Mine Action

Last updated: 27 November 2015

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline: 1 March 2016
(Not on track to meet deadline)

As of end October 2015, Senegal had still not reported on the extent of any land release in 2014.

Recommendations for action

  • Senegal should complete non-technical survey, as soon as possible and where security allows it, to establish a more complete and accurate estimate of its mine threat.
  • Senegal should prioritize clearance and technical survey in areas readily accessible, and with credible evidence of a mine threat.
  • Senegal should take appropriate actions to improve transparency and dialogue between all actors involved in land release operations, as well as to restore confidence among donors and international operators in its mine action program.
  • Senegal should provide regular and detailed reports of its clearance efforts and results, indicating, in particular, square meters cleared per year, the number of mines found and destroyed, and the number of mined areas released. 


The Republic of Senegal has still to establish an accurate assessment of the extent of its mine contamination. As of June 2015, Senegal had identified 52 confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) containing mines covering 478,328m2, and a further 12 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) containing mines, the extent of which has not been defined. Survey was said to be still required in 216 localities covering 1.6km2 to 2km2.[1]

Four of 45 departments (Bignona, Goudomp, Oussouye, and Ziguinchor) still contain CHAs or SHAs containing mines. The affected departments are located in the Casamance region of Senegal, between Gambia to the north and Guinea-Bissau to the south.

Mine contamination in Senegal is the result of more than 30 years of fighting between the armed forces and a non-state armed group, the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance, MFDC). Sporadic fighting with some factions of the MFDC has continued despite a cease-fire in place since 2004.

Mine contamination is said to pose a great risk to local residents, seriously hindering the social and economic development of Casamance, and limiting access to agricultural land.[2] In August 2014, seven people were killed and three were injured when a cart rolled over a mine in the department of Bignona.[3] 

Program Management

The National Commission for the Implementation of the Ottawa Convention serves as the national mine action authority for Senegal. Demining operations in Casamance are coordinated by the Senegalese National Mine Action Centre (Centre National d’Action Antimines, CNAMS). Regional mine action coordination committees have been established in Kolda, Sédhiou, and Ziguinchor departments.[4]

Sporadic international technical assistance was provided to the program by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in 2008–2014, in particular through a technical or chief technical advisor. In May 2012, however, Senegal said that “slowness in the procedures of certain partners” had “significantly delayed the initiation and conduct of projects.”[5] 

Strategic planning

Senegal’s national mine action strategy for 2007–2015 set clearance of contaminated areas as a key objective, though without providing a clear workplan with annual benchmarks or a specific timeline. It also lists prioritization criteria for clearance operations. 

Senegal’s latest Article 5 deadline extension request submitted in June 2015 included plans for survey and clearance in 2016–2020. The request projects that remaining non-technical survey in the 216 localities would be carried in 2016–2017, though without explaining how the insecurity reported in 111 of these areas, which is said to have prevented survey activities from being conducted in previous years, would be overcome. 

Concerning technical survey and clearance, the plan projects that:

  • In January 2016–June 2017: operations would be conducted in Goudomp.
  • In October–December 2016: operations would be conducted in Oussouye.
  • In October 2016–December 2018: operations would be conducted in Ziguinchor.
  • In October 2016–June 2020: operations would be conducted in Bignona.


Handicap International (HI) remained the sole international demining operator in Senegal, until mid-2012 when new clearance capacities were added with the arrival of Mechem and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). In 2014, however, NPA withdrew from Senegal as a result of “government-imposed limitations on demining activities,” which had prevented it from deploying demining resources where the necessary clearance could be done safely, and from undertaking non-technical survey in areas believed to be contaminated but which had not been surveyed.[6] The withdrawal was followed by loss of funding from the European Union, Germany, and Norway.[7] 

Senegal reported that during 2014, demining operators were deployed along the national road 6 (RN6), with HI undertaking non-technical survey and Mechem conducting clearance.[8] As of June 2015, Senegal’s clearance capacities remained considerably limited. HI was only carrying out non-technical survey, risk education, and victim assistance, whereas Mechem’s deminers were on “lay-off” since November 2014 awaiting new assignments.[9] In June 2015, Mamady Gassama, working for the Landmine Victims Association in Senegal, was quoted saying that “there are no technical surveys, non-technical surveys, nor concrete demining activities ongoing on the ground.”[10]

In July 2015, HI Senegal informed NPA that a 14-month project, including non-technical and technical survey, and clearance as well as mine risk education, would be initiated “in the coming weeks.”[11] 

Land Release

Senegal did not report on the extent of any land release in 2014.

