History of Minelaying
The civil war between the FRELIMO government and RENAMO opposition resulted in mines being laid by both sides.
The government used anti-personnel mines to defend provincial and district towns, airstrips, key bridges, power supplies, railways and military posts - while RENAMO laid anti-vehicle mines to close the roads connecting towns and markets. Extensive minefields were laid around the Cahora Bassa Dam by Portuguese forces and along the Mozambique – Zimbabwe border by Rhodesian forces.
In the northern half of Mozambique all known minefields have been cleared. In 2007, HALO concluded 14 years of mineclearance (as the sole operator for the majority of that time) in the northern half of Mozambique having cleared 552 minefields and over 100,000 mines. As an exit strategy, and to confirm that the local population knew of no remaining mines problem, a mine free district survey was undertaken over a two year period across 6,395 communities with over 400,000 people interviewed.
In 2007, HALO was asked to conduct a Baseline Assessment to quantify the remaining mines problem in the central and southern half of Mozambique. This was completed in October 2007. The findings showed 487 confirmed minefields remained with extensive minefields located in the area of the Cahora Bassa Dam and on the border with Zimbabwe. The extent of the remaining mines problem was despite expenditure on mineclearance in the central and southern half of Mozambique prior to 2007 having considerably exceeded that in the northern half of Mozambique. Further survey work by HALO since 2007 has taken the total to over 520 minefields.
In 2009, HALO conducted a more detailed survey of the border minefields from Mozambique to assist in determining which areas lay solely within Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, and which straddled the border.
The scale and impact of the remaining mines problem remains significant. A measure of the seriousness of the problem is that since the start of clearance in the central and southern half of Mozambique in late 2007, HALO has found and destroyed over 34,000 landmines. In 2013, HALO was clearing an average of over 700 mines per month and that number is set to increase in 2014. Mines still represent a major development and human security problem and there remains a need for a professional and safe solution to remove them.
Landmines hamper development at the micro and macro level, cause accidents and death, and inhibit the use of land for agriculture, grazing, construction, and safe access, whilst also causing a blockage to key national infrastructure and cross-border movement.
To clear the remaining minefields requires a combination of manual deminers and mechanical assets. HALO will be working on those minefields containing the highest mine numbers and representing some of the most technically challenging that remain for clearance, in some of the most remote areas.
HALO estimates that to reach the same state as the north HALO will need to support and expand its existing capacity of 24 manual demining teams and 5 mechanical teams within its area of operations in Maputo, Manica and Tete provinces. HALO Mozambique is set to do this in 2014.
As Mozambique nears completion, the remaining problem is becoming increasingly clear as the number of minefields for clearance continues to fall. There are however a number of factors that will challenge Mozambique’s wish to complete by 31st December 2014.
HALO Mozambique is generously supported by the following donors: the US Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), and the Governments of the UK (DFID), the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway (through UNDP) and Sweden (through UNDP), and the Reece Foundation.
Requirement for Continued Clearance
HALO is working towards the goal of completing clearance of all remaining minefields in Mozambique. The end is within sight if support can be maintained. HALO, having delivered 20 years of mineclearance thanks to donor support, is playing a significant part in ending the blight caused by landmines in Mozambique.