Nairobi to host summit on mines in November

Some 1,500 delagates from around the world are expected in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in November for a summit of parties to the Ottawa Convention that calls for the ban of production and use of antipersonnel mines, a senior Kenyan foreign minstry official said.

The 2004 Mines-Free World summit will be held from 29 November to 3 December. Those invited include heads of state and governments, anti-mines campaigners and civil society leaders, the permanent secretary in foreign ministry Peter ole Nkuraiyia said on Thursday.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also expected to attend, Nkuraiyia said at the launch of a secretariat for the organising committee in Nairobi. Nkuraiyia also launched a website www.icbl.org/reviewconference, which gives updates about the summit.

The opening ceremonies of the summit, to be presided over by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, will take place at the Kenyatta International Conference on November 28. Delegates will then move to the UN office at Nairobi for the summit proper.

The Convention on the Prohibition on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of AntiPersonnel Mines and on their Destruction came into force on 1 March, 1999 and has been widely hailed as the most successful global disarmament and humanitarian treaty, having been ratified by 142 states.

The convention "is highly significant as it marks the first time that states have agreed to ban completely a weapon that was already in widespread use with devastating consequences", Nkuraiyia said.

The Nairobi conference is aimed at reviewing issues critical to the convention, including deadlines for demanding mine clearance and destruction of stockpiles of mines by state parties to the convention and help for those maimed by landmines.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), save for Somalia which has no functioning government, all 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the most heavily mined region in the world, are State parties or signatories to the mine ban treaty.

There are 23 mine-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Sudan. In 2002 and 2003, new landmine casualties were reported in 20 of the 23 mine-affected countries, according to ICBL.

In many of the mine-affected countries in the African region, medical facilities and rehabilitation services are in poor condition, mostly due to a lack of financial resources. Armed conflict, whether ongoing or in the past, has also taken a heavy toll on the health infrastructure in several countries, meaning that landmine survivors have had little hope for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Very little information is available on landmine incidents or casualties in Somalia, one of the countries most affected by the problem in eastern Africa, but according to the ICBL, 4,357 landmine or unexploded ordnance casualties, comprising 2,626 fatalities and 1,731 injuries were reported between 1995 and 2000.