In 2014, HI conducted non-technical survey along the RN6, identifying 17 paths as SHAs containing mines, over a total length of 17,070m, and nine other SHAs covering 22,694m2. Surveyors also identified 29 abandoned villages containing at least one SHA near the RN6.[12]

Deminer safety

In March 2013, clearance operations were progressing rapidly as a consequence of the new demining capacity brought by Mechem and NPA. As they approached MFDC-controlled areas, a faction of the rebel group publicly called for a halt to humanitarian demining on the ground that clearance teams had reached a “red line beyond which operators’ safety could not be guaranteed.”[13] On 3 May 2013, armed men kidnapped 12 deminers working for Mechem in the village of Kaïlou (Ziguinchor department). All were released safely, although nine were held for 70 days.

As a result of the incident, the government ordered a halt to all survey and clearance activities, a suspension that lasted until November 2013.[14] To help ensure deminer safety, Senegal assigned a national contact committee to meet MFDC leaders and discuss, among a number of topics, the areas that could safely be cleared on a case-by-case basis. Whenever a specific agreement is reached, the CNAMS claims to issue task orders for that area.[15]

Inconsistency in clearance task orders since 2013

Since the resumption of clearance operations in November 2013, Mechem, operating as a demining operator with funds administered by UNDP, has been tasked to clear sections of the main trunk road, the RN6, and a dozen laterite quarries used in a project to renovate the RN6.[16] While the task orders have been criticized as they assign clearance assets to areas not known to be affected by mines, Senegal has cited its politico-security situation to justify deployment of its clearance assets in areas where the safety of its demining teams could be guaranteed.[17]

According to HI, when tasks orders were given in November 2013, only one polygon crossed by the RN6 in Sindone Lagoua (20km from Ziguinchor) was recorded as an SHA in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) database, and the quarries had never been recorded as SHAs or CHAs.[18] In 2014, HI identified the 17 suspected paths referred to above and the nine SHAs during non-technical survey operations along the RN6.[19] 

Additionally, reports indicated that considerable mine contamination may lie in unmarked minefields around former and active Senegalese military bases.[20] But since the resumption of clearance operations and even though most of the military bases can be readily accessed—as they are under the control of the Senegalese armed forces—they have not been cleared or considered as a priority for demining operations. Some areas are confirmed as contaminated, areas such as the village of Djirack, in which operations are planned to start only in 2016. Others remain as either SHAs, or as credible, if unrecorded and unconfirmed reports of contamination by local populations, such as in Badème, Basséré, Kouring, and Santhiaba Mandjack.[21] Some clearance around military installations were carried out by HI in 2007–2012 in Darsalam and Gonoum, during which 177 antipersonnel mines were destroyed in cooperation with the Senegalese armed forces, and by Mechem in 2013 in Mpack, during which 136 antipersonnel mines were destroyed (representing all the mines found that year).[22]

Article 5 Compliance 

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the seven-year extension granted by States Parties in 2008), Senegal is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2016. Senegal is not on track to meet its deadline. In June 2015, it requested five additional years to comply with its survey and clearance obligations.

Senegal reported release of about 730,725m2 and the destruction of 383 mines in 2008–2013. Most of these results were achieved between February 2012 and May 2013 with 548,137m2 cleared, representing three-quarters of the total, and 259 mines destroyed.[23]

Senegal had repeatedly asserted its intention not to seek a second extension period and to complete clearance within its deadline, most recently in June 2014.[24] Nevertheless, on 20 June 2015, Senegal submitted a request to extend its Article 5 clearance deadline until March 2020.[25] Senegal noted as circumstances impeding compliance with its international legal obligations general insecurity, MFDC reticence to agree to demining operations, the eight-month suspension of operations in 2013, ongoing concerns over deminer safety, and a decrease in technical and financial resources in recent years.[26] Furthermore, Senegal has noted that security conditions and lack of funding could affect its ability to complete clearance in a timely manner.[27] The new extension request was to be considered at the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties in November–December 2015.

