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Report Says Africa Most Affected By Mines


A report by an anti-landmine group says there are more countries with landmines and unexploded ammunition in Africa than on any other continent.

The report issued this week by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines says there are mine fields and areas with abandoned ammunition in 23 African countries. The report says such explosives caused injuries and deaths last year in 21 of the countries.

Here in Nairobi, the coordinator of the Kenya Coalition Against Landmines, Mereso Agina, told VOA Friday an estimated one-hundred-and-ten-million landmines are planted in African soil. "But in reality, nobody will ever know how many mines were put on the ground," he said. "I think what we are [concerned about] is the acreage that cannot be utilized because of landmines."

Ms. Agina says in countries such as Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan, people cannot farm or even walk on huge tracts of land for fear of detonating landmines. She says one landmine can block access to up to eight hectares of land.

Ms. Agina says more than half of the estimated 15 to 20,000 people who die from landmines each year are in Africa. She explains why Africa is what the report calls the most mine-affected continent in the world. "I think the major reason why there are landmines is because of civil wars, and there have been many of those in Africa. You end one, you have another one beginning," he said.

The report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines says some African governments have continued to use landmines even after promising not to. It says the Angolan and Ethiopian governments have acknowledged that they used landmines several years ago, after they signed the international Mine Ban Treaty.

The report also says there were allegations that Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan had done the same. And the report cites what it calls "serious and credible allegations" that the Ugandan government used landmines several years ago after it had signed and ratified the accord, and been certified by the organization.

Forty-six of sub-Saharan Africa's 48 countries are members of the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention. The document was finalized in 1997 in an effort to prevent the production, transfer, storage and use of landmines around the world. Somalia has yet to sign the treaty, and Ethiopia has signed but not yet become a full member.

According to the report, rebels and other groups have also regularly used landmines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda.

The report was published a little more than a week before the Nairobi Summit for a Mine-Free World, which opens on November 29.

The summit will bring together heads of state, government ministers, activists, non-government organizations, and others to review the treaty, and discuss ways help victims of landmines.

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