ANGOLA – The President of Angola, Mr. João Lourenço has expressed the efforts being made by his country to demine the remaining minefields in the country to enable acceleration of the economic development of the country.
He told Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex during the latter’s recent 3-day visit to Angola. Expressing what the country has been able to achieve as a result of demining, and what is yet to be achieved, he said: “Demining has helped to reopen major railways and roads, linking provincial capitals and allowing people safe access to schools, hospitals and fertile soils.”
The President assured him that as a signatory country to the Landmine Ban Treaty, Angola is determined to completely demine the remaining 1,220 minefields before the 2025 deadline agreed upon by the international community.
He said the action would benefit Angolan citizens, as the country is home to some of the most significant remaining conservation areas in the world, citing the South East Angola where the springs of the “spectacular” Okavango Delta are found and “home to some of the most diverse species of mammals from around Africa”.
"However,” he added that “17 years after the end of the war, large areas of this region are still inaccessible to local people and wildlife, due to the presence of landmines."
President Lourenço explained that in June this year, the Angolan government announced a US$20 million investment for demining in the region, to ensure the conservation of this vital area that provides Southern African biodiversity.
This amount, he continued, is part of the resources that will allow HALO Trust to clear 153 minefields, to protect the “precious” flora and fauna and provide protection to endangered fauna, which has been returning in increasing numbers since the end of the civil war in 2002.
Demining the Okavango river basins, according to the President, will also pave the way for conservation and economic development and provides jobs and a better living standard for the local population.
He then recalls that the World Economic Forum predicted that the country may be among the 10 fastest growing tourist destinations in the world when is free of the landmines.
President João Lourenço and First Lady welcome Prince Harry (Photo: Francisco Miúdo)
Commenting on Prince Harry’s view of Angola, the UK Ambassador to Angola, Jessica Hand, said he happy with the new image of Angola, including the ongoing changes in the country, especially in the political, economic, construction fields, and the great effort the Angolan government made to support the demining process in the country, and issues related to trade and tourism.
Jessica Hand said the Prince was delighted with the current state of development of the country compared to 1997, the year Princess Diana visited the country which was then at war, and suffered many destructions.
Prince Harry also met with the First Lady of the Republic, Ana Dias Lourenço, and was informed about the campaign “Born to shine”, a project initiated by the First Lady to reduce mother-to-child HIV / AIDS transmission. He commended her for the project and encouraged her not to give it up while proposing to support it.
Ambassador Jessica Hand said: "This project represents an effort to fight HIV / AIDS and the United Kingdom will do its utmost to support this humanitarian initiative,".
Prince Harry began his visit to Angola on 26 September in the municipality of Dirico, Cuando Cubango province, where after staying overnight, he learned about the demining process, and remotely detonated an anti-personnel mine before he left.
He travelled to Huambo province, one of the most undemined regions during the armed conflict ended in 2002, and was briefed on the progress being made and the action of Angolan authorities and international partners in supporting the landmine victims.
In Huambo, he witnessed the reopening of the Medicine and Physical Rehabilitation Center, named after his late mother "Princess Diana" who died on 31 August 1997 in Paris (France).
The center built in 1997 in a partnership with the Angolan Red Cross and the international counterpart, will now serve, on average, 200 patients daily across different medical departments compared to the previous 25 patients.
Governor Sérgio Luther Rescova of Luanda (2nd right) at 4 De Fevereiro International Airport to receive Prince Harry (Francisco Miúdo)
The Duke of Sussex had already been in Angola for a personal demining project in 2013, following in the footsteps of his late mother.
In a message, on the occasion of his visit, the Angolan President emphasized that his presence in Angola well reflected "the spirit of optimism that nurtures the Angolan people today".
He recalled that in 1997 Princess Diana faced the tyranny of an evil weapon that destroyed the lives of millions around the world. In this context, the President expressed the wish that Prince Harry may have started a renewed commitment to demining, not only for humanitarian imperatives, but also for the welfare and conservation of the entire planet.
"Angola is deeply grateful to your mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales, for her determination to bring the suffering of mine-stricken Angolan civilians to global attention in 1997."
The President recollected the images of Princess Diana comforting amputated children - “innocent victims of the cruel and indiscriminate effect of anti-personnel landmines” - have shaken the world's consciousness and galvanised international support to ban such weapons forever.
“By following her footsteps in Huambo, Angola's second largest city, the Duke agreed how demining has helped transform Angola,” in a message.
João Lourenço points out that, unlike his mother, who had to wear a visor and a protective vest while escorted by the landmine danger signs, today her son was comfortably walking on a paved road.
The Angolan president welcomes the fact that the children present along that street to greet the Duke are now free to go to school and play safely - "a basic human right that has been denied to many of their parents."
He recognises the British charities, such as the HALO Trust, “generously” funded by the British taxpayers and the United States Government, that helped hundreds of thousands of Angolans rebuild their lives after the war.
The Angolan Government, in partnership with international institutions, particularly British Hallo Trust, intends to ensure the safe movement of people and goods, as well as the trans- boundary environmental conservation and touristic Okavango-Zambezi project by 2025 with a view to seeing the sustainable development of the Angolan economy.