* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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.
Seventy-five mines and 126 UXO items were cleared by MAG teams at Sacandalei (27km outside Luena), including grenades and mortars that were dug out of former war trenches and destroyed.
And at Cambinga (near the town of Lucusse), 114 mines and five UXO items were removed from minefields that had been laid over 20 years ago in order to protect a military camp.
More than 500,000m² of much needed land can now be used for agriculture and housing.
“We thank MAG for removing all mines here,” said the area chief, Dala Tchitali Tchiweka. “MAG stopped the death and injuries, don’t be tired to help us.”
At a special handover ceremony, MAG and CNIDAH – the national demining commission, which coordinates demining efforts in the country – together called for a sustained push to help the many communities living forced to live with the daily threat of mines and unexploded bombs.
“More needs to be done to remove the last mines in Moxico,” said CNIDAH Head of Operations and Information, Brigadier General Roque de Oliveira. “An additional investment is needed to achieve a mine-free Moxico by 2025, a commitment our Government made [at the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty] in Maputo last year.”
MAG Angola’s Country Director, Jeanette Dijkstra said: “It is not fair, and it is not right, that people are trapped in danger and poverty for years after the civil war is over. The lasting and deadly legacy of the war stops people putting their lives back together, kills their hopes and prevents them from building a better future for their families.”
In 2015, MAG gave back 31 million square metres of land to communities in Moxico, removing 7,895 landmines and UXO items, and helping an estimated 200,000 people.
“We have to help communities get on with their lives, and get back their futures, free of fear,” Jeanette added. “Thank you to all our donors – the US State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the EU, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the People of Japan – for your support. Let us keep working, together, to make Moxico and Angola landmine free by 2025.”
With an increase in commitment from the international community, we estimate that with USD6.5 million per year MAG could free Moxico from the impact of mines within 10 years.
For more on MAG's work in Angola, go to www.maginternational.org/angola.