The lack of land release and concrete political will to address its mine problem, and as a consequence, the inadequate use of clearance capacities, have prevented Senegal from fulfilling its Article 5 obligations. This led to withdrawal of a major operator and the loss of financial support from key donors, explaining in part the sharp reduction in its clearance capacities. Indeed, while Senegal recorded a significant increase in clearance productivity in 2012–2013, the way CNAMS has allocated tasks after the 2013 kidnapping has been criticized for directing resources and clearance assets to areas without credible risk of mine contamination, while requests from operators to conduct survey prior to deploying clearance assets were denied.[28]

The elaboration of a five-year work plan for 2016–2020, although late in coming, is encouraging. However, questions remain regarding its implementation. Senegal has regularly indicated that all demining operations would be conducted within the framework of the ongoing peace talks and would first be approved by the MFDC in meetings with Senegalese officials. In that context, in 2015, talks between an MFDC faction (Front Sud) and Senegal were reportedly underway concerning the restarting of demining in at least seven villages in Nyassia (Ziguinchor department). The process was, though, interrupted following clashes between the Front Sud and the Senegalese Army in April 2015.[29] With no changes in the situation on the ground, it is doubtful that the clearance roadmap provided could be followed.

Moreover, survey activities are planned to start in 2016 even though more than half of the concerned areas are said to be inaccessible due to insecurity. Senegal has not provided details on whether or not the conditions in some of these areas have changed and if surveyors can effectively access them.

[1] Second Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, June 2015.

[2] Matthieu Millecamps, “Sénégal: en Casamance les mines font encore des victimes” (“Senegal: landmines are still claiming victims in Casamance”), TV5 Monde, 2 February 2015; and Handicap International (HI), “Senegal: country situation,” undated.

[3]Sénégal: sept morts et trois blessés dans l’explosion d’une mine en Casamance” (“Senegal: seven dead and three injured in mine explosion in Casamance”), Jeune Afrique, 17 August 2014.

[4] These committees meet three times in a year in Ziguinchor, and twice a year in Sédhiou and Kolda, bringing together local authorities, civil society, and NGO operators to coordinate demining activities.

[5] Statement of Senegal, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 21 May 2012.

[6] NPA, “Humanitarian Disarmament in Senegal,” undated; and K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[7] NPA, “Humanitarian Disarmament in Senegal,” undated; and K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[8] Interview with Col. Barham Thiam, CNAMS, in Geneva, 22 June 2015.

[9] HI, “Senegal: ongoing actions,” undated; H. Sagna, “Déminage humanitaire en Casamance: les négociations et les opérations toujours au point mort” (“Humanitarian demining in Casamance: negotiations and operations still deadlocked”), Enquête+, 17 June 2015.

[10] H. Sagna, “Humanitarian demining in Casamance: negotiations and operations still deadlocked,” Enquête+, 17 June 2015.

[11] Emails from Nicolas Charpentier, Senegal Programme Director, HI, 6 July 2015, and 8 July 2015.

[12] Ibid., 6 July 2015.

[13] Joint Press Release from MFDC, CNAMS, Geneva Call, the Sao Domingos Prefect, and APRAN-SDP, 20 March 2013.

[14] Interview with Col. Barham Thiam, CNAMS, in Geneva, 1 April 2014.

[15] Email from Col. Thiam, CNAMS, 13 May 2014.

[16] HI, “Déminage Humanitaire en Casamance: progression du processus de remise à disposition des terres” (“Humanitarian demining in Casamance: progress in land release”), April 2014; and K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[17] Email from Col. Thiam, CNMAS, 13 May 2014.

[18] HI, “Humanitarian demining in Casamance: progress in land release,” April 2014.

[19] Email from Nicolas Charpentier, HI, 6 July 2015.

[20] K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Email from Luc Sambou, Mine Coordinator, HI, 8 May 2014; and K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[23] Second Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, June 2015, pp. 11–13.

[24] Statement of Senegal, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, High-Level Segment, 27 June 2014.

[25] Second Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, June 2015.

[26] Ibid., p. 22.

[27] Ibid., p. 28.

[28] K. Millett, “Clearance and Compliance in Casamance: is Senegal doing all it should?” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 7 April 2014.

[29] H. Sagna, “Humanitarian demining in Casamance: negotiations and operations still deadlocked,” Enquête+, 17 June 2015.