From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists continue to pursue land mine removal

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 11 Apr 2000 14:12:53

April 11, 2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries is
considering ways of becoming directly involved in land mine removal in the
African country of Mozambique.

A proposed initial de-mining project would be directed both at church
property and an equal number of acres of non-United Methodist land in
Mozambique, with the goal of returning agricultural plots and other land,
along with transportation routes, to full use.

At their April 3-6 meeting, board directors approved the concept of the
project, which has a price tag of up to $2 million. Proposals for actual
expenditures will be presented for approval later.

A year ago, the board agreed to conduct a study to decide how best to
contribute to land mine removal and assembled a task force of experts to
assist with that research. The task force submitted a report last October.
In April, directors received a report analyzing board options for de-mining
in Mozambique, prepared by the Advance Project in International Public
Policy and Management of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public
Service, New York University.

Land mines were first used in Mozambique in 1966, when the Front for the
Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) began an armed struggle for independence
from the Portuguese. That war ended in 1974, but peace under independence
was short-lived as a guerilla army (RENAMO) was formed, initially by the
Rhodesian Central Intelligence Office as a response to Mozambique's support
of Zimbabwean rebels.

The planting of land mines escalated during the 1980s as Mozambique's civil
war continued. A few months after a peace accord was signed on Oct. 4, 1992,
the first national plan for mine clearance was drafted. In 1995, the
Mozambique government created the National De-mining Commission under the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. During a conference on land
mines held in Maputo, the country's capital, in 1997, the government
announced an immediate ban on the production, import and export of
antipersonnel mines. In August 1998, Mozambique became the 33rd country to
ratify an international treaty banning land mine production and use.

Options presented in the Wagner report concerning board involvement in land
mine removal include:

·	Creating a new nongovernmental organization to facilitate mine
clearance work.
·	Setting up a new task force to further investigate de-mining
·	Hiring the United Nations Office for Project Services, which has
extensive experience in land mine removal, to provide support for the
·	Adopting a particular community in Mozambique, setting up a
de-mining process and establishing follow-up development projects there.
·	Forming a partnership with a nongovernmental organization already
engaged in land mine clearance.
·	Donating funds to an established de-mining organization in
·	Purchasing efficient, up-to-date de-mining technology.
·	Hiring an organization to conduct de-mining in a particular area.

The recommendation accepted by directors in April favors the agency setting
up its own company for land mine removal - using state-of-the-art equipment
-- and hiring experts to train local personnel.

In a letter to directors, the Rev. Paul Dirdak, chief executive of the
board's United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), noted that the
government of Mozambique has assigned control of national de-mining efforts
to three companies. Each company will do some work itself and sub-contract
the remainder of the work. One of those companies is Mozambican, and Dirdak
wrote that it has "responded very positively to the possibility that we
might sub-contract for one or more of their major sites and might form a
lasting relationship with them."

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