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By Jane Cocking
Decades ago Angola was an agricultural breadbasket – self-sufficient in all major food crops and exporting many others. More than a million landmines have contributed to a legacy of war which has left rural communities decimated, fearful and unable to make use of Angola’s natural gifts to produce food and income to thrive.
Two decades ago, Diana Princess of Wales walked in Angola’s minefields. In doing so, she captured the conscience of states, civil society and the public and helped inspire the final successful push to achieve the groundbreaking 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. States, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and campaigners came together in a way that changed the world.
MAG completed non-technical surveys in Moxico Province on 7th June 2017 and more than 90% of suspected hazardous land has now been handed back to local communities.
Since 2014 MAG has been conducting non-technical surveys in Moxico – an eastern province of Angola. Moxico covers nearly 20% of Angola’s landmass and is one of the poorest and most contaminated provinces in the country. MAG collect and analyse locations that might contain landmines or unexploded ordnance, confirm whether there is evidence of a hazard or not, and define the perimeter of the area.
Together, we've helped more than 17 million people escape the fear of landmines. People like Helen (below right) in Moxico province, Angola.
Two minefields in the area of Angola worst affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been made safe by MAG and returned to the local communities.
Our teams removed and destroyed 320 explosive weapons in two villages in the impoverished eastern province of Moxico, which suffers badly from this legacy of Angola’s long civil war. Some 3,456 people are known to have died or been wounded by mines and UXO in Moxico, and the real figure is almost certainly a lot higher.
A FUTURE FREE FROM FEAR
At MAG, we believe that whenever and wherever wars happen, ordinary people should not be the ones who pay the price.
As Chief Executive of the UK’s only aid and development charity to have shared the Nobel Peace Prize, I am immensely proud of the difference MAG and our donors made directly to the lives of more than 1.4 million men, women and children in 2015.
The news that Mozambique has declared itself landmine-free is cause for celebration and a huge achievement. But we must acknowledge the tragic truth that much more needs to be done to make life safe for the thousands of people still living with these hidden killers in other countries.
We must not let minefields be forgotten. Whenever and wherever wars happen, innocent people should not be the ones who pay the price.
In this edition of Insight:
Though Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, the legacy of this quarter-century long conflict means that, for much of the population, daily tasks like fetching water or walking to school can end in tragedy.
Luzi is a village in the eastern province of Moxico. Like many communities in this war-torn part of the country, Luzi was heavily fought over by Government and UNITA forces during the war. Residents began to flee in the 1980s as a result, seeking refuge in neighbouring Zambia, and by 1995 the village had been deserted.
"Surviving the Peace: Angola" follows the interconnected stories of an eight-year-old landmine survivor, Minga, and a former soldier turned MAG deminer, Eron.
After more than 27 years of civil war (1975-2002), Angola is one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world.
These deadly weapons don't discriminate between soldiers and civilians, nor between adults and children.
One hundred per cent of conflict-affected communities questioned on landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination in Moxico province said that following MAG's work they had not had any further accidents and felt safer.
On a hot morning in the community of Luzi, Soba (village head) Lingele sat with his colleagues Daniel Raule Upite, Soba Kandala and Julia Likumbi to talk about MAG’s work with one of our Community Liaison teams.
The school in Luzi, a landmine-contaminated community of 1,700 people in Moxico Province, has been closed since early 2010 when a mine accident was reported nearby.
One of the teachers has been giving classes outside his home in the meantime, but attendance has dropped by almost 70 per cent.
One mother told a MAG Angola Community Liaison team: “There is no school. I need my daughter here to work and, if we do not have a proper school for her to learn in, why should my family suffer without her help at home?”
Reporting period: April1st 2010 to June 30th 2010
Summary of outputs:
- Clearance of 89,601 m2 of land for resettlement of returnees from the DRC and Zambia
- Clearance and verification of 30km of road
- 220 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) spot tasks completed by the Rapid Response Team (RRT), destroying 467 items (10 AT mines, 18 AP mines, 393 items of Small Arms and Light Weapons, and 46 other items of Unexploded Ordnance - UXO)
- 225 community visits by Community Liaison (CL) teams and 201 UXO reports collected
- 88 Mine Risk Education (MRE) sessions conducted, …
A key part of MAG's overall demining operations and strategy in Angola is to assist in the development of the national demining authorities.
In Moxico province in recent months, MAG has delivered safety messages to military and police forces, and conducted mapping training for the country's National Institute for Demining.
MAG's Community Liaison teams visited four municipalities - Luena, Luau, Luacano and Alto Zambeze - to deliver Mine Risk Education (MRE) to 668 members of the military and police forces, following a request in March from the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) …
"MAG's wondrous legacy in Moxico is everywhere to see, as local people resume lives that fear of landmines had until recently made impossible," said the US Ambassador to Angola, Dan Mozena, after the first of two visits by donors to MAG's Angola operations.The Ambassador, his wife and five colleagues from the Embassy saw MAG deminers in operation, clearing a mine contaminated area, as well as viewing a demolition, at the end of April.
The Ambassador also met with representatives of the local community, Chief Rogério António Suco and a representative of the national …
Along with thousands of other Angolans, 48-year-old Jurindo Hishika, his wife and their five children fled his homeland during the last years of his country's civil war.
Hailing from Angola's eastern Moxico province, Mr Hishika's family were beset by violence during the conflict. Much of the heavy fighting between rebel group UNITA and Angolan government forces erupted in that region during UNITA's last stand.
Reporting period: January 1st 2010 to March 31st 2010
Summary of outputs:
- Clearance of 186,834 m2 of land for 1,656 beneficiaries
- Clearance and verification of 45km of road
- 239 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) spot tasks completed by the Rapid Response Team (RRT), destroying 831 items ( 6 AT mines, 46 AP mines, 715 items of Small Arms and Light Weapons, and 64 other items of Unexploded Ordnance - UXO)
- 175 communities visited by Community Liaison (CL) teams and 155 UXO reports collected
- 77 Mine Risk Education (MRE) sessions conducted, reaching 3,863 …
Clearing roads of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) is crucial to helping improve the standard of living in Moxico, the province in Angola most heavily contaminated by remnants of conflict.MAG Angola's Road Operations Unit is currently working on a 98-kilometre stretch in the isolated municipality of Luchazes, from the communa1 of Cassamba to Cangamba [see map].
During the country's civil war, Luchazes was a former stronghold of UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), and as such saw heavy fighting against the MPLA (Popular Movement for the …
Reporting Period: 01 July to 31st December 2009
Activities & Outputs:
- Clearance of 470,187 m2 of land and 77 km of road
- Mechanical preparation of 331,617 m2 of land
- 548 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) spot tasks completed by the Rapid Response Team, destroying 1,193 items ( 9 AT mines, 105 AP mines, 1,033 items of Small Arms and Light Weapons, including ammunition, and 44 other items of Unexploded Ordnance - UXO)
- 384 communities visited by Community Liaison (CL) teams and 411 UXO reports collected
- 172 Mine Risk Education (MRE) …
Like many poor families in Moxico Province, Alfredo Ramos Shimishi, his wife and nine children have two options when attempting to earn a livelihood on land they know is contaminated by landmines - "to take the risk or to starve".
Sixty-six year old Alfredo was a teacher in a Luena primary school in the early 1980s, until one day in 1986 he stepped on a landmine while collecting firewood.
He lost his right leg and had to stay in hospital for three months. When he finally recovered, he found he had lost his job.
"MAG is about to enter its 21st year as an organisation and I am very proud to have been a part of what has been achieved over those years.