The survey will either confirm land as dangerous or allow it to be returned to the population.
Thanks to funding from the Swiss Government, the Burundian Civilian Defence and MAG are finally able to survey the last areas suspected to be contaminated by landmines and/or unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the area around the Kibira Forest in north-west Burundi.
Since Burundi achieved independence in 1962, Kibira has remained a stronghold for different armed rebel groups. Only in May 2009 did the last active group disarm and join the peace process.
Having been in Burundi since 2007, MAG’s teams in the capital Bujumbura were aware that some areas of Kibira may still be contaminated with landmines and other dangerous items.
Surveyors interview the victim of an ERW accident.
The security situation meant that no survey to asses the levels of contamination had been carried out in the area. Burundi is only a small country and, due to the immense need for land, many people who have started moving back into the area to begin farming and cultivating agricultural projects have encountered mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
More than 60 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) have been identified by the Direction de l’Action Humanitaire Contre les Mines (DAHMi).
With newly granted funding from the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs, the Burundian Civilian Defence and MAG are now able to properly survey the areas around the forest and more accurately assess the scale and nature of the deadly problem.
The survey is essential because it will either confirm land as dangerous or declare it safe and allow it to be returned to the population.
Expected to last two months, the survey is being conducted by six Civilian Defence agents, split into two squads, who have been trained in liaison with communities and survey techniques by a MAG Community Liaison Manager. The Community Liaison Manager is accompanying and supervising the Burundian team, which is also providing basic Mine Risk Education to the population, to reduce the risks of accidents related to mines and UXO.
After the survey has finished, the information gathered will allow DAHMi and MAG to develop a plan for the clearance of areas confirmed as contaminated. Once cleared, this land will finally be safe for communities to use to grow food or build schools or health centres, supporting the development of the area.
Excitingly, once this survey and clearance has been completed, which is expected to happen in 2011, Burundi could become the second African country to be declared “mine-free” according to the Ottawa Convention.
Mine Risk Education in Kinyovu.
Children returning from Kibira with firewood – they risk encountering landmines or UXO while collecting wood.
MRE in Nteko.
[Photos: MAG Burundi]
20 August 2010
- Burundi: The problem / How MAG is helping
- Targeted training for the Civilian Defence
- 20,000 grenades destroyed in efforts to reduce armed violence