Towards a mine free world - Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa remains a continent severely affected by anti-personnel mines. Twenty-two sub-Saharan African countries suffer the consequences of anti-personnel mine contamination. It is encouraging that all but two of these affected States are now parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines. African states were one of the driving forces behind the development and successful conclusion of the Convention.
Anti-personnel mines continue to have a serious impact on millions of lives and thousands of communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Large numbers of Africans are killed and injured every year and the weapons remain a major impediment to post-conflict reconstruction. Nevertheless, there have been some important developments. All but one sub-Saharan African countries (Somalia) are now party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines and have thereby agreed never to use, transfer, stockpile, produce, or develop anti-personnel mines. Twenty-nine sub-Saharan African countries have destroyed their entire anti-personnel mine stockpiles or have declared that they do not possess such mines. In addition, more and more countries on the continent are establishing agencies to coordinate and plan mine action activities.
Angola and Mozambique are two heavily mine-affected African countries in which organizations have been working for years to address the situation. Activities prescribed by the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines are currently underway in both countries to eliminate the dangers to civilians posed by these weapons. The tables below highlight some of the accomplishments and challenges in Angola and Mozambique and provide considerable insight into the progress and difficulties in implementing the Convention.
Sub-Saharan Africa is a region where significant efforts are underway to end the scourge of anti-personnel mines. States in this region have shown a high degree of unity in renouncing anti-personnel mines. Use of this weapon in Africa has now become rare compared to recent decades. The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines has provided a clear framework for African States to address the problem. However, significant challenges remain and need to be overcome.
Firstly, it has been difficult to conduct comprehensive surveys on the anti-personnel mine problem in a number of mine-affected countries. Such assessments are an essential step in the development of national mine action plans and strategies to eliminate the impact of these weapons. Surveys will also provide important information for the investment of national resources and could potentially increase current levels of international assistance and cooperation.
Secondly, as surveys are conducted and until the anti-personnel mines in the ground are cleared, a determined effort to identify and mark dangerous areas and to promote safe behaviour and long term solutions for affected populations is needed. This is particularly important in rural regions where many accidents occur. Improving access to medical care and rehabilitation for mine victims and other war-wounded in these areas must also be improved.
Thirdly, funding levels for mine action in sub-Saharan Africa must be sustained and even increased if the Convention’s potential is to be fulfilled. Increased inclusion of mine action as a development priority is essential to achieve this. In countries where the security situation has improved in recent years, such as Angola, surveys and coordinated mine action are underway. The process in these and other countries must continue an d be supported if their mine problems are to be addressed.
Finally, those African countries that are not yet party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines should be encouraged to adhere to it . Only when all States in the region are committed to never using anti-personnel mines, to destroying their stockpiles, to clearing mined land and to providing assistance to mine victims will the scourge of anti-personnel mines on the continent be ended once and for all.