May 26 (Bloomberg) -- 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.
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