Activists create awareness of land mines

Robyn Repya

An intern for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, political science senior Jennifer Mittelsteadt became increasingly aware of the impact of land mines on civilian populations.
She traveled to Canada as part of the Youth Mine Action Ambassador Program and visited the United Nations land-mine display in New York.
“At first, my involvement in the issue was for an internship, but I soon realized the importance of banning land mines, which prompted me to get more involved,” Mittelsteadt said.
With her newfound knowledge, Mittlesteadt founded the University Campaign to Ban Landmines this year. The group held its first major event Wednesday, ringing brass bells to commemorate the first anniversary of the International Mine Ban Treaty becoming international law.
About six students held signs with various anti-land-mine messages and statistics.
“With the help of students around the world sharing information about the banning of land mines, the International Treaty was ratified faster than any other treaty,” said the Rev. Jim Ketcham, a co-founder of the Minnesota Campaign to Ban Landmines.
The treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel land mines. This treaty was ratified by 91 countries and signed by 137 countries. All of the NATO countries have signed, with the exception of Turkey and the United States. China and Russia have not yet signed, either.
According to the group’s statistics, one person is killed by a land mine every 22 minutes; between midnight and noon Wednesday, the group says 36 people will have died.
Mittelsteadt, her mother Gail and the Rev. Ketcham rang the bells borrowed from Mittelsteadt’s church in Faribault 36 times in memory of the land-mine victims.
“How would you like to live in a country where you fear for your life, just walking on the streets?” said Conor Ryan, a College of Liberal Arts freshman.
Children’s shoes were also scattered in front of the bell ringers to symbolize the children killed by land mines.
“I got involved with this because women and children in developing countries are the majority of the land-mine victims,” said Kwame Baah-Gyimah Jr., a CLA junior.
After witnessing the damage that land mines cause in Cambodia and Bosnia, U.S. Senate candidate Steve Miles was compelled to become involved with the issue.
“When someone lives in a country like Cambodia, where the yearly income averages $120, having a bamboo prosthesis means starvation,” Miles said. “It’s a disgrace that the U.S. has not signed the treaty.”
Instead of signing the treaty, President Clinton released a land-mine policy in 1996, which consisted of three points: End the use of “dumb” mines by 1999, except in Korea where the U.S. military uses them; allow continued use of “smart” mines until an international agreement is reached; and negotiate an international agreement to ban anti-personnel mines.
“Dumb” mines have an indefinite life span, and “smart” mines are designed to detonate at a specific time.
No new U.S. policies have been adopted since 1996. Clinton has promised to remove land mines from Korea by 2003 and sign the treaty by 2006, provided that alternatives can be found to land mines.
One alternative is a mixed-mine system that combines an anti-tank mine and an anti-personnel mine. Alliant Techsystems in Hopkins, Minn., is expected to produce the weapon, although federal funding has not yet been approved.
Last November, 65 protesters were arrested on Alliant Techsystems’ property in a biannual event to persuade the company to terminate its land-mine production. The company currently is not under contract to produce land mines.