It was her final crusade and proved to be her lasting legacy. On the outskirts of the war-ravaged city of Huambo in central Angola, Diana, Princess of Wales had walked through a minefield that would lead some months later and after her death to a global landmine ban. Twenty two years on, her son the Duke of Sussex made that same journey today. But he insisted the work she had begun had not yet been completed. Had his mother still been alive, he declared, “she would have seen it through.” In a moving speech made at the exact spot where the princess was photographed in January 1997, the Duke said: “It has been quite emotional retracing my mother’s steps… to see the transformation that has taken place, an unsafe and desolate place into a vibrant community.” Citing statistics showing a “staggering” 60 million people around the world” still live in fear and risk of landmines”, he argued: “We cannot turn our backs on them.” Visiting Huambo, he had walked the same path famously taken by the late princess in 1997, through a once dangerous area now populated with businesses and houses. He added he had found it moving to “see the transformation that has taken place from an unsafe and desolate area into a vibrant community of local businesses and colleges”. Citing statistics showing there are still more than 1,000 minefield in Angola, he said: “I wonder if she [Diana] were still alive today if that would be the case? I’m pretty sure she would have seen it through.” Speaking with the help of a translator, the Duke said of work in Huambo: “This is a wonderful example of how UK partnership with Angola can address the issue of land mines, bringing prosperity to an area, creating jobs, helping people access education and healthcare, and making communities safer,” he said. “The work of demining is dangerous, expensive and laborious. “And I have the utmost admiration and respect for all who do this hazardous work and risk their lives in service to their country.
“I am incredibly proud, as I know my mother would have been, of the role that the UK has played in this transformation. “But of course none of this progress would have been possible without the spirit and unwavering determination of the Angolan people. The credit goes to you.” But, he said, there was still some where to go to achieve the aim of being “landmine impact-free” by 2025. Pledging the UK’s “unwavering support”, he added: “I call on all those countries that had their names stamped on these weapons, but have not helped in the clean up, to please commit to ensure we meet out collective goal. “Let’s finish what was started. Let us consign these weapons to the history books.” Prince Harry ended the second day of his visit to Angola by meeting Sandra Thijika, 38, a landmine victim who was famously pictured with Princess Diana sitting under a fig tree in an orthopaedic workshop in Luanda in 1997.
Earlier in the day, in Dirico, Angola, the Duke had described landmines as the “unhealed scar of war” after emulating his mother Diana, Princess of Wales in detonating a controlled explosion. Wearing body armour and a protective visor, Prince Harry watched as staff from the landmine clearance charity Halo Trust painstakingly worked to rid a remote area of Angola of military munitions. Diana, Princess of Wales, was famously pictured in a partially-cleared minefield in the Angolan town of Huambo in 1997, to highlight the plight of those maimed by the weapons and to urge for a world-wide ban. Prince Harry’s mother never saw her work to help outlaw landmines come to fruition as she died the year of her Africa visit a few months before the international treaty to outlaw the weapons was signed. In a speech to mark his visit, the Duke said: “Landmines are an unhealed scar of war. By clearing the landmines, we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity.” Speaking about Huambo, he said: “Once heavily mined, the second city of Angola is now safe. “With the right international support, this land around us here can also be like Huambo – a landmine-free, diverse, dynamic and thriving community connected to and benefitting from all that it has to offer.” An Angolan minister attending the event said the “humanistic heritage” of the princess’s anti-landmine campaign was the catalyst for his country’s final push to remove all the munitions by 2025.
ear the south-eastern town of Dirico the Duke walked into an area in the Luengue-Luiana National Park that was once an artillery base for anti-government forces who had mined the position in 2000 before retreating. The dusty scrubland was marked with red warning signs showing the skull and crossbones, with the Portuguese words “Perigo Minas!” and the English translation below – danger mines. In 2005 a 13-year-old girl lost a foot after stepping on a mine in the area. Jose Antonio, a regional manager for the landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, took Harry onto the site where his staff have been working since August to make safe, and hope to complete their painstaking clearance by the end of October. Prince Harry watched as mine clearance worker Jorge Joao Cativa used a metal detector to search for the mostly anti-personnel mines buried in the ground. If one is discovered staff are trained to move back and carefully remove the soil as they move forward until they reach the munition. Angola’s landmines area a legacy of a 27-year civil war which ended in 2002 leaving behind an unknown quantity of munitions that have injured and maimed tens of thousands of people. Mr Antonio, said of Harry: “He was very interested in the work that my team are doing clearing the mines. He was very impressed; he knows it’s a hard and very slow and dangerous, and that you need to be very patient.”
In June the Duke gave his backing to a £47 million landmine clearing initiative to help destroy thousands of munitions in a huge conservation region of Angola. The Angolan government is investing the funds in the Halo Trust, which will work over five years to rid 153 minefields of munitions in the south-eastern province of Cuando Cubango inside the Mavinga and Luengue-Luiana National Parks. Working with other organisations the Halo Trust hopes the removal of the landmines will lead to the areas, with their wealth of habitat and wild animals, being rejuvenated and opening up to conservationists and eco-tourists. The Duke walked through an area of the site looking at the marked off areas which potentially could contain landmines. An anti-personnel mine had been discovered earlier and the Duke set it off with a controlled explosion which echoed around the area and sent up a large cloud of dust.
Lucio Goncalves Amaral, deputy minister for social integration, paid tribute to Harry’s mother and said his countrymen and women were forever in her debt. In a speech the politician told the Duke: “Your visit to our country is of a great human and historical significance, as it follows the visit of the late Princess Diana of Wales to Angola in January 1997. “We will never forget her priceless contribution to the campaign to ban the anti-personnel land mines. The Angolan people will be eternally grateful for her performance in the demining process of our territory. “This humanistic heritage left by the late Princess of Wales is the motivation for the Angolan executive to proceed with the demining program to free the country of mines by the year 2025.”
In the afternoon, Prince Harry formally opened a hospital re-named in honour of his mother, saying her memory is with him ‘daily’. Recently renovated, the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre in Huambo aims to become Angola’s national centre of excellence in orthopaedic care. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the occasion, Harry described the visit as a ‘deeply personal’ one said said his mother would have been delighted to see how the hospital had developed since her visit, when it was filled with landmine victims. “It has been an honour to re-trace my mother’s steps today,” he said. “I lost her 22 years ago but her memory is with me daily and her legacy lives on.” He also spent time with young patients including Justina Cesar, who lost her right leg to a land mine when she was three years old. At the orthopaedic hospital the Duke greeted her with a warm hug, and asked: “I think you were 15 at the time – do you remember meeting my mother?” Speaking afterwards, Ms Cesar, 38, said that she had no idea who Diana was when she visited the orthopaedic centre in 1997. “People just said she was a princess. They asked us to come and meet her. But they did not say how important she was. “She greeted us, and laid her hand on my brow. I was so happy about that. She was very special.” When she learned that Diana had died, “I felt a mighty sadness. Someone who cared very much for mine victims had gone. “But I was very happy that Diana’s son had come to continue the work that she had started. “I am so happy. This is a very special day. I had so much to say to him, but I could barely speak.” Ms Cesar, who has three children and works as a government clerk, said she gave Harry a copy of her project to help landmine victims. “I would like him to sponsor it,” she said.