The 2005 peace accord that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war has enhanced efforts to rid the vast African nation of landmines that continue to indiscriminately kill and maim decades after they are laid, a senior United Nations official said.
Significant strides have been made in removing both mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), or unexploded bombs, said Maxwell Kerley, Director of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which has been operating in Sudan since 2002.
“I believe that the overall achievement in mine action can be attributed to the
implementation of the CPA,” he said, referring to the pact that brought an end to more than two decades of fighting between southern separatists and the national government in the north in which at least 2 million people were killed and 4 million others uprooted.
Despite the difficult operating environment in Juba, southern Sudan, more than one third of the nearly 1500 so-called ‘dangerous areas’ have been closed, while in Blue Nile State, UNMAS and its partners have helped to open 13 000 kilometres of routes, allowing for socio-economic development and the movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in formerly contaminated areas.
Kerley also noted the progress made by mine risk education projects. The educational component helps to curb the risk of death and injury to people living in contaminated areas, and “as a result, fatality rates have declined as community members are better able to keep themselves safe.”
Equally important are victim assistance projects, which empower survivors of landmines through job training and the provision of equipment to help them open their own businesses, he said. “In this sense, UNMAS is trying its best to support these landmine survivors and also encouraging national authorities to integrate them into the overall support system towards people with disabilities.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is slated to attend this week’s African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he plans to tell the continent’s leaders that “the international community must work together” in Sudan to ensure that the CPA is fully implemented.
Nearly 17 million people across the country are estimated to register to vote in the April multi-party election, which represents a key milestone in the CPA, signed by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan.