Manual deminer, Margarida Sitoe, conducting demining operations for Apopo in Mozambique
Mozambique is now a “land mine free” country
After more than two decades of demining operations held throughout the country, a breath of hope has been shed into the lives of the people of Mozambique: Mozambique is now a land mine free country.
The announcement was made last week by the Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oldemiro Baloi, during the closing ceremony of the mine clearance program and witnessed by representatives of the United Nations, of the main humanitarian demining agencies, and of the donors who had funded mine clearance.
"It is with great pleasure that I have the privilege to declare Mozambique as a country free of land mines," said the Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Oldemiro Baloi.
This is an important milestone for the country and a reassurance that the people of Mozambique can now walk throughout the country without fear.
´This is a proud day for Mozambique. Ridding our country of landmine 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.´ - Says Alberto Augusto, Director of the Mozambique´s National Demining Institute.
Swedish support to demining operations in Mozambique
The Swedish support to demining operations in Mozambique dates back to the 90s, when Sweden supported the Mozambican government's efforts to transform the old National Demining Commission (CND) into the now National Demining Institute (IND), a government body responsible for coordinating all demining activities. This support has increased to focus on demining operations in highly populated areas, school campuses, agricultural land and the continuous capacity building of the IND.
During this period 1998-2004, Sweden disbursed an estimated amount of 20 Million Swedish Crowns. In the second phase of the support and in response to a call made by the Government of Mozambique, part of the efforts were to ensure that the country could fulfill its obligations under Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention, to ensure full destruction of all anti-personnel land mines in highly mined areas by March 2014. Sweden entered a new 3 year agreement (2012-2015), having disbursed for this purpose an amount estimated at 44 million Swedish crowns.
“This is a window of hope and an important lesson that Mozambique conveys to the world and particularly to those countries that are heavily mined, that combined efforts, persistence and labour can achieve satisfactory results. Sweden is proud to have contributed in the efforts for the elimination of these devices.” – says Irina Schoulgin Nyoni, Ambassador of Sweden in Maputo
Mozambique's mine history
Mozambique´s landmines are a legacy of the long fight for independence followed by a civil war. According to the National Demining Institute, since 2000 about 214,700 land mines have been removed planted close to key structures such as bridges, railways, dams and electricity pylons. In total, the humanitarian mine action activities financially supported by the Government of Sweden contributed to the clearance and release of 93 suspected or confirmed hazard areas covering a total of 6,496,965 square meters, including 266 electrical pylons along the Beira I and Beira II power lines, and the destruction of 21,918 anti-personnel landmines, 4 anti-vehicle mines and 396 items of unexploded ordnance.