February 24, 2004

Over 10,000 land mines destroyed last year

Demining operations in Mozambique in 2003 cleared 6.9 million square metres of land, in the process locating and destroying over 10,000 land mines, according to the general director of the National Demining Institute (IND), Gamiliele Munguambe. Munguambe revealed these figures during the fifth annual meeting between the IND and demining operators, held in Maputo on 26 February. The report was the occasion for making public the Annual Mine Action Programme.

The cost of demining in 2003 was about $17 million, mostly provided by foreign donors, particularly the United States ($3.4), Denmark ($2.8 million), Norway ($2.7 million) and Germany ($1 million). But the area cleared in 2003 is less than the 8.9 million square metres cleared in 2002. Munguambe blamed this on "the feeble participation of the commercial operators, who contributed just 858,000 square metres, compared with more than 3.9 million square metres in 2002". Most of the demining work in 2003 was undertaken by humanitarian organisations. They cleared rather more than 5.2 million square metres, an increase on the 4.9 million square metres they cleared in 2002.

Munguambe also stressed that in 2003, the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM) destroyed its last 1,350 land mines. This brought to an end the process of destroying stocks of mines which began in 2001. In all the FADM destroyed 37,818 anti-personnel mines, under the Ottawa Treaty outlawing these weapons.

In a parallel development, it was revealed that over 177,000 weapons of different types and millions of rounds of ammunition have been destroyed in Mozambique as part of the joint Mozambican and South African police operations, code-named "Rachel", over the last nine years.

The general commander of the Mozambican police, Miguel dos Santos, said that this figure includes 20,000 forearms, 70,000 grenades, 87,000 mortars and bombs. Dos Santos said that this could only be achieved thanks to the cooperation of civil society, and the activities of the Arms to Hoes (TAE) Project, of the Mozambique Christian Council (CCM). He said that despite various difficulties and logistic problems, the operation has been a success. Mozambique is set to approve, in the near future, the creation of a Commission for the Prevention, Combat and Eradication of Illicit Trafficking in Firearms (COPRECAL), which is to be headed by the Interior Minister. (AIM)

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