Government sharpens sword to demine explosive war remnants

By William Madouk Garang 

Protracted civil war left landmines and unexploded bombs still litter vast areas in the country, posing threats to lives and livelihoods of South Sudanese nationwide.

This has forced the Cabinet to review the law governing the National Mine Action Authority on Friday, in a bid to strengthen mine-institution and be able to remove deadly detritus/debris of war.

According to UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) figures in 2021, a total of 1,404 people have been killed by landmines in recent years, including more than 250 children, and 3,730 have been maimed.

Addressing journalists shortly after Cabinet meeting last Friday, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro said they have considered the importance of the bill, thus the law would pave way for clearance of deadly war debris. 

“We [Cabinet] also discussed the bill or the law governing the National Mine Action Authority – that is the review of previous Act and the council easily considered that Authority,” Lomuro told reporters Friday.

“You know, the mine authority is very important. After a war the number of mines is another devastating military arsenals, that are now laying somewhere,” he noted.

Minister Dr. Lomuro said the law is going to encourage concerned institutions to embark on clearing mines and other disturbing military fragments to create favorable environment.  

On March this year, the National Mine Action Service (NMAS) said it had removed at least 45 explosive war remnants in the Hai-Referendum residential area in Juba.

The life-saving team stated that they discovered unexploded ordinances that had been buried under the ground during the liberation war.

NMAS – team leader for VTF (Voluntary Trust Fund), Joseph Deng said the project was aimed at safeguarding communities from war remnants, in which they had uncovered deadly war remnants in Hai-Referendum.

“We will be destroying 182HE mortar that was found during the team’s call out and was not safe to be removed and were to be destroyed in the place, however, we have so far removed over 45 explosive war remnants,” Deng said.

On his part, Zehrudin Sukanovic, Chief for Operation at UNMAS, said the project had enabled the national mine authority to justify that truly they could implement the kind of task of discovering war remnants independently.

“This is one of the sites that National Mine Action Service team has completed destroying 45 items, providing risks education to 1,362 beneficiaries” he said.

“We manage to implement capacity building project supporting national mine authority enabling their operation capacity which has given opportunity to national mine action to prove what they can do by themselves” he continued.

Since it began operations in South Sudan in 2004, UNMAS said it has cleared more than 90 sq. kms of minefields and battlefields and checked more than 1,000 sq. kms of suspect areas.

It has destroyed 39,920 mines, 76,010 cluster munitions and 972,354 other items of unexploded ordnance, and made safe thousands of schools, water points and health clinics, its website stated.

The weapons are a brutal legacy of decades of war — the long fight for statehood from Sudan, and the civil war that erupted just two years after the country declared independence in 2011.

The signed 2018 peace pact between President Salva Kiir and his deputy and main rival Dr. Riek Machar has ended bloodshed. However, holdout groups and armed forces still pose insecurity.

But complicating the UN’s clearance efforts, the remaining “contamination” zones are in the south, where the rebel National Salvation Front (NAS) — which did not sign up to the peace deal — operates and insecurity remains a serious problem.

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