The Japanese government has donated $5.2 million to the Libyan government to fund the clearance of weapons, munitions and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) from the time of the Libyan civil war that deposed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The donation was made through the United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and will fund its ‘Support to Battle Area Clearance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal’ programme. According to the Libyan Herald, the programme will start in April this year and run until March 2015.
Through the programme, UNSMIL wants to step up the clearance and disposal of explosive remnants of war, unsecured munitions and weapons in the localities of Hun, Suknah and Waddan. The localities were scenes of heavy fighting and were mined extensively by both government forces and the militias who fought them.
The clearance of explosive remnants of war in Libya has been slow owing to serious shortfalls in funding and general insecurity across the country, which remains awash with firearms.
Last year, the Japanese government donated $1.8 million to fund de-mining operations under the UNSMIL ‘Support to Battle Area Clearance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal’ project while Norwegian People’s Aid also donated funds to support the activities of ‘Mine Action and Capacity Building in Libya’.
However, the Libyan Mine Action Centre (LMAC) has warned that the future of weapons and munitions clearance in Libya remains uncertain due to funding shortfalls amounting to $19.7 million. According to the centre, international organisations and local non-governmental organisations cleared 14 152 828 square metres since the end of the war in October 2011 but much more needs to be done before the threat can be contained.
The cleared areas include the cities of Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte which were classified as ‘highly contaminated’ with landmines and unexploded ordnance at the end of the war. According to NGO Handicap International which is involved in the Libyan mine clearance effort, more than 100 000 items of unexploded remnants war were cleared from the three cities in 2013.
The munitions included 5 000 rockets, 9 000 mortars, a GRAD rocket, 70 000 projectiles, cluster munitions, landmines and tons of propellants. During Gaddafi’s reign, Libya acquired a huge stockpile of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines from external sources and these were later used extensively by army the during the February to October 2011 war.
At least seven different types of landmines are known to have been used in Libya during the war, including anti-personnel and anti-vehicle minds from Brazil, China, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Although most of the landmines and munitions targeted by UN programmes in Libya today date back to the war in 2011, the country is still awash with landmines dating back to the Second World War.
There are also landmines present in fields planted by the Libyan Army during the inter-state wars against Egypt in 1977 and against Chad between 1980 and 1987.
In its last update on the progress of the de-mining process in October last year, the UN Mine Action Service said more than 768 642 mines and ERW had been cleared and destroyed across Libya since March 2011. Further, the organisation said 186 000 Libyans have received risk education to help them to live safely with the threat of ER but inadequate funding remains the key impediment to progress.
“Funding is the key impediment to progress, with a perception that the Libyan government is in a position to finance arms and ammunition related issues. This is not yet the case and funding is needed urgently. $8.1 million is required to conduct a country-wide assessment of the ERW threat, which would allow establish the scope and extent of the threat.
“Without requisite financial support to cover current requirements amounting to $19.7 million for the remainder of 2013, Libya will continue to be destabilized by the presence of unexploded ordnance, unsecured ammunition and uncontrolled weapons systems,” the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said.