
economic rejuvenation most roads, bridges, and public works have
been mined or destroyed severely reducing the movement of all
people who do not have access to air transportation.  The Benguela
railway, Angola�s only major railroad has been mined so severely
that it is no longer in use at all.  The railway had provided
Angola and neighboring Zaire and Zambia with a major transportation
route to send their products to the major Angolan port of Benguela
for export to the rest of the world.  All of these limiting factors
caused by landmines severely decrease the ability of the country to
attract foreign investment which is desperately needed to stimulate
the economy and provide a better standard of living for Angolans.

In short, the Angolan landmine situation severely disrupts almost
all aspects of the countries environment because landmines are a
pollutant to humans, animals and fauna alike.  For the time being
the laying of landmines has stopped in Angola, but it continues at
an alarming rate in other parts of the world and there seems to be
no foreseeable solution to the problem.  After the integration of
both sides into a unified military and government landmines pose
the largest threat to a long lasting peace, and the future of
Angola both environmentally and literally.  If the situation is not
remedied with help from the international community Angolans will
be confined to certain portions of the country which will not allow
for industry and agriculture to flourish and will strain the land
where landmines are not present to the point of desertification and
severe species loss.

3. Duration


4. Location

Southern Africa

5. Actors

Angola, UNITA, South Africa

II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Killing Animals and People

7. Type of Habitat: Tropical, and Dry

8. Act and Harm Sites:

III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: Civil

The more than twenty years of civil war in Angola has divided the country to the point that many question if it can ever again be united. The current disagreement between UNITA and the MPLA concerning the diamond regions of Lunda Norte highlights the countries continued division.

10. Level of Conflict: High

11. Fatality Level of Dispute (military and civilian fatalities): over 500,000

IV. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics:

13. Level of Strategic Interest: Regional

14. Outcome of Dispute: Victory

V. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE Cases

16. Relevant Websites and Literature

A Perverse Use of Technology: Mines. Geneva: International Committee of
the Red Cross, 1992.

Breisch, S. L. Look Out for Land mines. The Journal 87 (no.4 1994): 181.

Clearing Land mines. The Economist 330 (no. 7852, Feb. 26, 1994): 45.

Drinan, R F. Can We Ban Land mines? Commonweal 121 (Feb. 25 1994): 5-6.

Hidden Killers: the Global Problem with Uncleared Land mines, a Report on
International Demining: Washington, DC: Department of State, 1993.

Kent, Bruce. The Land mines Scandal. The Tablet 248 (no. 8207, June 11,
1994): 732.

Land mines: A Deadly Legacy. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993.

Land Mines Leave Young Angolan Victims �Living Dead�. The Washington
Post (Feb. 8, 1995): A15.

Land mines: Reaping a Deadly Harvest. West Africa (no. 3999, May 23, 1994):

Land mines: Time for Action. International Humanitarian Law. Geneva:
International Committee of the Red Cross, 1994.

Lifting the Landmine Curse. The New York Times (Feb. 8, 1995): A18.

Leahy, Patrick. Landmine Moratorium: A Strategy for Stronger
International Limits. Arms Control Today 23 (no.1, Jan. 2, 1993): 11.
McGrath, Rae. Land Mines in Angola: an Africa Watch Report. New York:
Human Rights Watch, 1993.

McGrath, Rae. Trading in Death: Antipersonnel Mines. Lancet 342 (no. 8872
Sept. 11, 1993): 11.

Mass Murder by Landmine. The Economist 329 (no. 7839, Nov. 27, 1993).

100 Million Infernal Machines. New York Times (Nov. 29 1993): A16.

Ryle, John. The Invisible Enemy. New Yorker 69 (no. 40, Nov. 29, 1993): 120-

The Scourge of Land mines. The Economist 327 (no. 7808, April 24, 1993): 46.

Webster, D. One Leg, One Life at a Time. The New York Times Magazine (Jan.
23, 1994): 26-33.

Westing, Arthur H. (ed.) Explosive Remnants of War: Mitigating the
Environmental Effects. London: Taylor and Francis, 1985.