Africa: landmines still pose serious threat; According to the UN, "sub-Saharan Africa is the most heavily mined region in the world", but five African countries have still not signed the treaty banning such weapons. Campaigners want them to do so now, reports Peter Moszynski.

Author:Moszynski, Peter
Position:Around Africa
 
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Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Somalia--the only five African countries yet to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction--have come under pressure to sign up at a conference held in Nairobi, Kenya; 29 Nov-3 Dec.

The Nairobi Review Conference on a Mine Free World aims to draw attention to the particular menace that landmines pose to Africa. Campaigners are already celebrating the seventh anniversary of the Convention, and Wolfgang Petritsch, the Austrian ambassador to the UN and chair of the Nairobi meeting, has called on the five African countries yet to sign to do so in order to send a signal to the rest of the world that they are serious about combating the deadly effects of landmines.

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Petritsch's call came amid warnings from campaigners that despite the progress made so far, there is no room for complacency. Signed in 1997 in Ottawa, Canada, the Convention is the first of its kind to ban an entire class of weapons.

It is also remarkable in that it was a civil society initiative started by a coalition comprising the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the Red Cross and a variety of NGOs, including Handicap International and Human Rights Watch.

The Convention was first signed on 18 September 1997 and came into force in March 1999. To date, 103 countries have signed up in addition to the original 40, with the notable exception of the US, Russia and China.

The ICBL warns that despite success in achieving a ban, "a global mine crisis remains and there is still a lot to be done before we live in a mine-free world". It is estimated that each year between 15,000 and 20,000 new casualties are caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Jody Williams, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told New African: "Part of the reason the international community embraced the idea of the ban was because a solution seemed do-able. By working together, it is possible to clean up the landmine mess. What seems more of a challenge is a serious commitment to really meet more than the immediate needs of landmine survivors."

In Africa, unexploded landmines pose a...

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