Ethiopia destroys mines stockpile

anti_personal_minesBy Elizabeth Blunt  BBC, Addis Ababa : Ethiopia says it has destroyed its stocks of anti-personnel mines, in line with an international treaty.

The government said it disposed of more than 54,000 mines, comfortably ahead of the deadline of June this year set out in the Ottawa Convention.

It has retained just over 1,000 of the devices to train de-miners.

Ethiopia is one of the most heavily-mined countries on the African continent – a legacy of its border wars with Somalia and Eritrea.

The Ottawa Convention is specifically about anti-personnel mines.

‘Painful experience’

Ethiopia can, and does, still use other types of mines in its border zones, notably along its still tense boundary with Eritrea.

But these are mines triggered by vehicles, unlike the anti-personnel devices which are triggered by a footfall, whether of an animal, an adult or even a child.

The devices are often designed to maim rather than kill, to create as much of a burden as possible on an advancing army.

Although the stockpile may have gone, some of Ethiopia’s border areas are heavily mined and it has until 2015 to clear anti-personnel mines already in place.

Meanwhile parts of the border are still very dangerous places.

A landmine monitoring organisation calculated that more than 70 people were killed or injured by mines in 2007 alone.

A spokesman for Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, Desalgn Alemu, said it was his country’s painful experience with mines which had made it one of the first to sign up to the Ottawa Convention.

“Ethiopia doesn’t need those kinds of things to defend itself.”