plagued with 22,7 million Landmines
Egypt is one of the countries
that have the largest number of landmines. The Middle East
is one of the most heavily mined regions in the world. Egypt
alone has one quarter of the world's landmines buried in
its deserts, most leftover from the Second World War.
"Although, Egypt has long
lobbied for international assistance to remove the deadly
weapons, but it has refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty on
the Prohibition of Landmines because it focuses on banning
mines, not clearing them, and doesn't specify who would
pay", Egypt's Permanent Delegate to the UN, Ahmed Abul
Egypt's government did pledge
to attend the December signing ceremony in Ottawa, as observers
since Egypt has a strong interest in getting rid of landmines,
but even stronger reservations about the treaty, Abul Gheit
"While cost of dumping
a mine ranges from $5 to $30, clearance costs $300 to $400.
In the 1980s, the United States, Britain, France, Italy
and Germany contributed about $20 million for training and
equipment, in addition to Satellite photography to determine
the extent of the problem and help locate minefields"
Mary Fawler, UN Coordinator for Landmines Affairs said.
"The past two years have
demonstrated that a new standard of behavior is being established,
completely rejecting antipersonnel mines. Those who won't
sign the ban treaty should be stigmatized; those who continue
to use this indiscriminate weapon should be ostracized,"
said Elizabeth Bernstein, Coordinator of the ICBL.
The ICBL calls on all governments
to accede to or ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and to implement
it fully by assisting victims of landmines, removing mines
already laid, destroying stockpiled mines, and never again
using, producing or exporting this perverse weapon.
Activities around the Globe
on the Second Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of
the 1997 Landmines Convention and International Day for
Disabled Persons. Egypt's Landmines Struggle Center, ICRC-Cairo
and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights organized
a seminar on Landmines in Cairo with a screening of an ICRC
film on the Treaty in Arabic.
Cairo announced the establishment
of a center for combating mines, and to remove more than
23 million mines planted in Egypt. This center constitutes
the first civilian attempt in the region to combat the danger
of mines and prevent their use and manufacture.
Moreover the center will observe
the areas where mines are planted in Egypt, to warn the
inhabitants to avoid them and arrange for international,
regional and domestic campaigns in cooperation with the
international organizations for clearing the regions.
The Egyptian authorities are
seeking to clear the border regions of mines. Egypt's problem
stems from the fact that its landmines are old and hard
to locate and were designed for use against tanks, whereas
international criticism is generally focused on antipersonnel
mines.The western desert, scene of one of the major second
world war battles--El Alamine--was littered with 20 million
mines by the armies.
Later, Egypt and Israel combined
to dump more than 6 million mines in the Sinai desert and
the region of the Gulf of Suez during the wars in 1967 and
1973. Many of those mines are booby-trapped. Seven million
mines have been cleared from the western desert in the past
15 years and three million from the Sinai desert. But Egypt
has set the year 2006 as the target for finally ridding
its sands of land mines, but it is anxious not to left alone
in paying for and carrying out this huge task.
By Amira Ibrahim
For over 50 years, since the end of World
War II, Egyptians have been paying the price of conflicts
they were not responsible for. Yesterday's enemies are today's
allies, their past conflicts largely forgotten -- buried
in the ground along with the deadly mines they left behind.
In events leading up to the
1942 Battle of Al-Alamein, 19.7 million land-mines were
planted in the Western Desert by Britain, Germany and Italy.
In the Sinai Peninsula, about 14 million land-mines and
explosives, mostly the work of Israel, are leftovers of
the 1956 and 1967 Middle East wars.
It was only in 1981 that the
government launched a comprehensive plan to remove these
mines. Implementation was, and continues to be, the responsibility
of the engineering corps of the armed forces.
According to figures released
by the armed forces, the wars in the Western Desert and
the Sinai Peninsula have left behind 33.7 million land-mines
planted under 391,000 hectares. In the past 18 years, the
armed forces have managed to remove 11.8 million land-mines:
8.8 million in Sinai and 3 million in the Western Desert.
The 1990s witnessed an intensive
international campaign to ban land-mines, starting with
the Brussels Declaration of 1995. It was followed by a 1996
UN General Assembly resolution calling for international
assistance in the removal of minefields and the Oslo Declaration
But no statement was made that
Western nations should bear full responsibility for the
removal of land-mines they planted in other countries, such
as Egypt. The removal of land-mines has been a permanent
fixture on the agenda of Defence Minister Field Marshal
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and other high-ranking military
officials who exchange visits with British, German and Italian
During a recent visit to Rome
by Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Magdi Hatata, Italy agreed to
step up its contribution to efforts directed at the removal
of land-mines. According to military sources, Italy will
offer technical assistance, organise training programmes
for officers and foot part of the bill.
But in an interview with Al-Ahram
Weekly, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Hazem, commander of the engineering
corps, said the assistance offered by the countries responsible
for planting the land-mines continues to fall short of what
is required. "We need 2,000 mine-sweepers, but we received
only 110 from Germany and 75 from Britain in addition to
a British grant of £500,000 provided between 1981
and 1991. As for Italy, it offered a training programme
for 20 officers," Hazem said. "The removal of
a single mine costs between $300 to $1,000," Hazem
added. "This means that Egypt needs approximately $250
million to remove the 21.9 million mines that are still
buried on its territory."
