Nobel Peace Prize-winning UK charity completes work to free country from landmine legacy
Bujumbura, Burundi, December 2, 2011: One of the world’s poorest countries has officially cleared its territory of landmines thanks to help from Nobel Peace Prize-winning UK charity, MAG (Mines Advisory Group).
Funded by the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, MAG has helped Burundi declare itself landmine free three years ahead of schedule, after civil war left the country littered with lethal items.
Landmines have remained a deadly legacy of the country’s decade-long conflict, particularly in the north-west region, where clearance teams were unable to work until 2010 due to the continued presence of rebels.
As part of its commitment to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, the country had pledged to clear all mines from its soil by 2014. However, after seven years of clearance work with support from three international demining bodies, the MAG-Civilian Defence demining team completed final clearance on October 25, 2011.
An announcement earlier this week at the 11th Meeting of the States Parties in Cambodia officially heralded the successful elimination of landmines from Burundi.
MAG Country Director, Julie Claveau, has led the charity’s operations in Burundi for the last three years. She said: “This is fantastic news for the communities that have long been suffering due to conflict.
“As well as being one of the world’s least developed countries, Burundi is also one of the most densely populated. With mine clearance now complete, they will be able to put this much-needed land to good use, providing communities with areas for agriculture and development.”
Most recently, the work of MAG and Burundi’s Civilian Defence department, the in-country team responsible for humanitarian mine action and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), has enabled access to agricultural and grazing land, electric infrastructures, a dam, and cleared high risk areas near schools, as well as delivering Mine Risk Education to the population.
Crucially, the charity has trained staff from Civilian Defence to deal with future dangers from explosives that have failed to detonate or that have been discarded, which continue to jeopardise the security of much of the population.
“The mines may have been removed but there is still work to do,” explains Julie. “There could still be unexploded and abandoned ordnance remaining from the war, and as a result of the many criminal hand grenade attacks that take place in the country.
“The fact that Civilian Defence teams have been working with MAG on many of our operations is a really positive step. Their training, along with field experience, is building a national capacity of deminers and EOD operators to destroy these deadly items.”
Speaking at the 11MSP earlier this week, Burundi Minister of Public Security, Gabriel Nizigama, said: “Burundi would like to reiterate its thanks for the support which she got from the international community during the process of the implementation of the Ottawa Convention.”
“Long live a world free of mines.”
MAG receives funding for its Humanitarian Mine Action work in Burundi from the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs.
MAG continues to work in the country to reduce the risks posed by Small Arms and Light Weapons, especially through a project to destroy surplus and obsolete SALW from the Burundian Army. To find out more about MAG’s continued work in Burundi click here.