Preventing tragedies goal of landmine mission

University of Otago peace and conflict studies PhD candidate Matt Fuller is preparing to travel...
University of Otago peace and conflict studies PhD candidate Matt Fuller is preparing to travel to Kosovo to learn how to disarm landmines. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
For someone who wears two masks outdoors and refuses to start his car until everyone on board has their seatbelt on, it seems slightly "at odds" that Matt Fuller wants to learn how to disarm landmines.

The safety-conscious 36-year-old is in the final stages of completing a PhD in peace and conflict studies at the University of Otago, and plans to travel to Peje, Kosovo in August to start a seven-week training programme.

While learning to disarm landmines is not on most people’s bucket lists, Mr Fuller said it had been on his since his best friend was shot and killed by a police officer in the United States in 2006.

"He had a horrible death.

"When he died, it really instilled in me this sense of wanting to do things that help people, and if I could prevent or somehow save people from dying the way that he died, make the world a little less violent so that there are less people having to feel the pain that I felt, then that would make the world a better place.

"Once I saw that this kind of work [disarming landmines] existed, I thought to myself, this could really make a difference.

"This could really change things for a lot of people, because everybody that steps on a landmine is basically like my friend — they die this horrible, violent death that is totally unforeseen, totally accidental.

"When you make sure there’s not a landmine for them to stand on, then you’ve prevented it, and that’s what matters to me."

The Landmine Monitor for 2021 reported 7073 casualties in 2020, including 2492 people killed and 4561 wounded by landmines around the world.

Syria, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen are among the worst-affected countries.

Mr Fuller said it was a dangerous job but he was confident in the training and safety practices he would receive in Kosovo.

"I’m doing a very thorough programme. They teach you how to use a metal detector, work with dogs, and how to disarm the explosives using the proper protocol.

"I definitely don’t think of myself as a brave person."

At completion of the course, he will hold an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) qualification.

Use of landmines was banned in 1998, but they were still a massive problem, he said.

There are 61 countries around the world which are contaminated by landmines, and his long-term plan is to work for an organisation that helps to remove them.

 - john.lewis@odt.co.nz

 

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