A son walked the same dusty path as his mother, separated by 22 years, as Prince Harry took up Princess Diana’s campaign to draw attention to a crisis that has spanned generations in Angola.
The prince retraced his mother’s steps in Huambo, Angola, on Friday — through what was a live minefield in 1997, when Diana put on a protective vest and visor to highlight the danger of mines around the world.
At the time, her path was lined by tall grasses and red signs warning of danger with a skull and crossbones. Since then Angola’s long civil war has ended, and the field has been cleared and transformed into a suburban street. The only remaining landmark is a tree where Prince Harry paused on Friday for a moment of silence.
“It has been quite emotional retracing my mother’s steps along this street 22 years on,” he told a crowd in Huambo, “and to see the transformation that has taken place from an unsafe and desolate area into a vibrant community of local businesses and colleges.”
The prince put on the same style of protective gear that his mother had worn when he traveled to a partially cleared minefield in Luengue-Luiana National Park, where the same red danger signs dotted the landscape. He also detonated a mine there, saying the mines were “an unhealed scar of war.”
“By clearing the land mines we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity,” he told officials and reporters at the park.
By clearing the mines, he said, Angola could allow the region’s habitat and wildlife to recover around the Cuito River, bringing benefits to Angolans and the ecosystem. He added that he hoped “minefields can be cleared, lands can be protected, wildlife can be free to return to where they once roamed and Angolans can reap the rewards.”
Seventeen years after the war’s end, Angola is still littered with tens of thousands of mines across about 1,200 minefields — including mines produced by nations that no longer exist. Since Diana’s visit, the Halo Trust, a private British organization that clears mines in Angola and other countries, has cleared about 100,000 mines and more than 800 minefields, Louise Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the group, said.
More than 122,000 people have been killed or injured by land mines from 1999 through 2017, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, with almost 3,000 people killed in 2017. In Angola, where there has been no reliable accounting of deaths and injuries from mines, tens of thousands of people are believed to have been injured or killed.
During her visit in 1997, Diana said that Angola had “one amputee per 334 inhabitants,” the highest rate in the world. “This statistic alone is reason enough,” she said, for the international community “to work together for an end to the use of these weapons.”
Ms. Vaughan said that Prince Harry’s visit, part of a trip through Africa with his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and their son, could show the world that clearing mines could have profound benefits.
“If you get rid of the land mines,” she said, “then you can turn wasteland, potentially lethal wasteland, into a busy suburb, with schools and lighting and the things we take for granted.”