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Landmines

The Ottawa Treaty defines landmines as "mines designed to be exploded by the present, proximity or contact of a person, and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons."

Angola is a typical example of how the slow and delicate process of a country's physical reconstruction and social integration is hampered by landmines left over from a devastating civil war.

A struggle for independence from Angola's Portuguese colonial rulers starting in 1961 marked the first phase of what developed into nearly four decades of almost continuous warfare between the government of the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular Liberaçâo de Angola, MPLA) and Western-backed rebel army UNITA, in which both sides made heavy use of landmines.

Landmines were used to defend strategically valuable towns and key infrastructure, such as bridges, airports, railways, dams and power lines. Mines were also laid on roads and paths to impede movement of opposing forces, and to depopulate some areas by denying access to water sources and plantations. The presence of mines on roads has proved a major obstacle to the movement of people and resources, and therefore to post-war social stabilization and economic recovery.

Angola signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997 during a temporary cessation of hostilities, but as civil war broke out again in 1998 both sides resumed the laying of mines.

This continued until the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002 paved the way for a peace agreement, which was signed in April of that year and came into effect on 1 January 2003. The initial Article 7 report submitted in September 2004 identified 4,200 areas that contained or were suspected to contain antipersonnel mines.

The ongoing Landmine Impact Survey has identified 1,402 impacted communities with a population of more than 1.6 million people in 10 of 18 provinces.

Facts and figures from Landmine Monitor:

http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=2