Angola: Country has 1,000 minefields but 90pct less funding for mine clearance

Angola still has more than 1,000 minefields to clear, but has lost around 90 per cent of its international funding for mine clearance, making it more difficult to meet the goal of freeing the country from mines by 2025.

In an interview with Lusa, Adriano Gonçalves, head of the Exchange and Cooperation office of the Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH), takes up the problem: “For about ten years we have been suffering declines in funding for demining in Angola,” in the order of 90%, which has had a direct impact on mine clearance activities that have been “considerably” reduced.

In addition to the reduction in funding from international donors, the funds from the General State Budget have also fallen significantly, penalised by the fall in oil prices in 2014.

“We would like [mine clearance] to be done more quickly and more intensively,” he admits.

That’s why Prince Harry’s visit to Angola, which will go to places his mother, Diana of Wales, visited in 1997, is seen as one of the great opportunities to show the results of action against mines in the country.

The long periods of conflict, first in the colonial period, which began in 1961 and then after independence in 1975, in a civil war that only ended in 2002, left thousands of unexploded mines and other explosive devices scattered throughout the country that, despite the clean-up operations, continue to claim victims.

Although the number of unexploded ordnance accidents has been declining, 37 cases were reported in the first half of this year, nine of which died and the others were seriously injured, figures that Adriano Gonçalves considered “worrying”.

This led the Government to invest in a campaign to raise awareness of the risk of mines and other explosive devices, which was launched last month and is being led by the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women, to “reinforce” prevention.

It is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 60,000 mine victims in Angola, a figure that the government wants to ascertain more accurately.

“We are conducting a national survey on disabled mine victims”, a project that has already allowed for the counting of 10,000 victims in nine provinces, less affected by the war.

The other nine are those where Adriano Gonçalves believes there are higher numbers: “We are talking about Cuando Cubango, Moxico, Bié, Malanje, Kwanza Sul, among others, which had a greater impact from the war”.

Since 2002, more than 108,000 kms of roads and almost 10,000 kms of power transmission lines have been demined.

“We had a country in a chaotic situation, where the provinces could not communicate by land because the bridges and roads were destroyed, about 72% of the infrastructure was completely destroyed”.

This was the scenario that met Princess Diana when she visited Angola in January 1997 on a trip that served to draw the attention of the international community to the innocent victims of this type of weaponry, which was to be banned by the Ottawa Convention.

A signatory to the Ottawa Convention, Angola has committed itself to eliminating antipersonnel mines in its territory by December 31, 2025, but the leader of CNIDAH faces this deadline with scepticism.

“As far as Angola is concerned, we are sure that we will have great difficulties in meeting this goal by 2025,” he said.

However, three provinces – Malanje Namibe and Huambo – could be declared clear by the end of the year.