Third Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines adopts new African common position
From the 9th - 11 September 2009, representatives from African states participated in the 3rd Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines. The conference was hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa, in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and with the financial support of the European Union. The AU had previously convened two Continental Conferences of African Experts on Landmines: the first in South Africa in May 1997 "Towards a Landmine-Free Africa" that resulted in the adoption of the Kempton Park Plan of Action and; the second in Addis Abba September 2004, "Kempton Park - Seven Years After" which resulted in the adoption of an African Common Position on Anti-Personnel Landmines.
The 3rd Continental Conference was opened by representatives of: the South African Government; the African Union's Commissioner for Peace and Security; the European Union Presidency; the Council of the European Union and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The Government of South Africa and the AU facilitated the closing session.
The Conference provided an opportunity for African States to discuss progress made on the ground and elaborate on challenges to ensuring that Africa is truly a Mine-Free Continent. In Africa, the following States are undertaking mine clearance operations: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The following African States have indicated that they have completed demining: Djibouti, Malawi, Swaziland, Tunisia and Niger.
The outcome document of the Conference will be sent to African Foreign Ministries at the AU to adopt as the revised African Common Position in preparation for the 2nd Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Convention.1 The Convention, which entered into force in March 1999, to date has 156 States Parties, 49 being African Countries.
The 2nd Review Conference, also known as the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, will be held in Colombia from 30 November to 4 December this year and will assess progress made since the 1st Review Conference held in Nairobi in 2004. The Conference will also provide an opportunity to develop new goals and action plans to put an "end, for all people, for all time, the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines". Columbia as the host country, and Norway as President-Designate have called for a special focus on victim assistance at the Review Conference.
In many of the countries reporting new casualties, the assistance provided to mine survivors continues to be inadequate in meeting their needs. The following African countries or areas have experienced landmine incidents recently: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad (2008), Cote d'Ivoire (2008), DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia (2009), Gambia (2009), Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali (2007) Mauritania, Mozambique (2008), Morocco (2008), Namibia, Nigeria (2009), Niger (2007), Republic of Congo (2009), Rwanda (2009), Senegal (2008), Somalia (2009), Somaliland, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia and Zimbabwe (2009).
The continent still faces numerous challenges in clearing mine-affected areas and providing landmine victims with sufficient support and assistance. New casualties are still being reported and there is still a lot of work to be done before Africa is truly a mine-free continent.
(1) Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (APM Ban Convention).