Humanitarian Disarmament in DR Congo
NPA has been working with manual clearance, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) spot tasks, risk education and impact assessment in DRC since 2011.
In 2013 the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre invited NPA and other mine action operators and local NGOs to participate in the National Landmine Contamination Survey (NLCS). When the NLCS results were released in February 2014, a total of 130 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) were reported with a size of 1,823,292 m2, which after verification was corrected to 2,126,763 m2. In 2018 NPA released 221,960 m2 of land previously contaminated with landmines and other explosives remnants of war (ERW). As per February 2019, the number of remaining SHAs nationwide is 39 with a total size of less than 600,000 m2, equivalent to 120 football pitches.
NPA DRC was established in August 2011. Through the rest of that year, NPA trained personnel from the national army and police in non-technical survey (NTS), technical survey (TS), clearance and information management (IM). The same year, a country office was established in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC.
Operational activities started in February 2012, after having obtained operational accreditation in December 2011. The first operations were carried out in Bas Congo province in south-west where NPA deployed all operational assets, recorded relevant contamination information and gradually eliminated threats of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as operations proceeded through clearance and land release.
All operational activities are undertaken in close collaboration and coordination with the Congolese mine action centre (CCLAM) from where NPA receives information on SHAs and applies for tasking orders. The collaboration also comprises provision of capacity development support to CCLAM, including supply of office facilities, data base management and training. Operations are managed by highly skilled national and expatriate staff with mine action experience from different terrain and types of contamination in DRC and abroad. The programme has impact assessment and IM capacities constantly monitoring the impact of field operations.
Until March 2019, the operational teams will work in South Ubangi province in north-west, and from April they will continue to the north-central province of Tshopo. To conform with its province-by-province approach, NPA will seek additional funding to extend operations towards the east, with the purpose of ultimately declaring DRC free of all known landmines before 31st December 2020.
NPA Country Programme
In comparison with the quantity of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXOs) found, landmines are rare in DRC. Landmines have not been used following typical military doctrine with tactic minefields but in a more random fashion with only one or few mines in most areas.
Cluster munition (CM) has been used during the conflicts in DRC and the presence of CM has been reported in the provinces of Katanga (around Kabalo), Maniema (around Kindu), Tshopo (around Kisangani) and Equateur (around Bolomba), which was cleared by NPA in April 2017 as the last known CM-contaminated area in country. According to UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), two types of cluster munitions have been reported to date, namely BL 755 and PM-1. The scale of residual contamination from unexploded submunitions still needs to be quantified.
ERW are much more common than mines in the DRC. Often SHAs suspected and reported to contain mines do not contain mines but rather UXOs and AXO (commonly reported as ERW). These are often buried and requires subsurface detection and excavation prior to removal and destruction. AXO is comparably more common than UXO and constitute a country-wide problem with new contamination since November 2013 when the national army and the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) forced the armed group of M23 to retreat, leaving behind large quantities of AXO in North Kivu.
In March 2013, NPA became the first organization to declare a province in the DRC mine-free.
NPAs programme in DRC was almost exclusively started up by NPAs national staff from Angola.
NPA is currently in the process of surveying ammunition storage facilities sin DRC in order to provide a recommendation to authorities on which facilities are at high risk for unplanned explosion.
The “NPA method” for survey is being used by both national and international operators in the DRC.