Africa gets two new treaty members: Burundi, Sudan
Burundi and Sudan, both mine-affected countries, recently ratified the Mine Ban Treaty. Burundi submitted its ratification instrument to the United Nations on 22 October and Sudan completed its ratification on 13 October 2003.
Now Somalia (which does not have a functioning government) is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that is neither a State Party nor a signatory to the Mine Ban Treaty. Ethiopia is the only remaining signatory in the region.
The ratifications bring to 141 the number of States Parties to the convention, with a further 9 countries having signed but not yet completed their ratification process. Treaty universalisation has gathered pace in recent months. Long-awaited ratifications and accessions have now been completed by Belarus, Greece, Guyana, Serbia & Montenegro and Turkey.
Campaigners are pleased that Bujumbura and Khartoum have confirmed their commitment to a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel landmines by ratifying the treaty. However, they are concerned about allegations of ongoing mine use in Burundi and Sudan. Any allegations of use will now be subject to critical examination by fellow States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.
There are ceasefires in both countries at the moment, following years of bloodshed.
Burundi joins the treaty amid troubling accounts of ongoing use of antipersonnel landmines inside Burundi by both rebel and government forces. "It is clear that antipersonnel mines continue to be used in Burundi. It is difficult, however, to determine with certainty who is planting the mines. Most observers believe that both the Army and rebels are using mines," notes the Landmine Monitor Report 2003: Toward a Mine-Free World.
Last year, there were at least 114 new civilian mine/UXO casualties reported in Burundi, of which 26 were killed and 88 injured, including 23 children. Of the total casualties, 87 were caused by antipersonnel mines, eight by antivehicle mines, and 19 by UXO.
Both sides to the conflict in Sudan, the government and the SPLM/A, have used mines in the past and accuse each other of ongoing use.
Landmine Monitor Report 2003 notes that Sudan does not have "large defensive minefields contaminating whole areas, but rather a number of relatively random mines blocking access routes to key areas. Roads, especially in the Nuba Mountains, are blocked to humanitarian relief traffic."
Landmine casualties run high in Sudan. As of June 2003, a total of 2,667 mine/UXO casualties had been reported to the National Mine Action Officer since 1998. The U.N. wire service reported that on 3 October 2003 a truck belonging to Danish Church Aid ran over a landmine near the town of Kauda in Sudan's central Nuba Mountains. Eight people were killed and two injured - the highest known fatality count from a landmine accident in Sudan this year, it was noted.