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New Landmine Report Shows Progress Toward Eradication

Global use of landmines and the number of mine-related casualties have declined, according to a new report. The 7th annual report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines also says in 2004 nearly 400 million dollars was spent worldwide on mine clearing and 135 square kilometers of land were cleared of mines. Nevertheless, some 15 to 20 thousand people are still maimed or killed by landmines or unexploded ordnance each year.

Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch is a member of the Campaign to Ban Landmines. From Algiers, he told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua that progress is being made in just about all areas to eradicate the weapons.

“We see that use is down, production is declining, trade has halted almost completely. It’s been that case for almost a decade now. More mines are coming out of the ground. Stockpiled mines are being destroyed and the number of casualties is beginning to decline as well. It’s not all good news, but the overall picture is quite positive,” he says.

Among the problems that remain are those relating to non-parties to the Landmine Treaty signed in Ottawa, Canada. Mr. Goose says, “We still have 40 countries that are outside the 1997 mine ban treaty. And among those 40 countries are some of the big guys, the United States and China and Russia, India and Pakistan. There’s still a lot of work to do to make sure that they all come on board. We’re pleased that even in those countries we see a lot of positive steps, many steps to move toward or even being in compliance with the treaty. We are perhaps most concerned that a very small number of states continue to use anti-personnel landmines. That number was only three in 2005, Russia and Burma and Nepal.”

While governments are taking more action to eradicate landmines, rebel groups continue to use the weapons. It’s estimated that 40 rebel groups in 13 countries do so. Overall, the report has positive news about Africa.

Mr. Goose says, “Africa is one of the amazing stories of the landmine movement. African states came together largely as a block to promote the treaty back in 1997 when it came about. And now every country in sub-Saharan Africa has joined the treaty, except for Somalia. And Somalia doesn’t have a government that’s eligible to join yet.”