Morocco occupied Western Sahara in 1975 and since then the country has been divided onto two parts. Morocco occupies the economically more prosperous eastern part of the country, while the resistance movement Polisario occupies the almost barren western desert part of the country. The division line is a high wall of sand, called the 'berm' (shown in red on the map to the right), cutting through the middle of Western Sahara, with Moroccan military stationed in positions spaced along the wall.
After Morocco constructed the berm,
they reinforced it by burying land mines on the west side of the berm. In addition to the killing and maiming of untold numbers of innocent pastoralists, the mines have done the same for all animals which wandered over them during the past several decades. I think that such indiscriminate placement of landmines in a foreign country is a reprehensible act and deverves the damnation of the rest of the world.
I was reminded of those landmines in the Sahara by a news story
from the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, describing a new effort by the UN and the Polisario to remove and destroy those mines. A convoy of volunteer-driven armored trucks, carrying mine detection and removal equipment, is on its way through Algeria to Western Sahara, where the volunteers and other experts will teach Western Saharans (Sahrawas) to find and safely remove land mines. An admirable thing to do, indeed!
Back on December 4, 1997, 121 nations signed and agreed to a UN sponsored treaty to ban the production, distribution and use of landmines. These countries also pledged $500 million to implement the treaty. They then began a global effort to remove mines from one-time battlefields around the worldMy country (USA) did not sign the treaty and still has not signed it!
Mines left over from past conflicts are insidious killers. It has been estimated
that there are up to 70 million landmines scattered throughout 68 countries.
About 26,000 people are killed or maimed each year, with one injury or death every 20 minutes. Children under the age of 15 form about 30 to 40% of the casualties.
Countries with significant numbers of uncleared mines include: Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
If you want to read more about these hidden dangers, you can go here
; additional links may be found here.