Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Central America has become landmine-free, thanks to the elimination of all known landmines in Nicaragua, two representatives of its government told a working session of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Tuesday 22 June. “After two decades of work, Nicaragua is proud to announce that we have completed clearance of all known anti-personnel mines in our territory, and that all contaminated areas have been deemed safe for normal activity. The last mine was removed and destroyed on 13 April 2010,” the government’s statement notes. Colonel Spiro Bassi of the Nicaraguan Army Corps of Engineering and Juan Umana Loaisiga from the Ministry of Defense addressed the Geneva meeting.
The Convention is also known as the Ottawa Treaty.
The country removed more than 179,000 landmines, planted during its civil war in the 1980s. Nicaragua has 1,200 landmine survivors today.
The country, which signed the convention in 1997, undertook the largest demining operation in Central America. The original estimate in 1997 of 135,000 mines grew over the years as more areas with mines were discovered. Anti-personnel mines were found in 16 out of 17 regions in the country, affecting rural communities and severely impoverished areas.
Nicaragua continued its demining operations even after facing the severe devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch and most recently Hurricane Felix.
The mines have affected mainly people in rural and very poor areas.
The Geneva-based secretariat for the treaty said in a press release that “the announcement highlights the achievements to date under the Convention, which seeks to eliminate the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines.”
The treaty has been signed by 156 countries, and a major push is now being made to encourage non-signatories such as the US, China and several Middle Eastern countries, to sign it.
The US and Cuba remain the only countries in the Americas that have not signed.
Four countries announced at the Cartagena Summit in Colombia in October 2009 that they had removed all known landmines: Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia. Nicaragua is the first country since October to announce that it has removed all mines.
The AP Mine Ban Convention bans anti-personnel mines and requires states that join to destroy all existing stocks, clear all mined areas and assist the survivors.
Background, “Princely task: tell leaders landmines are not part of military might”, 2 June 2010, GenevaLunch