The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Country Declared Mine-Free

Kigali — The Ministry of Defence (MINADEF) announced yesterday that Rwanda is now a mine - free country, after it completed a demining campaign ahead of the December 1, 2010 deadline set by the Ottawa Convention.

"Ministry of Defence is happy to declare that there are no longer areas under the jurisdiction or control of Rwanda in which anti - personnel mines are known or suspected to be." A communiqué issued by the Defence and Military Spokesperson Maj. Jill Rutaremara said.

"The Ministry of Defence is therefore proud to declare completion of mine clearance work on the Rwanda territory ahead of the Ottawa deadline and in preparations for the Cartagena Summit on a Mine Free World scheduled to take place in Cartagena, Colombia from 29 November - 4 December 2009."

Article 5 of the Ottawa treaty obliged all signatory states, Rwanda inclusive, to undertake to destroy all anti-personnel mines in areas under their control, as soon as possible but not later than December 1, 2010.

The ministry says that to date, a total 52 major mined areas representing a total of 1,946,755 square metres of land have been cleared.

"This work has culminated in the destruction of 600 anti-personnel mines, 29 anti-tank mines and 2,034 unexploded ordinances (UEOs)."

During and after the 1990-1994 Liberation War and genocide against the Tutsi, numerous anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, hand grenades, motors, rockets and small to medium size projectiles as well as improvised explosive devices were littered all over the country's territory.

In 1995, Government set up the National De-mining Office (NDO) to get rid of the mines and release land for socio-economic activities as well as save people's lives.

Later, on June 8, 2000, Government signed and later ratified the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti - personnel mines and their Destruction.

"In the event that previously unknown mined areas are discovered, the Government of Rwanda will report such mined areas in accordance with its obligations - and destroy or ensure the destruction of all anti - personnel mines in the mined areas," the communiqué said.

Article 1 (General obligations) of the Ottawa Convention states that each State Party undertakes never, under any circumstances, to use anti-personnel mines or to develop, produce or stockpile anti-personnel mines.

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