Nobel Peace Prize organization urges Senegalese rebels to stop laying landmines in Guinea-Bissau
Senegal, Monday 03 April 2006 -- The International Campaign to Ban Landmines condemns the recent and ongoing use of antipersonnel landmines in Guinea-Bissau by a faction of the Senegal-based Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). The ICBL calls for an immediate halt to the mine-laying, which, according the United Nations, has caused casualties and cut off roads to civilian use.
"The civilized world has already rejected antipersonnel landmines," said Sylvie Brigot, the ICBL's Executive Director. "Any use of this barbaric, indiscriminate weapon by anyone, whether government forces or rebels, is unacceptable and a violation of international humanitarian law," she added.
The MFDC has been waging an independence struggle for the Casamance region of southern Senegal since 1982. In mid-March, a faction of the MFDC led by Salif Sadio fled into northern Guinea-Bissau after a military conflict with another MFDC faction, and the military forces of Guinea-Bissau launched an attack on the rebel-occupied areas.
During the past several weeks, northern border districts of Guinea-Bissau have suffered from the use of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines by the Salif Sadio MFDC faction. In particular, the rebels have reportedly laid mines on the road linking Varela on the coast with Sao Domingos in Cacheu province. The conflict has caused an estimated 6,000 persons to flee into Senegal and to areas south of the Cacheu river in Guinea-Bissau. Some refugees have voiced fears about return to their home area if mines have been laid in their croplands.
"As we have seen in dozens of countries around the world, the mines that are planted today are less likely to kill the enemy tomorrow, but more likely to take the lives and limbs of civilians in coming months and years," said Ms. Brigot.
The governments of both Guinea-Bissau and Senegal are party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty which prohibits the use, production, trade and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. As part of its treaty obligations, Guinea-Bissau completed destruction of its stockpile of antipersonnel mines in October 2005. A total of 150 countries are party to the treaty, including every sub-Saharan country except Somalia.
A significant number of rebel groups have also pledged to stop using antipersonnel mines, in keeping with the emerging international norm against the weapon. According to the ICBL's Landmine Monitor Report, only three governments used antipersonnel mines in 2005, while non-state armed groups used them in 13 countries.
In 1999, the MFDC and the Senegalese government signed the Banjul Declaration, which among other things committed the group to cease using landmines. While the MFDC continued to use mines through 2001 according to the Landmine Monitor, there have been no confirmed reports of the MFDC using mines since that time.
The ICBL received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to eradicate antipersonnel mines.
For more information, contact:
Sylvie Brigot: +33-607-17-27-76
Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan: +66-912-449-00