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Sudan Tribune

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Sudan calls for international help to eliminate landmines

NAIROBI, Dec 2, 2004 (Xinhua) — The Sudanese government on Thursdayappealed to the international community to provide the mine-affected country with financial assistance to eradicate landmines and help the victims.

Addressing the ongoing international meeting on landmines in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid described landmines as “our greatestproblem.”

“We appeal to the international community to assist Sudan to remove this terrible threat to the lives of peoples and much needed recovery and development in this country,” Hamid said.

“We think landmines will be the biggest challenge facing us after the signing of the peace protocol. The continued support of the UN and the international community to mine action in Sudan is sincerely appreciated,” he added.

The minister told delegates attending the Nairobi Summit on Mine-Free World clearing landmines in the Africa’s largest countrywould sharply cut the cost of humanitarian aid by making road transport possible and allowing the return of refugees.

He said with anticipated peace, the return of more than 500,000refugees will be impossible until mines are cleared, noting efforts aimed at eradicating the deadly weapons need to be strengthened.

“With imminent comprehensive peace agreement and a large numbers of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) expected to return to their communities of origin and the influx has already started by nearly 500,000 returnees, therefore the momentum of the mine action program needs to increase significantly,” Hamid told the delegates.

He said a six-year mine action strategy sealed in Nairobi in August between Khartoum and southern rebels has now allowed the United Nations to begin work in southern Sudan, clearing landminesand unexploded ordnance.

“This will allow displaced people to return home, open up routes for business and aid deliveries, and allow the expansion offarm land,” he said.

He said there are around 10,000 landmine victims in Sudan at present, many with missing limbs. “Help for these people is very important to us,” said the minister.

Sudan ratified the Mine Ban Treaty last year and the main southern rebel group, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has signed a deed of commitment, which essentially make ita non-state actor.

The Khartoum government and the SPLM/A have fought for the past21 years, littering the massive region with mines and unexploded weapons. Overall, the United Nations Mine Action Service believes 800,000 sq. km in 21 of Sudan’s 26 states are affected.

The SPLM/A and the Sudanese government two weeks ago pledged tofinalize a peace accord that has dragged for several years by the end of this year, after pressure from an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council in Nairobi.

“We are expecting peace before the end of this year and this will strengthen efforts towards eliminating landmines,” he noted.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) also appealed for urgent funding for de-mining of key transport routes in southern Sudan tohelp people return after decades of war, and connect the region tonorthern Sudan and neighboring countries.

In a news release issued Thursday, WFP said it faced an immediate shortfall of 4.8 million US dollars for the first phase and would need 64 million for a special operation in 2005.

The Nairobi Summit is reviewing progress made toward a mine-free world over the past five years and preparing an action plan for the future.

The Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, entered into force in March 1999 and prohibits the manufacture, trade and use of antipersonnel landmines. It also obliges countries to destroy stockpiles and clear their own mined territory.

The summit is expected to come up with two documents. One of them will be a program of action on how the goals of the convention are to be achieved, while the second one will be a political declaration by parties reaffirming their commitment to the convention.