Ethiopia

Ethiopia clears 16 million square meters land from landmines

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ADDIS ABABA, Mar 1, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Ethiopian government said on Monday it has cleared 16 million square meters of land from landmines since 2002.

An additional 5.5 million square meters of land, which has been cleared off landmines, was handed over to residents, said an official report, released on the occasion for the celebration of the International Day for the Ban of Landmines.

The report, issued by the Ethiopian Mine Action Office, said the demining activities carried out in the stated period included those unexploded ordnances planted since the days of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.

March 1 is celebrated internationally since the ratification in 1997 of the Landmine Ban Treaty in Ottawa, Canada. Ethiopia has ratified the Landmine Ban Treaty in November 2004.

Meanwhile, Lulit Zewdie, a Foreign Ministry official, said that about 50 percent of the landmass in the country is believed to be under the threat of landmines.

The ratification of the convention creates a legally binding situation where there are deadlines for marking of mined areas, clearance and destruction of stockpiles, Lulit said, adding that these obligations are daunting unless there is adequate financial and technical support from bilateral and multilateral bodies.

According to the Ethiopian Mine Action Office, areas cleared off from unexploded ordnances are handed over to residents after the clearance has been confirmed by international experts.

Most of the demining activities have been carried out in northern Tigray and central west Afar regions, the office said.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two and a half-year border war between May 1998 and December 2000. However, the landmines buried in the ground still affect the lives of thousands of people in both countries even so many years after the war have passed.