Angola Villagers Enjoy New Life After Explosives Clearance

Luanda — AFTER more than four decades dicing with death posed by landmines and explosives planted during the civil war, communities in northwestern Angola can now enjoy a new lease of life following a demining exercise.

The project in the province of Uige has culminated in local villagers returning to fertile lands to boost agricultural production and trade. Transport routes have also been reopened.

Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development, the Belgian non-governmental organisation known by its acronym, APOPO, and its partner, the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), have cleared 1,47 million square metres and released back to the village of Quitexe, about 39 kilometers south of the provincial capital city of Uíge.

Some 25 landmines and over 1 000 other explosive remnants of war (ERW) destroyed.

With the threat of landmines now resolved, the Uíge government is set to build a new municipal hospital to benefit about 33 000 people, or more than 6 550 families living in the Quitexe municipality.

Buoyed by the successful operation in Quitexe, APOPO has embarked on a similar exercise in the nearby village of Kitomaluta.

It has cleared more than 68 631 square meters and found one landmine and 95 other explosives.

The clearance exercise will benefit over 27 000 people from 4 500 families from the local community.

"We hope to complete this task by end of August," said Manuel João Agostinho, APOPO programme manager.

Landmines and other explosive ERW are the tragic legacy of the 27-year civil war between rival liberation movements in the former Portuguese colony.

Fighting between the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

It ended in 2002 with the assassination of the latter's leader, Jonas Savimbi, in 2002.

However, vast areas still have explosives, which continue maiming and killing people and animals.

As a result, Angola's economic development is severely hampered especially in the rural areas.

"Angola's conflict ended 17 years ago, but many people are still living in fear of landmines," lamented the Landmine Free 2025 campaign.

Recent clearance operations have raised hopes the country will be free of landmines by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) deadline of 2025.

"With extra funding, Angola's landmines could be cleared by 2025, building the foundation for sustainable development in some of the poorest communities," Landmine Free 2025 stated.

In June, the Angolan government announced an investment of US$60 million to clear landmines southeast of the country.

The investment over five years will fund clearance of 153 minefields in the Cuando Cubango region.

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