UN Mine Action Service
As a specialized service of the United Nations, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) works to eliminate the threat posed by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices by coordinating United Nations mine action, leading operational responses at the country level, and supporting the development of standards, policies, and norms.
In Somalia, decades of armed conflict have left behind a legacy of explosive hazards, including landmines, munitions and other types of explosive remnants of war (ERW). Such hazards pose a great risk to local populations, with a detrimental impact on peacebuilding and state-building activities. In addition, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are the weapon of choice of armed groups, contribute to further insecurity of the prevailing conflict.
UNMAS started its operations in Somalia in 2008, amid ongoing conflict and increasing instability, to mitigate the threat and the negative impact of explosive threats. Over the years UNMAS has expanded its operations and is currently working at both Federal and Federal Member State levels and within a context of constantly evolving security challenges, including the increasing use of IEDs as a weapon of war.
Over the past 10 years, non-state armed groups have used IEDs as a weapon of choice against the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), with collateral impacts on civilians constituting more than 50 percent of resulting casualties. In addition to the IED threat, indirect fire, ERW, and landmines left behind from previous fighting continue to endanger the lives of civilian populations further preventing stability and peace throughout the country.
The threat from explosive hazards is further compounded by increasing returnees and internal displacements due to conflicts and natural disasters. The deepening drought and seasonal flooding conditions in Somalia are also expected to exacerbate internal displacements into potentially contaminated areas leading to further insecurity therefore intensive efforts are needed to reduce the risks posed by explosive hazards.
In Somalia, UNMAS focuses on:
- Support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM): UNMAS provides explosive threat mitigation support to AMISOM troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. To mitigate explosive threats against AMISOM personnel and assets, UNMAS trains and mentors troops in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and IED threat mitigation, advises on operational planning processes, use of specialized equipment and services, with the aim of enhancing force protection and mobility.
- Support to Somalia’s security forces: UNMAS provides advice, training, and equipment to the Somali Police to develop its bomb disposal capabilities across Somalia. Enhancing such capabilities remains crucial, especially in regard to the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to Somalia’s security forces. UNMAS is also supporting the FGS in weapons and ammunition management in line with sanctions obligations under the partial lifting of the arms embargo.
- Humanitarian Mine Action: UNMAS supports the protection of civilians in contaminated areas by coordinating humanitarian mine action activities such as survey, clearance and risk education. Since 2015, UNMAS has supported the development of civilian-led clearance efforts along the Somali border with Ethiopia. Additionally, UNMAS has been working with Somali authorities to develop a national action to assist survivors of explosive hazards.