Prince Harry’s visit to Angola in September 2019 renewed global awareness of the persistent danger posed by landmines. In 1997, his mother, Princess Diana, famously walked through a minefield in Huambo, making many people aware of landmines and their devastating impact for the first time. Twenty-two years later, Prince Harry retraced her steps along what is now a bustling street, showing the direct link between socioeconomic development and humanitarian mine action.
The United States has invested over $134 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) efforts in Angola since 1995, with the vast majority supporting demining operations. As the largest international donor, U.S. support has returned over 395 square kilometers (153 square miles) of land to productive use, in the process destroying 26,626 landmines and 47,382 items of unexploded ordnance to the direct benefit of over 1.4 million Angolans. This support has also provided mine risk education to over 166,000 people. Worldwide, the United States has provided over $3.6 billion to over 100 countries since 1993, far outpacing any other donor.
Although Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) continue to kill and maim civilians as they pursue everyday activities such as going to work and school, fetching water, and cultivating their fields. These explosive hazards also impede development by blocking roads and leaving vast tracts of land unusable. Today, the remaining minefields in Angola contaminate approximately 92 square kilometers (35.5 square miles).
In continuing his mother’s legacy, Prince Harry also drew attention to how mine action supports wildlife conservation efforts when he visited a minefield in Luengue-Luiana National Park, located in the country’s southeast. The Government of Angola has made it a top priority to demine two national parks that form Angola’s component of the Kavango Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), the world’s largest conservation area. The parks contain the rivers that feed into the Okavango Delta in Botswana, which provides water to the world’s largest population of African elephants. In June 2019, the Government of Angola committed $60 million to demine the national parks. Completion of this effort will also open the park to sustainable wildlife tourism, which both provides much needed employment to local people and mitigates wildlife poaching and trafficking.
The United States is proud to stand alongside the United Kingdom and other international donors in supporting humanitarian mine action in Angola. It was an honor to join Prince Harry on his visit and see firsthand how demining efforts improve civilian security, facilitate development, and enable conservation efforts. During the visit, the United States was pleased to announce an additional $3 million to accelerate demining operations and advance the Government of Angola’s goal to clear the remaining minefields by 2025.
This additional funding expands The HALO Trust’s operations under an ongoing U.S. Government-funded project, enabling HALO to field two additional demining teams and clear another eight high-priority minefields in Cuemba municipality in Bié province. In addition to protecting civilians and returning land to productive use, the project supports the Government of Angola’s conservation efforts by opening safe access to the Okavango watershed. The project also increases the safety of tourists traveling to Luando National Park in Malanje province, which contains the highest concentration of giant sable antelopes, the world’s largest antelope and Angola’s national animal. The project supports the objectives outlined in the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act, which promotes wildlife conservation and improved water resource management in the Okavango River Basin and puts forward conservation as a foundation for inclusive economic growth and development.
The additional funding also supports the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to deploy manual and mechanical demining teams to survey and clear nine high-priority minefields in Luena, Luzi, and Kamanongue communes in Moxico province. As these communities grow, they face mounting pressure to use land that remains contaminated by landmines and UXO. A national census in 2014 identified over 3,400 landmine survivors in Moxico province alone, with many more likely unreported, showing the urgent need for continued demining operations.
Since 1995, the United States has invested over $134 million in conventional weapons destruction efforts in Angola, with the vast majority supporting demining operations. This support has returned 395 square kilometers (153 square miles) of land to productive use and destroyed over 26,500 landmines and 46,200 items of landmines and unexploded ordnance to the direct benefit of over 1.4 million Angolans.
To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM. For more information on the Okavango Delta, see National Geographic’s 2018 documentary, Into the Okavango. You may also follow The HALO Trust @TheHALOTrust and MAG @MAGsaveslives.
About the Author: Nina Maria Fite serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Angola.