Angola destroyed tens of thousands of explosive devices in 2012


More than 30 000 explosive devices, among them grenades, landmines, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, were destroyed during de-mining operations in four provinces of Angola in 2012, resulting in huge tracts of previously unusable agricultural land being cleared.

Angola remains awash with unexploded ordnance which includes landmines, grenades, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines which were left-over from the 1975 – 2002 civil war, which pitted the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Despite the end of the war, the country remains riddled with unexploded ordnance which the government and international partners are slowly clearing.

During 2012, unexploded ordnance was cleared in the central province of Malanje where the National Institute of Demining (INAD) and the 5th Demining Brigade of the Angola Armed Forces (FAA) destroyed 17 561 explosive devices. The ordnance, which was found in the Carreira de Tiro 3 and Cangambo areas included anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and assorted high and low calibre munitions. The operation in Carreiro de Tiro 3 cleared a 13.4 kilometre perimeter of land while the residents of Cungambo recovered 2.1 million square metres of agricultural land.

FAA brigade commander in the southern Cunene province, General Benjamin Angelo, said the army detonated 10 162 explosive devices and cleared 890 000 square metres of land in the Cuvelai, Kwanhama and Namacunde districts in 2012.

In the central province of Huambo, INAD provincial officer Victor Jorge said the organisation destroyed 4 462 explosives devices and cleared 1.3 million square metres of agricultural land which has since been handed back to the communities. The devices included grenades, landmines and ammunitions of various calibres.

Halo Trust, a British non-governmental organisation engaged in de-mining operations around the world also reported that it destroyed 582 explosives devices in the central Bie Province. The organisation’s head of operations in Angola Cristovao Alfredo told local media that the devices included 125 landmines, 112 anti-personnel mines, 13 anti-tank mines, hand grenades and an assortment of high calibre weapons and munitions.

Although there are no officials figures, INAD said more landmine clearance work has been done in the Kwanza Norte and Huila provinces. According to Landmine Impact Survey of 2007, Angola remains heavily contaminated with landmines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) which were planted during the 1975-2002 conflict.

The survey found that the country has 3 293 areas which is identified as suspected hazardous areas (SHA) because of heavy landmine and cluster munition concentrations. The suspected harzardous areas are located in 1 900 mine-impacted communities, which occur in 383 out of Angola’s 557 districts and directly affect the livelihoods of 2.4 million people across the country. In October 2011, the Angolan government launched the first national database of landmine victims.

The database is expected to give service providers, government ministries and aid agencies detailed information on landmine victims and help them formulate ways of helping and re-integrating them into local communities. In 2005, the number of landmine victims across the war ravaged southern and central provinces of Angola was estimated at 130 000.

In December last year, the State Parties to the Ottawa Convention, a group of states which are against the use of anti-personnel landmines met in Geneva, Switzerland and approved Angola’s request for international de-mining operations in the country to continue for another five years, saying the country needs more time to remove or detonate landmines and other explosive ordnance. Angola is a member of the group.

The State Parties to the Ottawa Convention sponsors elements of Angola’s de-mining programme. The country also remains awash with small arms, which are still being discovered in caches, especially in the southern and central parts of the country where the civil war was concentrated.