The UN Mine Action Programme in Angola has been brought to a virtual halt in recent weeks because renewed fighting between government forces and the UNITA rebel movement has forced the withdrawal of international peacekeepers and supervisors from key provincial cities.
But Bjorn Waleman, the UN Demining Programme’s Deputy Manager told IRIN on Thursday that although administrative and logistical support was no longer possible in Angola, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, a new contingency plan had been devised with the Angolan government in a bid to keep the programme alive.
As the general political and security situation continued to deterioriate, he said new mines were being laid, and more people were being maimed, wounded or killed daily by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs). “It is important to emphasize the need to keep the Mine Action Programme alive as increasingly, innocent people continue to be the victims of landmines and UXOs,” he said.
He said South Africa, Germany, France, The Netherlands and New Zealand which provided experts to supervise demining in Angola, had withdrawn their staff. They would return only once a ceasefire was adhered to and only if the authorities can guarantee the security of international staff.
When the now shattered UN-brokered Lusaka Protocol peace accord was signed in 1994, both sides had agreed that the UN and its specialised agencies should provide the necessary technical, financial and logistical assistance for the implementation of the programme. However, because neither side trusted the other, both were reluctant to provide information on mines planted around the country.
The UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) - scheduled to leave the country next week - had taken essential and costly demining equipment with them to the capital Luanda as they withdrew from the provinces, he said.
The new contingency plan would provide for upgrading of the Central Mine Action Training School, help build up the government’s own mine clearance institution, increase nationwide mine awareness with UNICEF support, maintain and upgrade the UN landmine mine data base and send trained demining experts to raise awareness in schools and refugee centres. It would also maintain support for international NGOs still operating in Angola.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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