People in at least 44 villages in Casamance, southern Senegal, can once again cultivate their fields and rice paddies thanks to Italian government-funded demining efforts, though over 100 other villages – abandoned more than 10 years ago – remain no-go areas.
The demined land was handed over on 20 December by officials of the National Centre for Mine Action in Senegal.
Pape Oumar Ndiaye, secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it was a milestone in demining in Casamance, which began in February 2008, and “a substantial contribution to the resolution of the landmine problem”.
“By freeing the land from the negative impact of landmines, we create the conditions for the return of displaced communities in their region of origin,” he said.
The 44 villages are in the following places: two in Boghal District; 24 in Bona locality, Bounkiling Department; 14 in Djibanar District; and four in Simbandi Brassou locality, Goudomp Department.
Casamance, a rich agricultural area, has endured a 30-year campaign for independence by the armed Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which laid landmines, forcing locals to abandon thousands of hectares of land.
“There is not yet a precise assessment of the extent of contamination, although the most credible estimate was provided in May 2012. Senegal informed the inter-sessional Standing Committee meetings that 36 suspected localities covering an estimated area of 3.5km2 required technical survey and might require clearance,” says the Land Mine and Cluster Monitor.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
SENEGAL: Casamance recovers more land lost to landmines