Angola faces a serious struggle with landmines, as well as unexploded bombs, mortars, and other munitions buried and abandoned across the country’s 18 provinces, a tragic legacy of the country’s war for independence and nearly three decades of civil war that finally ended in 2002. Surviving the Peace: Angola, a film produced by our non-governmental organization (NGO) partner the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), captures the challenges facing the people of Angola and how the United States is taking action to help.
An estimated 10 million landmines were used in Angola’s conflicts. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has killed between 23,000 and 80,000 people and affected an additional 2.4 million people. In addition, tens of thousands of military-grade small arms and light weapons remain scattered around the country left over from previous conflicts.
A sequel to MAG’s previous film Surviving the Peace: Laos, this powerful film was made possible with funding from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Surviving the Peace: Angola introduces two people whose stories are, unfortunately, all too familiar in post-conflict societies. First is Minga Dolinda. A smart, ambitious eight-year-old girl who is passionate about studying, Minga was severely injured when she touched a piece of UXO while playing. Now without her sight, she continues to learn how to read and write but struggles daily with her injuries.
We also meet Eron Pedro, a former soldier during Angola’s years of conflict, who is now working to eradicate the landmines and UXO that injured Minga and thousands more like her. A MAG deminer, Eron works to remove landmines in some of the very fields in which he once fought.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets and production, prevent the delivery of goods and services, and generally obstruct reconstruction and stabilization efforts. By removing these deadly hazards, we can encourage the socio-economic development needed to further the larger goal of promoting stability and security.
In Angola, MAG has been working in coordination with Angolan authorities since 1994 to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance, clearing more than 136 acres of land, and securing and safely disposing of thousands of excess small arms and light weapons.
The U.S.-supported efforts of MAG and other NGOs have saved lives and prevented injuries, but a great deal of work remains ahead. Angola is still in need of mine action assistance, with over 2,000 explosive remnants of war-contaminated areas remaining throughout the country.
Under the Conventional Weapons Destruction Program -- a partnership among the State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the United States has invested more than $2 billion in humanitarian mine action and conventional weapons destruction programs in more than 90 countries since 1993. As a result, the United States has helped 15 countries become mine-impact free, disposed of more than 33,000 man-portable air-defense systems, and destroyed over 1.6 million small arms and light weapons. Additionally, U.S. assistance has funded mine risk education, survivor’s assistance programs, and research and development to produce technologies that mitigate the threat of explosive remnants of war. With the help of partners such as MAG, the United States is working toward a safer, more secure environment in Angola and countries around the globe.
For more information, check out our annual report on Conventional Weapons Destruction, To Walk the Earth in Safety.
About the Author: Chris Murguia serves as a Resource Management Fellow in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA).