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International Campaign calls on African Governments to Ratify and Implement Landmine Treaty

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On the eve of the National Summit on Africa in Washington DC, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) called on all African governments to accede to or ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and to implement it fully by assisting victims of landmines, removing mines already laid, destroying stockpiled mines, and never again using, producing or exporting this insidious weapon. Africa, the most heavily mined continent in the world, knows all too well the devastation wrought by this weapon long after conflicts cease.
Elizabeth Bernstein, ICBL Coordinator who lived in Mozambique for 3 years, said "Compelled from first hand experience of the destruction caused by landmines, African governments spearheaded the movement to negotiate the comprehensive treaty banning this weapon. Yet only half of these countries have turned words into action by implementing the treaty. We call on those who expressed commitment to ending this scourge by being among the first to sign the treaty in December 1997 to ratify now."

"Africa also stood up and said no to the United States when it attempted to maim the ban treaty by introducing loopholes, reservation and exceptions at the Treaty's negotiations in September 1997, added Bernstein. "The ICBL calls on African governments to continue to push for the U.S. to join the ban treaty by urging President Clinton to sign it now," she said.

To date 137 nations have signed the treaty and 90 have ratified, astonishingly high numbers in such a short period of time. 41 African countries have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, and 20 of them have ratified it. Those who have not yet ratified include: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. The only non-signatories are: Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia.

The ICBL has set a target of no less than 100 ratifications by 1 March 2000, the first anniversary of the entry into force of the ban treaty. The treaty, officially titled the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On Their Destruction, entered into force on 1 March 1999 with its fortieth ratification, Burkina Faso, becoming binding international law more quickly than any major treaty.

Throughout the past year the ICBL has condemned continued use of antipersonnel mines by a number of countries, including ban treaty signatory Angola. The ICBL calls on both the Angolan government and UNITA to halt mine use. The ICBL also appeals to signatories who are party to the DRC conflict to confirm that they are respecting their commitments to the treaty, and to non-signatories party to the conflict that they intend to sign, ratify and implement the Treaty.

Mereso Agina, Coordinator of the Kenya Coalition Against Landmines noted "The continued use of anti-personnel mines not only in a signatory country, but also by non-signatories in Africa is severely affecting development and is denying Africans their right to survival. The level of funding for demining is still scanty, especially in the most heavily mined countries. We urge African leaders to work out and support appropriate mine action programmes."

The National Summit on Africa is a four-year initiative established to educate the American public about Africa and U.S.- Africa relations and to develop a policy plan of action to guide U.S. relations with African countries. The five-day event combines the drafting of a final Policy Plan of Action and a series of educational workshops.

For Further Information contact: Liz Bernstein , ICBL Tel: +1 (202) 547 2667