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Ethiopia Comes Under Pressure to Ratify Landmine Treaty

The Ethiopian government is under increasing pressure to ratify an international convention banning the manufacture and use of landmines.

Ethiopia and Somalia are the only two sub-Saharan African countries that have not ratified the 1997 Ottawa Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

Altogether 141 countries have ratified the convention, which requires states to clear all minefields and destroy their landmine stockpiles within specified deadlines.

Delegates meeting for the East African landmines Workshop in Kenya this week talked about the landmine situation in Ethiopia, and called on the Horn of African country to ratify the convention.

The research coordinator of the Kenya Coalition Against landmines, Mereso Agina, explained why the delegates are pushing for Ethiopia to come on board. "Ethiopia is mine-affected, heavily," said the coordinator. "[Ratifying the convention] shows that they have also moved the extra step by ratifying and that they have good faith, and that they report on their transparency."

Canada's ambassador for Mine Action, Ross Hynes, is scheduled to travel to Ethiopia next week to try to convince the government to sign the landmine agreement. Canada has also asked Kenya to encourage its neighbor to ratify the convention.

An official of Ethiopia's ministry of foreign affairs, Solomon Abede, said the situation could soon change. "I'm sure that Ethiopia is going to ratify it soon," he said.

He said he has no details on when that might be or what he expects will happen in the talks next week with the Canadian envoy.

According to a report presented in this week's workshop, there were 44 new landmine victims last year in Ethiopia. There is also a center where the names and details of landmine victims are recorded, and a support network for landmine survivors, as well as a program to teach Ethiopians how to spot and avoid landmines.