Maputo declared free of land mines

Mozambique in final stage of demining programme

The province of Maputo has been declared free of land mines following the successful of the country's demining programme which has lasted for over two decades.

Teams of demining experts cleared 5.2 million sqm of land in the province, destroying some 5,500 anti-personnel mines, about 9,000 anti-tank mines and around 4,000 smaller unexploded devices.

The unexploded mines were left over from the nation's 16-year civil war which ended in 1992. Mozambique is in the final stage of fulfilling its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty, a 1999 agreement which requires the country to eradicate all landmines. Originally Mozambique had ten years to clear its mines but the deadline was extended by five years in 2009. Recently the deadline was extended further still, giving Mozambique until the end of this year to reach the target.

Maputo is the sixth province to be declared free of land mines, following Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Nampula in the north, Zambezia in the centre, and Gaza in the south. The remaining provinces with unexploded mines on their territory are Inhambane in the south, and Sofala, Manica and Tete in the centre. Authorities believe there is a combined 4.2 million sqm of land suspected of being mined in these four provinces.

However the demining process is being delayed in the central Sofala province over insecurity in the region, a stronghold of Renamo rebels who – despite peace talks with the government – continue to launch attacks on government troops, civilians and vehicles belonging to the country's crucial oil and gas sector.

Specially-trained rats are also being deployed to detect landmines in Mozambique in a push to speed up the nation's demining process.

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