22 October 2012
“As a survivor, I was highly determined to engage myself to the best of my knowledge to work for my fellow survivors, assist them at my capacity and also work for the eradication of the landmines worldwide.” – Bekele Gonfa, EthiopiaIn the second week of ICBL’s 20th Anniversary celebrations, we speak to Bekele Gonfa from Ethiopia, a country affected by landmines. Bekele is a Victim Assistance Focal Point and is Technical Advisor of a local NGO called YYGM which is currently implementing a Survivors Network Project (SNP) with a grant from the ICBL-CMC. He was Country Director for Landmine Survivors Network (later Survivor Corps) between 2003-2009. Bekele continues to work tirelessly to assist the rehabilitation of survivors, families and entire communities throughout Ethiopia.
Why and how did you get involved with the ICBL?I got involved in 2003 when I was appointed as Ethiopian Country Director for Survivor Corps (formerly Landmine Survivors Network), which is an active member of the ICBL.What is your most memorable moment with the ICBL?I had a lot of many memorable times over the last decade with ICBL but just to site one, the First Review Conference where I met many campaigners from all over the world which created in me a big moral boost. I felt that there are many campaigners in the world who are champions in working for the rights of survivors and also working towards eradication of the deadly weapon, the landmine, from the world. It was since then that I rolled up my sleeves and promised to myself to be committed for this noble idea. As a survivor, I was highly determined to engage myself to the best of my knowledge to work for my fellow survivors, assist them at my capacity and also work for the eradication of the landmines worldwide. What changes have you seen in your country? What impact has your campaign had? Mines are almost clear from heavily mined areas and only remain at the Ethiopia – Somalia boarder. As the result of the campaign and with the political will of the government the Ethiopia government ratified the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) in 2004 and is making the treaty reality. On the other hand it has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2010 and support for mine victims and people with disabilities are increasing. The government has set a ten year action plan and there many issues that are being practically based on the CRPD and the Cartagena Action plan.What would you like to see happening in your country in the next 5, 10 years? What do you want to call on your government to do?I would like my country to completely finish the mine clearances and turn the whole land be ready to be cultivated by its citizen with no fear of the explosives within the coming 5 years. I would also like the survivors problem be addressed and that they become active and productive citizens of the society within the coming 10 years. For that International cooperation is needed to enhance both for the government and the civil society.Bekele’s own landmine accident: Bekele fell victim to a landmine explosion while serving in in the Ethiopian Armed Forces. His accident resulted in the amputation of his left leg and his painful rehabilitation took 11 months. You can read more about Bekele’s life in this article from 2011 in the Journal of ERW and Mine Action.