By Feizal Samath
An Ethiopian government delegation visited Sri Lanka last week to
study the country’s foreign funded de-mining programme that
has been hailed by at least three other war-torn countries.
Mengesha, Director of the Ethiopian Mine Action Office, told The
Sunday Times, that their initial assessment of Sri Lanka’s
programme had been correct. “We are learning a lot from the
Sri Lanka programme, particularly the mine risk education and awareness
aspects,” he said by telephone from Jaffna where the three-member
team spent a few days.
A. N. Kunasingham, secretary of the government’s National
Steering Committee for Mine Action (NSCMA), said that Burundi, Sudan
and Cambodia have also said they would like to learn from Sri Lanka’s
mine action efforts.
far 150,000 to 200,000 mines have been removed out of an estimated
1.5 million landmines in the north and east with plans to remove
all mines by 2006. Dr. Kunasingham said one of the reasons why the
Sri Lanka programme stands out from other countries is because it
is controlled and owned by the state and is cost-effective. The
rate of landmine casualties has also fallen to 5 to 10 a month now
from 15 to 20 earlier while 15 percent of the estimated 14.49 million
sq. metres that have been mined, has been cleared so far.
said in Ethiopia 360,000 people have been displaced while there
is an estimate of over one million mines used in a 18-month long
conflict between government and rebel forces.
said one of the positive elements in Sri Lanka is that international
standards and procedures are being followed in the de-mining exercise
here. Derhane Achame, head of Ethiopia’s mine risk education
section, said they were impressed by awareness programmes here handled
by three local NGOs. “This is well coordinated, using different
techniques like home-to-home education and street dramas among other
methods,” he said. Another success is the cooperation between
military and civilian de-miners.
say Sri Lanka’s 2006 target of removing all anti-personnel
mines is ambitious due to a shaky peace process and shrinking donor
funds. Netherlands ambassador Susan Blankhart, reflecting donor
concerns, noted at a recent meeting on landmine action that donors
need assurances that landmines won’t be used again.
the perspective of a donor country such a guarantee is of great
importance. As far as Switzerland is concerned as a donor, an engagement
in mine action without parallel moves towards the international
instruments banning landmines is an exceptional situation, which
is not sustainable on a long-term perspective”, she said.