Rwanda Declared Landmine Free

December 6, 2009

Rwanda has earned the unique distinction of being the first country in the world to be declared free of landmines through the Ottawa Treaty recognition process.

Ben Remfrey of the Mines Awareness Trust, which supervised the clearance, told the BBC World Service, “Rwanda has made history by becoming the first country in the world to be officially declared free from landmines.  Rwanda had a problem, it wasn’t huge but it was still significant… and had a big social and economic impact.”

Landmines were laid in the years leading up to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, killing or severely injuring hundreds of people. But, over the past three years more than over 9,000 have been destroyed by Rwandan soldiers.

In a UNICEF press release, representative, Joseph Foumbi congratulated Rwanda, stating, “This declaration is extremely significant as it shows to the world that a poor country, which has been devastated by war, can still take strong action to ensure the rights, lives and well-being of its children.”

The Mirror focused on another benefit of being declared ‘landmine free’.  Gareth Thomas, Africa Minister at the Department for International Development, wrote the newspaper, said, ” Removing landmines means will a massive boost to the farming industry, and this will mean a brighter future for people of Rwanda.”

About 70 countries remain affected by landmines, which claimed nearly 5,200 casualties around the world last year, according to Relief Web.

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