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Many Countries May Fail to Meet 2009 Landmine Treaty Deadline

Friday, April 4th, is the UN International Day for Landmine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says 2008 is a critical year in the effort to rid the world of anti-personnel landmines.

The Mine Ban Treaty has been in effect since 1999 and 156 countries adhere to its provisions. However, 20 countries that were supposed to clear all their mined areas by 2009 are expected to miss the deadline. These include Chad, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

Tamar Gabelnick is the treaty implementation coordinator for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. From Geneva, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why 2008 is considered an important year for the treaty.

“This year is particularly important because under the treaty, the Mine Ban Treaty that came into force in 1999, any country that is a state party that has mines in its territory, that means mines in the ground, has ten years to clear them. So take them out of the ground and destroy them. That means that those countries that joined the treaty in the beginning, and there’s about 20 of those that are mine affected, they have until next year to completely clear their ground. And for those countries that are particularly heavily affected there is a possibility for an extension of that period under the treaty,” she says.

She explains why 2008 is important in that regard. “Just the way things got set up, it will be this year…that those extension requests are going to be reviewed by other states parties. So it’s the first time it’s happening and that’s why it’s very important that it’s done well,” she says.

As for sub-Saharan Africa, Gabelnick says there are two countries that may meet the deadline for mine clearance: Malawi and Djibouti.

The delay in clearing the mines is blamed on some countries being very heavily laden with the weapons, while others, such as Chad, are still in conflict.

Since 1999, a total of 156 nations have adhered to the treaty. But overall, has it been effective? Gabelnick says, “We call it a qualified success, at least for mine action, because really without the treaty probably most of this work would not be going on at all. So we really hold the treaty responsible for the level of attention, both by the affected states and donor states, to mine action overall.” She adds that the treaty has been very successful in stopping the production, use and transfer of landmines and in the destruction of stockpiles.