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June 27, 2014

Angola Aims for a Mine-free World with Cambodia
Cambodian Mine Action Centre makes efforts to share its wisdom with other mine-ridden countries

From May 19 to 30, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre accepted trainees from the National Demining Institute of Angola and conducted comprehensive training on landmine countermeasures.

photoAngolan trainees visit a demining site located in Battambam bang, northwestern Cambodia.

After a civil war of over 20 years, Cambodia achieved a peace agreement in 1991. However, clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining inside the country is not easy, and the number of victims killed or injured by landmines had reached over 1,000 per year by 1999.

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) is a demining organization of the Cambodian government, established in 1992 to clear an enormous number of landmines and UXOs. With the aim of enhancing its organizational capacity, the Japan International Cooperation Agency comprehensively supported CMAC from 1999 to 2011 by providing equipment such as metal detectors and brush cutters, as well as by dispatching experts.

Removal of 2.3 million mines and UXOs

photoJICA Chief Representative Hiroshi Izaki, left, speaks at the opening of a training event for Angola, held in the headquarters of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre.

CMAC had destroyed some 2.3 million mines and UXOs by 2013. It has developed effective methods and systems to demine, with its own efforts and international assistance. To take advantage of such knowledge in countries that suffer from the same problems of landmines and UXOs, JICA, through CMAC, provided assistance from 2010 to 2011 to Colombia (1), where a large number of improvised mines that require a difficult removal process remain concentrated in rural areas, and beginning in 2012 to Laos, where one-third of the cluster bombs that were dropped during the Vietnam War still remain as UXOs. Now, Angola has become the third country to cooperate through training.

Although Angola, located in southwest Africa, ended a 27-year-long civil war with a peace agreement in 2002, the country remains contaminated with many landmines like Cambodia. They span over 1,985 communities (more than 1,000 square kilometers) out of its land of approximately 1.25 million square kilometers, threatening the safety of the residents and obstructing its development.

The government of Angola took the matter seriously and asked the Japanese government to provide technical cooperation to the National Demining Institute (INAD) of Angola. With that JICA decided to conduct capacity building of INAD by combining the dispatch of short-term Japanese experts in organizational improvement with South-South cooperation (2) by CMAC, which already had experience in cooperation with Columbia and Laos.

Moving together toward the extermination of mines

photoAngolan trainees observe a mine exhibition room in the CMAC office in Siem Reap. Manuel Dodo, director of Department of Operations. is in the center.

The training participants from INAD first received a lecture on the framework of demining; the process of selecting demining locations; the efficient combination of demining tools such as equipment, mine detection dogs and manual procedures; investigation methods; and the management of information systems and data, at the headquarters of CMAC in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

After that they visited a training center of CMAC in Kampong Chhnang, which is located a 90 minute drive away from Phnom Penh, and a central workshop that handles maintenance and management of equipment in Battambang, close to the border with Thailand, as well as observing activities in CMAC offices in each state and actual demining locations.


“INAD and CMAC have a common objective to clear all landmines in each country. Sharing CMAC’s experiences and information is extremely beneficial for us at INAD who started demining activities later” said Manuel Dodo, director of Department of Operations, a leader of the INAD team. “I only knew its history from books, but in our first visit I found the people to be warm-hearted and they showed us respect,” he added, giving his impression of Cambodia.

On the last day of the training, the participants from INAD suggested methods and skills they wanted to introduce. These included “methods of land release (3) through investigation and demining,” “recycling gunpowder from UXOs,” “linking demining and development” and “skills for underwater clearance.” Also, the participants from INAD were inspired by the facts that CMAC staff at the deminer level have multiple skills including IT, and that offices they visited in different provinces were operated based on standardized information from headquarters.

'Not as teachers'

photoINAD trainees listen to explanations by CMAC at a demining site in Battambang.

“When I first heard about the South-South cooperation with Angola, to be honest I was a little concerned about whether it would go well. However, when it actually happened, the participants from INAD were very proactive and we were able to carry on more fruitful discussions than expected. We at CMAC are not trained as educators, so we would like to share our experience with them not as teachers, but as a country that has the same problems of mines and UXOs,” said Oum Phmuro, deputy director general of CMAC, who visited Angola in February this year as the head of the CMAC delegation in preparation for this South-South cooperation.

Ung Raksmey, chief of international relations of CMAC, who has worked as a coordinator for all CMAC South-South cooperation with Columbia, Laos and now Angola, also felt the response was good. “Compared to the first two countries, INAD was proactive and many technical questions and comments were raised,” he said.

“Because JICA acted as a facilitator, we were able to connect with countries worldwide that suffer from landmines and UXOs. We are happy to share our experiences with those countries that have similar challenges. Every time we accept a new country, there is some bewilderment coming from cultural differences, but this kind of cooperation is also beneficial for CMAC,” he added.

For Angola, two more future training sessions are planned. The second training session, in October, is scheduled for the level of chief of brigades, and the third training session, at the beginning of the next year, is for directors in the headquarters and senior officials.

Landmines as an impediment to development that doesn’t exist in developed countries


photoWearing Cambodian scarves (karma), the trainees from the National Demining Institute hold course completion certificates and line up for a photo with members of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre and JICA staff and experts.

Usually, in developed countries that are on the side of providing assistance, there are no landmines that obstruct development. South-South cooperation between developing countries is more compelling because they both face mines as a real issue, and shared information and knowledge is actually being utilized in each country. Also, CMAC staff have not only gained confidence by communicating their experiences to other countries, but they also have significantly improved their own capacity.

JICA will continue to follow how the two organizations, CMAC and INAD, will change through this South-South cooperation.

Notes:

1. In Colombia, conflicts between government forces and armed group have been ongoing for over 40 years, with a large number of antipersonnel mines used. The country ranks third in the world (as of 2011) for the number of victims of mines and UXOs, following Afghanistan and Pakistan. Guerrilla organizations and others are still active, and that makes a full-scale demining difficult to implement.
2. A means of cooperation where a developing country provides assistance to another developing country.
3. In order to improve efficiency in demining, CMAC first conducts surveys through interviews. If it confirmed that no existence of landmines in the respected land, it is released (becomes available to use). For land suspected of being contaminated with landmines, CMAC takes technical survey using a metal detector and other equipment, and finally it takes demining actions only on the land confirmed as contaminated with landmines.

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