09 September 2009

Regional meeting on landmines opens today in Pretoria

Pretoria, 9 September 2009 -- African Union members must step up their efforts towards ridding the continent of landmines and fully respecting the rights of landmine survivors, said the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, today at the opening of a regional meeting on the issue.

The Third Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines (9-11 September) brings together all AU members, international organizations involved in mine action, and African ICBL activists.More than half of the African states are contaminated with mines or explosive remnants of war. All those that are parties to the Mine Ban Treaty must clear all antipersonnel landmines on their territory "as soon as possible", but no later than ten years after joining the treaty. Chad, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zimbabwe had mine clearance deadlines in 2009, and were recently granted deadline extensions ranging from 14 months for Chad to seven years for Senegal. Uganda failed to meet its 1 August 2009 deadline and requested a three-year extension last month.

"Affected communities living in daily fear of landmines have waited long enough. States must finish the mine clearance job. It can be done if the political will is there," said Boubine Touré, of the Senegal Campaign to Ban Landmines.The ICBL calls on AU states to fully include mine survivors and their organizations in the development, implementation and monitoring of disability plans and national laws, as they are the ones who know best what they need.

"Governments have been making promises to mine survivors ever since the Mine Ban Treaty came into being ten years ago, but most mine survivors are still waiting for those promises to come true. Mine survivors and other persons with disabilities are still among the poorest of the poor, and struggle to access medical care, psychological support, and economic opportunities. States are supposed to clear mines within ten years and to destroy stockpiles within four years, but assisting mine survivors must be a lifelong commitment," said Margaret Arach Orech, a mine survivor herself, ICBL Ambassador and founder of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association. With only four states not party to the Mine Ban Treaty, Africa has one of the world's highest adherence rates.

"Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Somalia must embrace the worldwide ban on landmines as soon as possible. We would like to see them take interim steps towards a total mine ban, such as starting to destroy their stockpiles of antipersonnel mines, engaging seriously in mine clearance, and supporting mine survivors. Egypt, in particular, should formally ban the production of landmines forever," said Ayman Sorour, who sits on the ICBL's management committee and is the head of Protection, the Egyptian arm of the ICBL.

The Third Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines will focus on clearance of mined areas, victim assistance, and securing a common African position on landmines. The conference is part of a series of regional meetings convened in the lead-up to the Mine Ban Treaty's Second Review Conference, which will take place in Cartagena, Colombia in the week of 30 November 2009.

Additional information and interviews

Arabic: Ayman Sorour, Protection (Egypt), mobile +33 6 76 19 69 84 - English and Portuguese: Robert Mtonga, Zambia Campaign to Ban Landmines, mobile +260 977842922 - French: Boubine Touré, Senegal Campaign to Ban Landmines, mobile +221 775637648


The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, requires destruction of mines already in the ground within 10 years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines. There are currently 156 States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, including all African states except Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Somalia. Western Sahara, an African Union member, is not eligible to join the Mine Ban Treaty as it is not recognized by the United Nations. More than half of the African states are contaminated with mines or explosive remnants of war: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Western Sahara is also contaminated. Egypt is the only African state with antipersonnel landmine production facilities.

The ICBL, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, is a global network in over 70 countries, working for a world free of landmines and cluster munitions.