MINE FREE

Mozambique 2016 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: MOZAMBIQUE DECLARED FREE OF LANDMINES

Mozambique, once considered one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, has been declared free of landmines.

Mozambique has realized an incredible achievement. In just over two decades, the country has cleared over 171,000 landmines. The last deadly device was removed from the base of a railroad bridge in the province of Sofala in central Mozambique in September 2015.

The official announcement was made by Hon. Oldemiro Júlio Margues Baloi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mozambique, during the closing ceremony of the mine clearance program held in Maputo on September 17, 2015. “It is with great pleasure that I have the privilege to declare Mozambique as a country free of land mines,” the minister said. “This is a proud day for Mozambique. Ridding our country of landmines was tremendously difficult but the braveness and determination of our demining teams proves to the world that it is possible for countries to become landmine free. We are truly grateful to those who risked their lives in order to protect those of our children and future Mozambicans,” added Alberto Augusto, the Director of Mozambique's National Demining Institute.

Tens of thousands of landmines were laid throughout Mozambique during its 1964-75 struggle for independence from Portugal and the ensuing civil war. Many of these were placed close to key structures, such as bridges, dams, and electricity pylons. Even though the civil war ended in the early 1990s, landmines and the explosive remnants of war have continued to harm locals and hinder the country's socio-economic development.

A large-scale mine clearance effort was launched in 1993 by the United Nations Operations in Mozambique (UNMOZ) with the support of several international donors and NGOs. It is estimated that 10,900 Mozambicans have been killed or injured by land mines throughout the years. In total, 17 million sqm of land have been cleared.

Clearance of hazardous areas has provided relief from the burden of living under the threat of deadly mines and has created new potential in vast areas of land, now ready for arable farming and cattle grazing. That means more favorable conditions for widespread development, investment, and economic growth. Mozambique is now ready to hit the ground running and take full advantage of its extensive natural resources.

Ridding Mozambique of its mines was possible thanks to a concerted effort from deminers, survey teams, donors, and the local government. The challenge now is to seize the momentum toward achieving a mine-free world by 2025. This means supporting other heavily mined countries such as Angola, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Cambodia to achieve what once seemed just a dream for Mozambique. Demining the world will not be easy as the sector relies on continued political will and significant resources. Nevertheless, Mozambique's achievement is truly inspiring and can serve as a great example to other nations of what can be achieved with willpower and proper collaboration.