SA hosting anti-mine conference

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The Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the African Union are hosting the 3rd Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines in Pretoria from tomorrow until Friday.

The conference will be hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa, in collaboration with the AU and with the financial support of the European Union.

The conference will aim to provide an opportunity for African states to discuss the progress made in ensuring that Africa is truly a mine-free continent, the organisrs say.

It will also review the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, which entered into force into force in March 1999.

To date the Convention has 156 States Parties, including 49 of 53 African countries. Still to accede are Morocco, Libya, Egypt and lawless Somalia.

The Convention bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, and states that accede to it are obliged to destroy their stockpiles, clear landmine affected areas within a given timeframe and provide assistance to victims and survivors of landmine incidents.

The AU has previously convened two Continental Conferences of African Experts on Landmines: the first in Kempton Park, South Africa in May 1997, “Towards a Landmine-Free Africa” and the second in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September 2004, “Kempton Park – Seven Years After”.

A Review Conference typically is held every five years – the first one was held in 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya. A second Review Conference will take place this year (2009) from 30 November to 4 December in Cartagena, Colombia. The Second Review Conference will assess progress made since 2004 and develop new goals and action plans to put an “end, for all people, for all time, the suffering caused by anti-

The organisers, in a statement say that while the new use of anti-personnel mines is now rare, use was widespread in the colonial and then inter-state and intra-state wars that plagued much of Africa for the last three decades.

In addition, some landmine and UXO affected areas in Africa, notably in Libya and Egypt, date back to the Second World War.

“It is often civilians, international and African peacekeepers and outside observers who bear the brunt of these weapons in countries such as the DRC, Burundi, Sudan and Angola and along the border between Ethiopia/Eritrea.

“Although the importance of accurate figures is a matter for debate, most analysts agree that Africa is one of the regions most affected by the legacy of landmines and that the region contains some of the worlds most heavily mined countries, particularly Angola,” the statement adds.

“In some African mine-affected countries there are no conventional minefields but rather suspected mined areas. In many of Africa`s mine-affected countries, knowledge of the extent of the landmine problem, including the exact location of mined areas, is therefore inadequate.”

All African states have now indicated that they have fulfilled their obligations to destroy stockpiled anti-personnel mines, the statement adds.



Pic: A “HeroRAT” detects a TM57 antivehicle landmine.