Prince Harry picks up Diana’s mantle on landmine removal
LONDON — Prince Harry has urged governments around the world to finally clear Angola of landmines, continuing the work of his mother, Princess Diana, who famously walked through minefields in the war-torn country months before her death.
Diana made landmine removal a focal point of her humanitarian work, and drew international attention to the issue when she visited the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango in January 1997 with the Halo Trust charity.
Images of her wearing protective gear as she witnessed mine-clearing efforts prompted worldwide efforts to restrict the use of mines in war. In a speech on Monday, Harry referenced that famous walk and urged that demining efforts remain on the international agenda.
“I was told just the other day of the positive transformation in Huambo since my mother walked that minefield all those years ago,” he said during a speech at think tank Chatham House in London. “What is less well-known is the impact landmines can have on conservation and wildlife, and therefore the economy.”
“Angola is an important example of a country leading the way in clearing the remnants of war,” he added.
Harry previously visited Angola in 2013, following in his mother’s footsteps to see the after-effects of the nation’s decades-long civil war, which officially ended in 2002.
“I saw a struggling community in a deserted landscape, unable to make use of the land,” he said during his speech Monday. “Let’s not forget landmines are a humanitarian issue and not a political one.”
But Harry said that there is “still a huge amount to do,” adding that reductions in funding for demining efforts in the region were “pretty shocking.” Chatham House estimates that funding for the work has slumped by 90% over the past decade.
He encouraged countries not to “leave a job half-done,” adding: “There is an end in sight.”
Angola’s protracted conflict, which broke out after it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, was in its last throes when Diana visited.
The war killed up to 1.5 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook. About 4 million people were internally displaced, more than half of them children, the United Nations said.