On Landmines Treaty’s 1st Anniversary, Yemen Graduates 1st Batch of Deminers! [Archives:1998/50/Front Page]

December 14 1998

Yesterday, Sunday, December 13th, the first batch of Yemeni anti-personnel deminers graduated in Aden. On hand for the occasion were the top brass of the Yemeni military, as well as a US military delegation headed by General Anthony Zinni, Commander of Central Command Theater. The group – 150 of them, represent managerial and supervisory cadres of the program. The second batch will involve technicians who will work in the field.
It is fitting that this occasion coincides with the first anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction by 123 countries in Ottawa, Canada. The number of ratifications needed to bring the treaty into force – 40 – was reached on 16 September 1998, in record time for an arms-related treaty.
Yemen was one of them.
A total of 131 states have by now signed the treaty and 55 have ratified it. The treaty will enter into force on 1st March 1999 for the 40 states that ratified it by 16th September and six months after the ratification date for other states. Once the treaty has entered into force, states will have four years to destroy existing stockpiles, which 11 nations have already done; and 10 years to clear all mines from the ground.
The first meeting of nations party to the convention will be held in May 1999, in Maputo, Mozambique.
Yet landmines continue to cause untold suffering. The “evil underground” as Yemen Times called it, continues to haunt many people worldwide.
The people of Yemen are among those haunted. Although no firm statistics exist, the number of landmine victims runs into several thousands. That is why the government’s efforts in setting up a national commission to clear all landmines in the country is received with enormous relief and appreciation by the population. This is especially true in rural areas.
The inauguration of the 150 American-trained Yemeni officers is the first step in an extended 5-year program. A national team led by experts from the Ministry of Defence – and assisted by international support mainly from the USA and Canada – has taken up the challenge.
Although no exact figures are available, the number of Yemeni landmine victims runs in the thousands. In addition to the human suffering, there is an enormous economic cost to the landmines. Large chunks of farmland, grazing areas, and potentially oil-rich territories are now off-limit because of the ‘evil underground’.