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UK Government: Sniffing Out Landmines In Africa
Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 17, 2006 – A canine detection team has been drafted in to help sniff out landmines in parts of Africa.
The six shepherd dogs - called Atti, Aska, Bronco, Fly, Lucky and West - are being used by a British military training team in Kenya to train African forces in de-mining techniques.
A new kennel for the dogs was opened today, the first anniversary of the opening of the British-funded International Mine Action Training Centre (IMATC) in Nairobi, and also Aska's first birthday.
The centre is the first facility in East Africa to offer landmine training using dogs.
The Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram who opened the IMATC in February last year and returned from a visit to Kenya last week, said:
"Landmines are a significant threat in Africa. The British military training team has done a tremendous job in the year since I opened the International Mine Action Training Centre. They have trained more African forces than expected in de-mining. The dog training they will now also provide is another important tool in ridding Africa of landmines."
The new kennel was officially opened by Adam Wood, British High Commissioner to Kenya, who said:
"I am delighted to be opening these kennels, an important addition to the Centre. The partnership with the Mines Awareness Trust, who have funded the dogs, and the IMATC is an exciting development. It is wonderful to see this centre of excellence going from strength to strength.
"I am particularly pleased that last week the Governments of Kenya and the UK signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Visiting Forces. This has ensured British support to the International Mine Action Training Centre and the continued presence of the British Peace Support Team in Kenya. Both are particularly good examples of the strength of UK/Kenyan military co-operation. Here today, in particular, we have an excellent demonstration of the success that can be achieved by working together on a project of international significance."
British Royal Engineer and Commandant IMATC, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Wildish, added:
"In just 12 months a swathe of disused land at Embakasi near the International Airport has become a thriving centre of excellence providing high quality training in manual and mechanical de-mining techniques. The addition of detection dogs will ensure we are able to offer students even more comprehensive training and ultimately save more lives here in Africa."
He concluded: "Mine clearance is notoriously painstaking, expensive and dangerous work but the quality training we provide will contribute to the worldwide effort to eradicate landmines."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. Still photographs of the dogs at the kennel opening ceremony today are available at http://www.mod.uk.
2. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most heavily mined region in the world (source - Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian De-mining).
3. The definition of humanitarian de-mining (or "mine action") is the complete removal of mines and explosive ordnance to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) from a designated area to allow the land to be used by civilian population.
4. The training delivered by the IMATC builds on work already completed by the Kenyan Engineer Squadron, as part of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Since land was cleared in Eritrea as part of this Mission, 20,000 people have been able to return home and resume their lives as farmers.
5. As part of its commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty and the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool, the UK has provided GBP3.5 million to fund the construction of the IMATC as well as three permanent British Army Royal Engineers to staff the centre. Meanwhile the Kenyan government has provided the land at Embakasi, as well as 64 Kenyan Army personnel. The centre now has a staff of 100 men and women including 33 locally employed civilians.
6. Established on 17 February 2005 as a joint venture between the British and Kenyan Governments, the IMATC has already trained nearly 2,000 people in mine awareness, prior to their deployment to operational theatres. In addition, four major de-mining courses have trained a total of 370 humanitarian de-miners to international mine action standards. So far, students have come from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Somaliland, Rwanda and Nigeria. 2006 is already looking very busy with courses being heavily subscribed. Additionally, students from the United Nations Mine Action Service and several NGOs including Norwegian People's Aid, Danish Church Aid and Federation Swiss De-mining have attended these courses.
7. Adam Ingram visited Kenya on 8-9 February 2006 to sign the renewed Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Kenya. He also visited the 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders conducting Exercise Grand Prix at Archer's Post in the Samburu District. For further information on the visit, see MOD press notice 035/2006 of 9 February on http://www.mod.uk.
9. The British High Commission website can be found at http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/kenya and the MoD website at http://www.mod.uk.
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