Killer landmines a sad legacy of past Angola conflicts

Danger, landmines

Danger, landmines

from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News)THE recent death of five people after a landmine explosion in northeastern Angola is a tragic reminder of the unenviable legacy of one of the longest conflicts in the continent.

Last week, a land cruiser carrying 13 people hit a landmine, presumed to be anti-tank, claiming the lives of the above-mentioned and injury to others on a road in Sayema district of Cacolo in the Lunda Sul Province.

The injured had to be hospitalised for polytrauma, chest and neck contusion, traumatic cephalic and fracture of the spine and ribs.

This is the second serious case of mine accident in the province.

The last one occurred in 2017 at Deolinda Rodrigues Airport in Saurimo City.

Last month, one person was killed and three others injured in an anti-tank mine explosion in the Kapango district of the eastern Moxico Province.

It was the second tragedy in the region this past year.

The first occurred in October when a 29-year-old man lost both legs after he stepped over an anti-personnel mine.

At least eight accidents were recorded in the province in 2018.

The loss of lives and limbs has since culminated in government efforts in eradicating the landmines in affected regions, particularly the Lunda Sul which has emerged among the hotspots of the crisis.

“We have been putting up warning signs to raise awareness of the suspicion of explosive devices in the area,” said José Dumba, the Lunda Sul head of the National Demining Institute, (INAD).

He said over the past year, the agency de-mined about 40 unexploded ordinances, mostly anti-personal landmines.

Overall, INAD has between 1997 and 2018 removed over 16 000 ordinances following the clearance of land measuring more than 53 000km2.

Authorities have disclosed plans to tackle 30 suspected landmine zones in Lunda Sul this year, with the help of more than 40 demining technicians.

In Cacolo, INAD will conduct the clearance work in collaboration with a special demining unit of the President’s Security Office and the national army.

The landmine problem in Angola can be traced to decades of fighting during the war of independence against then colonial ruler Portugal from 1961 until independence in 1975.

An ensuing civil war that rocked the country from soon after independence to 2002 exacerbated the problem.

“There was no time for the new government to clear the pre-independence landmines crisis as the country would soon spill into civil strife,” said sociopolitical commentator, Maico Borba.

APOPO, the demining group, estimated that one fifth of Angola’s population of 30 million is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war.

“Landmines not only kill and maim innocent people, but also isolate communities from basic needs such as water sources and travel routes, and productive land crucial for growing crops and grazing livestock,” APOPO stated.

Mines Advisory Group, the humanitarian and advocacy organisation, rates Angola as one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with over 100 million m2 of land contaminated and over 1 200 known and suspected minefields.

“Millions of landmines and other unexploded bombs are still scattered throughout the country – the legacy of over 40 years of conflict,” MAG stated.

In June last year, the government of President Joao Lourenco announced an investment of US$60 million to clear landmines, mostly in the southeast of the country. The country hopes to reach a target of being landmine-free by 2020.

– CAJ News

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