DRC official hails UN de-mining work as ‘priceless’

The work of the United Nations in de-mining land provides ‘priceless’ security, a local official in the DRC said, as the world body handed over a strip of land cleared of mines along a runway in the vast African nation’s north.
The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) coordinated the verification and mine clearance, carried out by the South African firm Mechem, of the 7.5 km strip of land at the Kisangani International Airport, which was fought over during the wars of 1997 and 2000.
“We now have a space completely secured on the outskirts of the runway and this security is priceless,” said Provincial vice Governor Joseph Bangakia Angaze, thanking the de-miners and the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC.
“We knew for a long time that this space was contaminated with unexploded ordnance since the last wars that ravaged Kisangani and surrounding areas,” he added.
In 2002, a munitions store in close proximity to the airport exploded, with remnants scattering everywhere.
An area totalling nearly 600 000 square metres was de-mined over a period of seven months.
Langis Langlois, regional UNMACC officer, said that work remains to be done at a water distribution station south-west of the runway, noting the Mechem will continue its efforts to rid the area of landmines.

Pic: UN Demiming vehicle