Western Sahara: the Polisario Front announces the destruction of its remaining stockpiles of anti-personnel mines
12 June 2017
The Polisario Front recently announced the destruction of its remaining stockpiles of anti-personnel (AP) mines. At a meeting with Geneva Call in April, the President and Minister of Defence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic presented a calendar to destroy the thousands of AP mines still in their possession. The stockpiles will be destroyed in three steps by the end of October 2018.
Geneva Call was informed of the number of AP mines to be destroyed and will facilitate and monitor their destruction with the support of experts and mine action organizations. These destructions will complete a process started in 2005 when the Polisario Front signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning AP mines and subsequently destroyed 13,000 AP mines between 2005 and 2015.
The Polisario Front also conducted activities to raise awareness among the population on the risks related to AP mines, facilitated demining operations, and supported victims through specialized organizations in compliance with its commitment.
« After this final destruction, the Polisario Front will be fully compliant with the Deed, for the benefit of the population. Western Sahara is heavily contaminated by AP mines and each mine destroyed is a step towards a safer land for the civilian populations» says Fred Meylan, Geneva Call’s Programme Manager. The Polisario Front has been engaged in an independence struggle for Western Sahara since 1973. After years of fighting, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. However, the status of the territory is still a subject of dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front.
As a result of the conflict, Western Sahara is heavily contaminated by landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive weapons of war (ERW). It is divided by a 2,700-kilometre long earthen wall, known as the ʻbermʼ, which was fortified with millions of landmines threatening lives of hundreds thousands Sahrawi and Moroccan civilians .
Since 1975, more than 2,500 people have been victimized by AP mines and ERW in Western Sahara and, in 2016, 22 new casualties were reported on both sides of the Berm.