- ANGOLA: September Road to Clearance in Angola
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MAG Clears 155 miles of crucial highway that will allow for economic growth and safe travel in Angola.
“The rehabilitation of road infrastructure constitutes one of the greatest priorities of the government”. This is how Pedro Walipi Calenga, Director of the National Office for Humanitarian Assistance, greeted the historic completion of MAG’s road and bridge project in Eastern Angola. As a direct result of the road clearance and verification undertaken by the Nobel-laureate organization since early 2005, it is now possible, for the first time in decades, to travel safely on 155 miles of primary road running deep into the interior of Moxico Province.
With partners as diverse as local and national authorities, international NGOs, the UN, and the American government, MAG has been integral to an $8 million international bridge construction project which has included opening corridors into Angola’s three neighboring countries – DRC, Namibia and Zambia – and resulted in the construction of over thirty bridges.
Angola remains one of the most mine-affected countries in the world with almost 2,000 communities contaminated by landmines impacting approximately 2.4 million people. Moxico Province, MAG’s area of operations, contains 38% of the country’s highly impacted sites and has a general contamination rate of twice the country’s average. The Angolan government has a comprehensive strategy in place to remove the obstacle of landmines with MAG assisting in the implementation of that strategy in Moxico Province. As stated by Calenga, “MAG is one of the most important Government partners in developing humanitarian mine action in Eastern Angola”.
During the twenty-seven year conflict, a significant number of bridges were systematically destroyed throughout Eastern Angola. Landmines once littered the road and bridge sites in areas close to river crossings needed to be cleared prior to a bridge being constructed. During its clearance, MAG identified, removed and destroyed over 200 landmines in addition to numerous improvised explosive devices (IED) and other weapons. Once the area around the bridge site had been considered safe, MAG’s partners, the Swedish Rescue Services Agency (SRSA) and the World Food Program (WFP), were able to proceed in building the bridges.
The project has also been particularly imperative given the impending elections. It is likely that the Legislative and Presidential elections will be held in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Last year, the US State Department commented that landmines were a “serious impediment to conducting elections in Angola”. The Angolan President, José Eduardo Dos Santos, recently remarked that it is vital that there is a “program of rehabilitation of primary roads…so that participation by citizens in the next polls is substantial”.
Given the importance of these roads and bridges in connecting communities and providing access beyond their immediate vicinities, communities have, up until now, been largely excluded from basic social amenities, access to other regions, trade and general socio-economic growth. Now that the road is fully opened, it is likely that socio-economic conditions and sustainable development will dramatically improve for those communities. As Marcello Cambembe, MAG’s Field Coordination Officer, suggests, “the interior of the Province was isolated for many years and was once only accessible by air – now that has all changed.”
|MAG is grateful for the assistance of the U.S. Department of State, Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement for their support of this project.|