1. It is estimated that some 100,000 km ² of Western Sahara may be affected by a large number of mines and unexploded ammunition (UXOs). The risk is greatest east of the Berm, especially in the areas of Mehaires, Tifariti and Bir Lahlou where the Royal Moroccan Army (RMA) conducted offensive operations in August-September 1991. The dangerous result is, among others, scattered cluster bombs, still active in these areas.
2. Each year the two parties and the civilian population and livestock suffer injuries and casualties due to mine- and UXO-related accidents. MINURSO had three mine-related accidents in the 90’s. UN Military Observers (UNMOs) are still subject to daily risk as mines, UXOs and tracks are moving due to shifting sands and flooding.
3. In 1999 MINURSO signed Military Agreements #2 and #3 with the RMA and the Frente POLISARIO (FPOL) on the marking of mines and UXOs and the exchange of information. On an almost daily basis MINURSO patrols see mines and UXOs. They mark them and put the information into our database and exchange the information with the parties and relevant NGOs.
4. On the RMA side there has been destruction of mines and UXOs whereas destruction activities on the FPOL side have so far been limited. The RMA still have a large number of unmarked and unfenced mines placed in front of the Berm.
5. MINURSO considers the issue of mines and UXOs very important for the local population, the two parties and the safety of its own personnel. It is a main priority for MINURSO to reduce the risk through various activities. The two parties are in support. The FPOL signature of the Geneva Call “Deed” against the future use of landmines and the destruction of stockpiles is a very positive recent development. In February 2006 MINURSO witnessed the destruction of the first 3100 personnel mines in Tifariti.
6. MINURSO present and future activities to reduce the risk of landmines and UXOs in Western Sahara include the following:
(i) The marking of mines and UXOs, updating the database and cooperation and exchange of information with the two parties;
(ii) The production of maps for safe movement and mine-UXO-maps through the establishment of a MINURSO Geographic Information Support (GIS) cell;
(iii) Marking of safe tracks;
(iv) Work with the RMA to destroy or fence and mark all mines and UXOs close to the Berm or west of the berm;
(v) Cooperation with the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in New York to have a UK-based NGO (Landmine Action, LMA) conducting mine- and UXO-clearing, initially east of the Buffer Strip. LMA began working in August 2006 and has been granted funds for 11-12 months of operations;
(vi) The establishment of a Mine Action Coordinator post in the MINURSO Mission Headquarters;
(vii) Mine awareness training and campaigns for the local population, including populations in the refugee camps in the Tindouf area. We plan to develop and participate in a regional mine awareness campaign in cooperation with UNDP and UNICEF;
(viii) Work with partners, the RMA, FPOL, the Governments of Mauritania and Morocco and interested NGOs to reduce the risk in Western Sahara and in border regions;
(ix) Improve our casualty evacuation system, day and night.
7. While keeping the peace, MINURSO’s aims to make Western Sahara and border areas a safer place for all, thereby leaving a lasting and positive reminder of the UN presence in Western Sahara.