In Sudan, Saving Lives Through Weapons Destruction Programs

Posted by Emma Smith
January 4, 2011
PM Bureau Program Managers for Sudan Stand Next to Sign Posted by NGO

About the Author: Emma Smith is a Program Manager in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

For a quarter-century, the United States has been both a leading humanitarian aid donor and diplomatic partner in international efforts to bring peace to Sudan. Less known is the United States' $20 million investment in Sudan's future through the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program, managed by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

As Sudan prepares to take another major step toward implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the coming weeks with a vote on self-determination in southern Sudan, we look forward to building on this successful partnership that has saved lives and promoted development by clearing millions of landmines, unexploded ordnance, and excess small arms, light weapons, and munitions that remain a deadly legacy of the country's 21-year civil conflict.

As many as 18 of Sudan's 25 states are affected by landmines and abandoned and explosive remnants of war, such as mortars, grenades, and artillery shells, according to a national landmine survey conducted on behalf of the United Nations Mine Action Office. As in many countries struggling to recover from conflicts, landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets and production, prevent the delivery of goods and services, and generally obstruct reconstruction and stabilization efforts. By removing these deadly hazards, we can enable the socio-economic development needed to further the larger goal of promoting stability and security in Sudan and the wider region.

One way in which my office is working to address these issues in Sudan is by funding projects executed by nongovernmental organizations. In Southern Sudan, the UK-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is working through explosive ordnance disposal-small arms/light weapons destruction teams and community liaison teams to address hazards facing communities in Central, Western and Eastern Equatoria. MAG's liaison teams are deployed to a community with suspected hazardous areas. After conducting mine risk education, the teams collect data on potential hazards within the area. These data are then sent back to MAG's disposal teams who can then immediately deploy to clear the reported area. This not only addresses the problem, but increases the community's confidence in the teams, which often inspires the communities to report even more explosive hazards.

Since 2005, U.S.-funded conventional weapons destruction efforts in Sudan have funded operations by several partner organizations in addition to MAG, including Norwegian People's Aid, DanChurch Aid, and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, thereby contributing to landmine survey and clearance operations in the Nuba Mountains region, in Kassala State, Blue Nile State, Upper Nile, as well as the country's Western, Central, and Eastern Equatoria States.

To date, PM/WRA's efforts in Sudan, executed ably by its NGO grantees there, have resulted in the clearance of more than 1.7 million square meters of land previously littered with landmines and unexploded ordnance. More than 2,000 anti-personnel landmines and more than 800 larger anti-vehicle landmines have been safely removed, as well as hundreds of thousands of pieces of abandoned munitions and unexploded ordnance. In addition PM/WRA-funded outreach and education programs have alerted more than 70,000 area residents and displaced families to potential hazards in their communities and how to contact authorities, saving countless lives.

The U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program has also made progress in confronting the security challenges in Sudan posed by excess and deteriorating munitions as well as excess small arms and light weapons that exacerbate criminality and inter-tribal feuds, and that undermine the rule of law. PM/WRA's grantees there have disposed of more than 50 metric tons of munitions and military armaments to date. More remains to be done, and we are hopeful that the situation in Sudan will enable us to continue this important work at a steady rate.

Additional U.S. support has assisted Sudan in building its own demining capacity. U.S. financial and technical support has helped establish both the National Mine Action Center in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, as well as the Southern Sudan Demining Authority in Juba. We have also provided support to Sudan's first internationally accredited humanitarian mine action nongovernmental organization, the Sudanese Integrated Mine Action Service (SIMAS) which -- with helpful support from our partners at the Swiss Foundation and additional donor support in addition to that of the United States -- should be very productive for many years to come.

The United States is proud to be a world leader in conventional weapons destruction efforts, including humanitarian mine action, having provided more than $1.8 billion in aid since 1993 to more than 80 countries, including Sudan. We're pleased to work with the Sudanese people and do our part to help them reestablish a safe and peaceful way of life.

Comments

Comments

Kate W.
January 5, 2011

Kate W. writes:

Many thanks for this blog Emma, great that you have been able to see some of MAG's work in southern Sudan, vitally supported by WRA, and witness first hand the impact it has - both on local communities and on the security of the wider region. Here's hoping for a peaceful referendum, and thank you again for the support. Best, Kate @ MAG. For more information on MAG projects funded by WRA please visit "www.maginternational.org"

I A.
|
Sudan
January 5, 2011

Ibrahim in Sudan writes:

The USG should choose its partners - more - carefully:

That's the same Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) that was censured by the Norwegian parliament for gun-running during the north-south civil war.

They had hidden rifles for the SPLA under stacks of bibles and also, in the most supreme of ironies, NPA smuggled land mines for the SPLA into the Nuba Mountains, amongst other locations, too.

Copy and paste this link for further info:

"http://www.defence.lk new.asp?fname=20080728_02"

Simply hideous.

So, call what they (NPA) are doing now penance - not heroism.

.

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