“UK Government congratulates #Nepal for clearance of last remaining minefields & its designation as landmine free country.” So tweeted the Foreign Office this morning. This is good news for the Nepalese, and for visitors to their country.
When it comes to the scars of war, clearing up the physical mess can take a lot longer than it does to return to some kind of psychological normality. We hear people talking about choosing to move on, but bombed-out buildings don't mend themselves. In the fifteen years since the shooting stopped in Bosnia and Herzegovina many of its marks are still clearly visible. This morning I woke to see the sunlight streaming through the bullet holes in the shutters on the window of the bedroom I was borrowing.
I'm in Mostar. I drove down from Jajce on Sunday evening. One section of the journey passes through what has been, until recently, a largely unmarked minefield. Last month a sudden proliferation of bright yellow hazard tape alerted me to the fact that I'd managed to miss the small red “Pazi Mine' signs that have been nestled in the bushes for some time. In the last week the roadside shrubbery has been hacked away and a grid of hazard tape marked out over the ground: all indications the days are numbered for this particular mine field.
Perhaps it's just me, but it is strange living in a country where there are still so many mines out there. You don't go off the beaten track. You do watch where you put you feet when you're outside of town. You do look up at the inviting mountain views and think “I wonder...” Optimistic articles I've read indicate Bosnia might be in the say position as Nepal within ten years, the pessimists add another nought to that number. Either way, the day can't come too soon.