- As peace has returned to Burundi, it becomes clear that more mines than previously expected had been deployed during the civil war. Only recently, "an extremely dangerous" anti-personnel mine was discovered and destroyed in the outskirts of Bujumbura, the capital.
The Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a group seeing over the global ban against landmines, is alerted by the increasing numbers of mines found in Burundi. Only a few years ago, the war-torn country was not believed to have a major anti-personnel mine problem.
The mine recently found outside Bujumbura illustrates the problem. Discovered by the local population at a former military position when they decided to use the land for cultivation, the mine was ready to explode. It therefore had to be destroyed in situ by experts. Also other unexploded weapons were found at the site.
"Unfortunately, this explosive discovery is far from an exception in Burundi," MAG said in a statement today. A number of mines and unexploded ordnance have been found in the last year, especially in the north-west of the country in the area surrounding the Kibira Forest and along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since independence in 1962, the Kibira Forest had been a stronghold for different armed movements until May 2009, when the last active rebel group disarmed and joined the peace process.
Due to the immense pressure on land in Burundi the population rapidly returned to the area for agriculture, and discovered mines and other explosive remnants of war. More than 60 areas have currently been identified as "suspected hazardous areas."
The most significant event was the discovery by a farmer in April 2009 of a cache of 41 anti-personnel mines in his newly cultivated field in Mabayi, Cibitoke province. An initial reconnaissance mission on this former rebel position left MAG to believe the surroundings are further contaminated.
The Civilian Protection – the body in charge of dealing with Burundi's mine problem – considers it urgent to survey the Kibira Forest area in order to inform a clearance strategy and eliminate this threat to the population in an area that has been profoundly affected by almost two decades of fighting and rebel presence.
"However, they do not have the human, material or financial resources to do so," MAG warns. The organisation is considering how to assist Burundian with a survey and clearance of the Kibira area, but funding had still not been found.
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