Guinea-Bissau May Become First African State to Clear Land Mines

Guinea-Bissau will be completely free of land mines by the end of next year, a former U.S. ambassador to the country and head of its largest mine-removal agency said.

The disarming of several thousand land mines left buried in the Maryland-sized country could make Guinea-Bissau the first African nation to rid itself of mines, John Blacken, the founder of Humaid, said in an interview on May 20.

“Every time you take a land mine out of the ground, that’s a threat gone,” said Blacken, who was U.S. ambassador to the West African nation from 1986 to 1989. “It’s someone’s life.”

Many of the mines in Guinea-Bissau date back to the war of independence from Portugal between 1963 and 1974 and a civil war in 1998 and 1999. The country has a population of 1.6 million.

Worldwide, more than 24,000 people a year, most of them civilians, are killed or maimed by land mines, according to the United Nations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Drew Hinshaw in Dakar via Accra at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at

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