Maputo — Maputo province was declared “free of land mines” at a ceremony held in Boane district, about 30 kilometres west of the capital, on Friday.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Foreign minister Henrique Banze said that the demining programme, which was begun over two decades ago, has made excellent progress, and the country is in the final stage of removing the land mines sown in its soil.
Under the Ottawa Convention on the banning of anti-personnel land mines, Mozambique should have completed demining by 2009, ten years after acceding to the treaty. This proved impossible, and so Mozambique applied for and was granted a five year extension.
If the demining really is completed by the end of this year, then Mozambique will win the status of “a country free of land mines”.
Maputo is the sixth province to be declared free of land mines. The others are Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia and Gaza.
This leaves Inhambane in the south of the country, and Sofala, Manica and Tete in the centre. According to Banze in these four provinces there are still 4.2 million square metres of land suspected of being mined.
The government, and its cooperation partners who are financing the demining programme, agree that it is possible to conclude demining all of these areas by the end of this year. In 2013, a total of rather more than nine million square metres in the entire country was cleared of mines.
“So we are appealing to the commitment of our partners to continue supporting the programme by making their resources available on time, so as to allow better planning to achieve the goal of making Mozambique a country free of land mines by the end of 2014”, said Banze.
The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jennifer Topping, made the same appeal, reminding the partners involved in demining that “despite the successes achieved, our mission has not yet finished”.
As for Maputo province, Banze said the demining is not only a guarantee of stability for the movement of people and goods in this part of the country, but also a fundamental factor for investment and development.
According to data provided at the ceremony, in all 5.2 million square metres of land in the province were cleared. The demining teams destroyed 5,492 anti-personnel mines, about 9,000 anti-tank mines, and about 4,000 smaller unexploded munitions. Of particular importance was the removal of mines from around electricity pylons.
Indeed, the ceremony was held under one of the pylons, which had been intensively mined during the war of destabilization. Around a single pylon 200 mines of various types were found, endangering the lives of workers charged with the maintenance of the electricity transmission lines.
From 2008 to the present, there were 14 land mine accidents in the province, nine of which maimed sappers of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) in the dangerous task of removing the mines.