Prince Harry retraced his mother’s footsteps as he visited a partially cleared landmines field in Angola on the fifth day of the Sussex road tour in Africa. Harry spotting a flak jacket and visor in Angola to watch landmines clearing in reminiscent to the late Princess Diana time there in 1997.
Princess Diana famously visited in 1997 to highlight the threat of munitions but the Halo Trust has been clearing landmines to turn the area into a thriving community, after almost 22-years since the late Princess of Wales and witness the legacy of her work to eliminate the devices.
Harry donned body armour and a protective visor in scenes reminiscent of his mother back in 1997 to walk through a partially cleared minefield in Huambo. He was in Angola to echo her calls for a global ban on the weapons and highlight the plight of those affected by them, especially children.
Near the south-eastern town of Dirico, the duke walked into an area that was once an artillery base for anti-government forces who had mined the position in 2000 before retreating. The dusty scrubland was marked with red warning signs showing the skull and crossbones, with the Portuguese words ‘Perigo Minas!’ and the English translation below – danger mines.
Harry made a speech afterwards praising the clearing efforts of the Halo Trust as helping the community to ‘find peace’. ‘Landmines are an unhealed scar of war, he said. ‘By clearing the landmines we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity. ‘Additionally, we can protect the diverse and unique wildlife that relies on the beautiful Kuito river that I slept beside last night. ‘That river and that wildlife are your natural assets and, if looked after, will bring you unlimited opportunities in the conservation-led economy.
He added: ‘It is fitting that this project starts in Dirico, at the convergence of the two rivers that flow from Angola’s islands down to the Okavango Delta. ‘These two rivers provide water and life to over a million people downstream and essential and incredibly delicate habitat for an abundance of wildlife. ‘Just as these rivers extend for miles, so must this project extend far beyond Dirico. Outside the national parks, large parts of this crucial watershed also need to be cleared of land mines. ‘Clearing the full watershed will take an international effort. Everyone who recognises the priceless importance of safeguarding Africa’s most intact natural landscape should commit fully to this mission.’
Jose Antonio, a regional manager for the landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, took Harry onto the site where his staff have been working since August to make it safe, and he hopes they can complete their painstaking clearance by the end of October. Like all those visiting the Trust’s site, Harry had been given a safety briefing and told not stray off the cleared lanes, touch anything or run.
He watched as a mine clearance worker used a metal detector to search for the mostly anti-personnel mines buried in the ground. If one is discovered staff are trained to move back and carefully remove the soil as they move forward until they reach the munition.
The duke walked through an area of the site looking at the marked off areas which potentially could contain landmines. An anti-personnel mine had been discovered earlier and Harry was asked to set it off with a controlled explosion to safely destroy the decades-old weapon.