According to a recent BBC article, Rwanda is the first country to be declared landmine-free by the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World. Prior to this designation, hundreds of people had been killed or injured in Rwanda by landmines laid between 1990 and 1994. Specially trained Rwandan soldiers have destroyed more than 9,000 mines in the past three years.
Since land is at a premium in Rwanda, the most densely populated African country, this is an especially significant accomplishment. Farmers, who comprise 80% of the population, are now able to farm their land without fear of death or injury. Wow, what a relief---I can't imagine having to balance a fear of starving with a fear of having limbs blown off in the process of trying to feed one's family!
For Rwanda to be declared landmine-free according to the Ottawa Treaty, it had to not only ensure that its land was free of mines, but destroy any landmine stockpiles it may have had. The U.S. is not deemed a mine-free country because, along with China, Russia, India, and about 3 dozen other countries, the U.S. has declined to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
In news story after news story, I have read nothing but great things about the advances that Rwanda has made politically, technologically, medically, educationally, etc. Every new tidbit of information makes me even more excited to begin living and teaching in Rwanda. And although I hadn't given any previous thought to the danger I might encounter in Rwanda due to land mines, I've gotta say that I'm liking the news that landmines are no longer an issue! I can't wait to do some serious hiking once I get there!!!