UNMAS looking to make CAR mine-free

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Mines, whether anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, are unwanted remnants of conflict and war scattered widely around the world.

The UN Mine Action Service (MAS) is visible proof of the world body’s mine action strategy for a world free of the threat of mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

One of its many programmes is in Central African Republic (CAR) where the focus is on training security forces and encouraging professional development of its local personnel.

Since the establishment of the UNMAS programme in 2014, UNMAS has been proactive in supporting capacity development. This approach allows national expertise to be built in weapons and ammunition management (WAM) in the country, in this instance CAR with similar operations elsewhere in the world.

Mine action expertise, particularly WAM and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) expertise, is limited. UNMAS focuses on developing the strength and sustainability engaging in short and long term capacity building of its national workforce. The strategy recruits national personnel with some knowledge and then provides with the necessary skills through coaching, specialised training and on-the-job experience.

In support of UN gender guidelines for mine action programmes, UNMAS promotes equal rights of men and women emphasising gender inclusion. Women make up 42% of UNMAS personnel in CAR.

Upon arrival in a country such as CAR, specialised development plans are established, ensuring the required technical knowledge in mine action is imparted to CAR nationals joining the local UNMAS programme.  This saw Asnath Konate, Louisa Nambona and Joelle Pipa-Leka awarded certificates of competence in weapons and ammunition management (WAM) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). Konate was the first Central African woman to become EOD level 3 qualified. The capacity-building of national staff in this technical field of expertise contributes to the sustainability of mine action activities conducted by UNMAS in CAR.

Challenges ahead for UNMAS in CAR are a lack of financial resources for specialised training and trained personnel acquiring “operational immersion experience” through field operations of UNMAS programmes with different mandates.