- The Addis Ababa Ministry for Foreign Affairs has announced that Ethiopia has completed its destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel mines, two months before the 1 June global deadline and despite its ongoing conflict with Eritrea.
Ethiopia has signed the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. Production, use, deployment and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines is prohibited according to the convention.
Director General Desalegn Alemu from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at an Addis Ababa conference now has revealed that Ethiopia had completed the destruction of its stockpiled landmines. Altogether, Ethiopia had stored 55,569 anti-personnel-mines. A number of 1,114 mines would however be kept for training-purposes, such as detection and landmine destruction.
According to the NGO Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), the announcement was made at a conference held at Ghion Hotel on the International Mine-Action Day. NPA had assisted the Ethiopian Mine Action Office (EMAO) in detecting and neutralising mines deployed during the Ethiopian-Eritrean war and earlier wars with Somalia, using mine detecting dogs.
The Ethiopian government earlier announced it did not need anti-personnel mines - which mostly victimise civilians - to protect itself, but still makes use of other mines allowed by the Ottawa Convention. These mines, which need the weight of a vehicle to be triggered, are mostly deployed on the troubles border with Eritrea.
Eritrea, on the other hand, claims never to have stockpiled anti-personnel mines. The Asmara government says its troops are only in possession of 214 mines retained by the Eritrean Demining Authority National Training Centre "for training and development."
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have been heavily affected by anti-personnel mines deployed in earlier wars, including the Eritrean independence war. According to anti-landmine organisations, Ethiopia is one of the most heavily-mined countries on the African continent. More than 70 people were killed or injured by mines in 2007 alone, according to the same sources. Numbers in Eritrea are somewhat lower.
In both countries, extensive areas are contaminated by landmines, preventing farmers and herders from using the land. An Eritrean government survey found 481 of 4,176 communities affected by mines. In Ethiopia, and NPA survey found that 1.9 million people were at risk and identified 1,492 landmine-impacted communities.
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