In the wake of the Accra CPA, when warlords were bickering over who gets to take over the fattest cash cow (government revenue generating agency), this writer admonished them to concentrate their efforts instead on land mines they had planted in the fields. Apparently, the authorities did not respond to the cue. Over two years later, UNMIL is now raising awareness about these mines. I guess, better late, than never, as the saying goes.
Devastation caused by land mines is a world-wide catastrophe; a legacy our senseless wars that will characterize our generation in infamy. The Viet Nam War, Angolan War, just to name a couple, in their aftermaths, left trails of deadly land mines and duds that have made amputees of thousands and caused many more to lose their lives. Most of the victims are usually poor peasants who had returned to their homelands to resume eking out their daily bread from the very lands that once sustained them, lands that become infested with potential booby traps lying in wait to maim or kill them.
Who knows how many unreported incidents of this untimely fate that may have already occurred in our land? Much of this mayhem, certainly, can be curtailed. These mines did not plant themselves, people (rebels and soldiers) did. It is now time for all field commanders of NPFL, INPFL, ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K, LURD, MODEL, to step forward and hand over the maps of all areas they ordered mined.
We have been deluged with the phrase, “healing process”. If tendering information about the locations of laid mines isn’t a key parameter in this process, what else is? It should not suffice then, to simply raise awareness of the existence of land mines. Telling village dwellers to “stop indiscriminate brushing” is evidence that the authorities have no clue where these mines are. What the villagers rather need to hear for their safety are firm ordinances, such as, “Do Not Brush Area B. There Are Land Mines Here.” By all means, let’s avoid playing a guessing game with the lives of villagers. There is an urgent need for an aggressive program to tackle this deadly menace. Information about these mines is key, and it can be obtained right there in Monrovia. So, let’s flush it out.
Agriculture is being touted as one of the national development pillars. It, however, cannot be pursued with maiming and killing war gadgets embedded in the soil. A sound agriculture policy must be preceded by a sweeping land mines eradication program.
All known masterminds plus generals of the wars need to be called in for consultations. They are to provide vivid descriptions of what these mines look like, and the information used to educate the public. These wars were waged in the name of patriotism, at least to some extent. Well, cleaning up the mess after the wars is yet another patriotic act. This group needs to come forward voluntarily, or must be cited to provide the necessary maps. We know who they are. And if this should prove futile, we need to go directly to ex-combatants, the “grunts”, the ones that were charged with laying the mines. An information gathering center needs to be set up, and if necessary, willing credible informants should be hired to work with the authorities.
When facing the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, all warlords and field commanders would show genuine contrition by including in their testimonies information as to where they sowed these deadly seeds. They need to come up with pictures or diagrams of the types of land mines they laid. Keeping silent about information on these mines would be a betrayal of our forgiving. Step forward, generals, it is time to bring to a safe end what you started. War returnees need their land to survive, and it must be rendered safe for them to use. The wars destroyed many lives, it’s time to save those left.