NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 26, 2004 (PANA) — An estimated 1 million landmines are expected to be a major hindrance to the transportation of relief aid to 600,000 southern Sudanese returnees coming home after 24 years of civil war, UN agencies said here Thursday.
The anti-personnel and anti-tank mines planted during two
decades of fighting between the Sudanese government and southern rebels is also expected to hamper the resettlement of the former refugees.
Sudanese non-governmental organisations have asked the government in Khartoum to create a conducive environment for the mine clearing action in the “same spirit on which they started their quest for the signing of a comprehensive peace” with the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).
“We want to reiterate the Sudanese communities support for the
de-mining of the landmines, which reflects an important landmark
on humanitarian mine action in Sudan,” said Abdelat Abdelkheir,
the Coordinator of the Sudan Campaign to Ban Landmines, which
groups seven NGOs.
Abdelkheir said this at a Sudan National Mine Action Strategy
Formulation organised-forum funded by the European Union and the
Princess Diana Memorial Fund.
According to him, the transportation of relief food to the South
is greatly hampered as landmines planted along key routes, which
endanger the lives of the local population, the internally
displaced and UN aid staffers.
“The expected return of IDPs and Sudanese refugees from
neighbouring countries to Southern Sudan after the signing of a
comprehensive peace agreement will increase the need for safe
return routes,” the Mine Action agency said in a paper presented
during the two-day conference in Nairobi.
The conflict in Sudan, according to the anti-mine agency, can be
described as a “classic guerrilla warfare” in which the
government held towns and cities, while the insurgent forces
controlled part of the countryside.
The government used landmines to protect its garrison towns and
control the movement of the insurgent supplies, while the rebel
fighters also used them to shield their positions and prevent
attacks from government forces, leading to the planting of some
one million landmines.
The belligerents used anti-tank mines more than the anti-
UN agencies suggested the opening of new roads between Kenya and
Southern Sudan to facilitate the flow of relief supplies by
trucks to the returnees.
“The situation multiplies the cost of delivering the humanitarian
relief and severely limits the reach of the assistance in
Southern Sudan,” says the blueprint prepared by the UN agencies.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has handed over a US$35
million mine-clearance plan to the US government through the US
International Agency for Development (USAID) in anticipation of
the long-rains in Southern Sudan.
US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who visited Sudan early
this month, said the US government would immediately disburse $10
million to kick-start the construction of roads and the mine-