The Sinai land-mines do not
pose any danger and are not in the way of investment and
development. The minefields of the Western Desert, however,
pose a big problem. "We received maps from Britain,
records of minefields from Germany and books and illustrations
from Italy explaining the types of mines that were used,"
Hazem said. "They are useful but, unfortunately, they
are not enough."
Hazem explained that in addition
to the recorded minefields, new ones are often discovered
by the removal units. "There are 16.7 million land-mines
buried underneath 248,000 hectares in the Western Desert,"
Hazem said. "This is a very large area and maps and
records are often inaccurate. Moreover, as a result of rain,
wind and the movement of sand dunes, the mines are subject
to continual displacement. And because they have been buried
for decades, the mines have become even more dangerous."
According to Hazem, 8,800 civilians
and military personnel have been killed or maimed by the
Western Desert mines. The experience gained by the engineering
corps in dealing with land-mines since 1981 was put to good
use during the 1991 Gulf War. The engineering corps also
removed 520 land-mines and 800 explosives from a 15,000-hectare
area before a development project was launched east of Port
"Investors who wish to
take part in development projects in the Western Desert
and Sinai can request the assistance of the armed forces
in the detection and removal of any buried mines,"
Hazem said. "We do not lack experience," Hazem
said. "We lack funds. But financing should be the responsibility
of those who planted the mines."
As a result, the removal of
land-mines will remain tied to the government's ability
to provide financing since the countries responsible refuse
to foot the bill for their actions.
landmines are old and hard to locate in The Devil's Garden
Egypt, Politics, 9/10/1997
Countries are edging towards
signing an international treaty banning anti-personnel land
mines in December, but this initiative brings up new problems
to be solved.
Egypt's problem stems from
the fact that its land mines are old and hard to locate
and were designed for use against tanks, whereas international
criticism is generally focused on anti-personnel mines.
According to the ministry of defense, mines have hampered
human and economic development and have killed and injured
thousands of civilians.
The western desert, scene of
one of the major second world war battles--El Alamine--was
littered with 20 million mines by the armies. Later, Egypt
and Israel combined to dump more than 6 million mines in
the Sinai desert and the region of the Gulf of Suez during
the wars in 1967 and 1973. Many of those mines are booby-trapped.
The nomadic people refer to waste tracks of desert minefields
as "The Devil's Garden". The military analysts
said that storms have increased the depth at which many
land mines are buried by eight meters, thus ruling out the
use of normal mine-detection methods.
The trigger mechanisms on many
of the weapons have corroded. Mines that were intended to
be set off by the hefty bulk of a tank may be detonated
by weight of a baby. And some explode by themselves. Besides
nomadic casualties, victims have included soldiers and off-the-beaten-track
Seven million mines have been
cleared from the western desert in the past 15 years and
three million from the Sinai desert. That leaves at least
20 million others. But Egypt has set the year 2006 as the
target for finally ridding its sands of land mines, but
it is anxious not to left alone in paying for and carrying
out this huge task.
While cost of dumping a mine
ranges from $5 to $30, clearance costs $300 to $400. In
the 1980s, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and
Germany contributed about $20 million for training and equipment,
in addition to satellite photography to determine the extent
of the problem and help locate minefields.
Foreign donations have now
dried up, however, and since 1990, Egypt has spent $70 million
on de-mining. The government estimates that another $200
million is needed to finish the task. The establishment
has been criticized for taking too long to deal with the
problem, but Cairo says it was unable to start tackling
the menace until it made peace with Israel.
high on land mine campaign list
Times 8/99 - Reuters
Nobel peace prize winner Jody
Williams said in Cairo recently her campaign for an international
ban on anti-personnel land mines had decided to pay more
attention to the "neglected" Middle East.
She told a news conference
that Egypt, struggling with the deadly legacy of land mines
laid in its Western Desert during World War II and in the
Sinai Peninsula during wars with Israel, was a critically
"I hope my visit here...
helps to move us all towards eventually getting rid of this
insidious weapon so that we can all live in a safer environment,"
Williams was due to visit Alamein
in the Western Desert to see for herself part of the area
where Egypt says Allied and Axis armies left 17.5 million
land mines and other unexploded ordnance during World War
Egypt says about five million
land mines are scattered in the Sinai Desert as a result
of Arab-Israeli wars. Egypt, itself a land mine manufacturer,
has not signed the Ottawa anti-personnel land mine ban convention.
Such mines are blamed for killing or maiming more than 25,000
people around the world each year.
Williams said it was vital
to maintain world interest in the issue and the campaign's
momentum "because the international community has the
attention span of a kindergarten child."
Egypt's top disarmament official
at the Foreign Ministry, Mahmoud Karem, said his country
welcomed the humanitarian aspect of Williams' campaign and
wished her well.