AU marks mine awareness day


Today (4 April) is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, intended worldwide to “serve as a reminder of the danger this weapon that lies buried for years and decades after a war, poses”.

The quote is by Bankole Adeoye, African Union (AU) Commissioner when he addressed the continental body’s peace and security council on Friday.

He noted “AU member states were actively involved” in adopting the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty in 1997 part of the global effort to address the “devastating effects of anti-personnel mines as an indiscriminate weapon”. Subsequent to the treaty coming into force, the first meeting of countries party to it was held in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 1999 with Nairobi in Kenya hosting the first treaty review conference in December 2004.

This, according to an AU statement, was “in recognition that Africa as a continent was the most affected with landmines”.

Twenty-eight of 29 African countries who declared anti-personnel mine stockpiles have destroyed them.

On the debit side of the ledger, according to the statement, 14 African countries have “successfully cleared” areas contaminated with landmines out of a total of 25. The 2014 anti-personnel mine treaty review conference, also in Maputo, saw a commitment to clear contaminated areas by 2025 – “this shows there is still work to do” according to Adeoye.

This year the United Nations (UN) Mine Action Service (MAS) marks the day under the theme “Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home.”

The focus is on achievements of the global mine action community, starting with the work of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) – founded in 1992 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 – as well those of UN Member States since the Mine Ban Convention came into force in 1999 and on highlighting work still to be done.

The theme is explained in a UN statement.

“Safe Ground” is the name of the global campaign “turning minefields into playing fields,” launched by the then UN Secretary-General in 2019 with the concept of clearing landmines and other explosive hazards to make development safe.

“Safe Steps” brings attention to trepidation too many people experience when they move about, not knowing if they will detonate an explosive that could maim or kill them, a UN mine awareness day statement has it. “Safe Steps” describes procedures deminers use when approaching contaminated areas and includes application of new technology to safely remove explosive hazards.

“Safe Home” is about restoring personal security of individuals and communities in post-conflict settings. There is no place like home and it is difficult to feel at home without security and community.