April 26, 2002

Army hopes to destroy stockpiles by next year

The Mozambican army hopes to destroy the more than 30,000 landmines it still has in stock by next year, the National Institute for Demining (IND) said on Friday, April 26. A batch of 2.500 of the killer devices was destroyed on 19 April and immediate plans are to destroy another 10.000 in the central and southern regions, IND national director Artur Verissimo said.

Besides the army's stocks the IND was also continuing programmes to find the estimated one million mines still in the ground, he said. Clearing started in 1993 after a protracted civil war which saw landmines laid around strategic towns and installations across the country. "During conflict there was no land mine mapping so nobody knows where they are. We have to talk to local communities to find were the mines are. We have to mark the areas and get support from donors to clear the area." At least 1.374 areas are still landmine danger zones with Inhambane, Zambezi, Sofala and Nampula provinces the worst off. The fear of landmines prevents farmers from using certain fields and restricts people's movement. Though support was forthcoming, there has been competition for funds from countries like Afghanistan and Angola who were also desperate to clear mines. Until they were cleared communities had to rely on programmes at schools and efforts by the Red Cross and local authorities and radio stations to keep awareness of the danger alive. "There are still people being injured every day," said Verissimo.

Stocks of landmines outside the army, believed to have been in the hands of the former rebel RENAMO movement, also had to be found. "Mozambique's aim is to have no landmines," Verissimo said. The country is a signatory to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottowa Convention, and has committed itself to destruction deadlines. The treaty prohibits the use of anti-personnel landmines in all situations, and it also forbids their development, production, stockpiling, and transfer. In addition, it requires the destruction of mines, whether held in stockpiles or already emplaced in the ground. According to the United Nations mine information site, Article 4 of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty requires countries to destroy their stockpiles no later than four years after the treaty's entry into force. Nearly 120 countries are parties to the convention. (IRIN)

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