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Accra Conference Targets Landmine Crisis in West Africa, Sahel

Global Delegates Converge to Forge Solutions for Mine-Affected Regions

by Adenike Adeodun

In Accra, a pivotal three-day regional conference has commenced, focusing on the critical issue of improvised anti-personnel mines in West Africa and the Sahel region. This important gathering is the result of collaboration between the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction.

Aimed at forging a path towards a peaceful, prosperous, and dignified future for those affected by these devastating weapons, the conference brings together over 100 delegates from more than 25 countries. This diverse group includes representatives from 15 ECOWAS-member states, eight African nations from the Sahel region, and delegates from across Europe and the Americas, alongside numerous international and non-governmental organizations. Together, they will deliberate on the growing humanitarian impact of improvised anti-personnel mines and seek out viable solutions to this pressing issue.

The urgency of this challenge was underscored by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia during the conference’s opening. He emphasized the need for “unwavering determination and collective efforts” to tackle this menace head-on, calling for global collaboration to safeguard human lives, protect communities, and advance peace and stability.

According to a report by Graphic Online, Dr. Bawumia also reiterated the importance of the Mine Ban Treaty, urging universal adherence to its principles, including mine clearance, destruction of stockpiled mines, and assistance to victims. He highlighted the severe consequences of improvised anti-personnel mines, particularly in conflict zones, where they cause physical and psychological harm, disrupt livelihoods, and impede socio-economic development and peace efforts.

Alarming statistics presented by Dr. Bawumia reveal that an estimated 110 million landmines are scattered worldwide, with removal costs ranging significantly. Despite these challenges, the Landmine Monitor’s 2022 report indicates that over 55 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed by state parties, demonstrating a strong commitment to this cause. However, the report also shows the grim reality of casualties, with civilians, including children, making up a significant portion of the victims.

The conference also heard calls for solidarity and global cooperation to address the humanitarian challenges posed by these mines. Ambrose Dery, Minister for the Interior, expressed hope that the collective efforts of participants would contribute to global peace, security, and prosperity.

Highlighting the European Union’s significant role as the world’s second-largest donor for mine clearance, stockpile destruction, and assistance to mine victims, EU Ambassador to Ghana, Irchad Razaaly, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and its goals.

Margaret Arach Orech, a victim of anti-personnel landmines and founder of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association, stressed the importance of enhanced victim assistance and awareness of States Parties’ obligations within the Convention. She condemned the use of improvised mines by non-state armed groups and called on the African Union to fulfill its promises to affected communities, underscoring the critical role of awareness and action in combating this issue.

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