Mozambique\’s government announced Thursday that the country was free from the threat of landmines more than 20 years after its civil war ended, even as tracts of land remained unsurveyed.
"It\’s with great pleasure that I have the privilege to declare Mozambique a country free of the threat of landmines," foreign affairs minister Oldemiro Baloi announced to a gathering of ambassadors and international organisations that helped demine the country.
But the minister admitted that only certain areas had been inspected and cleared, and not the territory as a whole.
"It would be unrealistic to say that there will never again be accidents related to mines or other explosive devices. History shows otherwise," he said.
Mozambique was one of the most mined countries in the world, alongside Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Sudan, the result of the 10-year war of independence from 1965 to 1974, followed by a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992.
Most of the landmines were planted by former colonial power Portugal, and the rest by the newly-independent Mozambican government in an effort to protect critical infrastructure.
The demining process began in 1993 shortly after the civil war ended and since 2000 over 214,000 mines had been cleared, said Alberto Augusto, director of the National Institute of Demining.
Police officers were being trained to deal with any remaining mines found, he said.
Baloi praised the deminers — working with metal detectors, bulldozers, sniffer dogs and sometimes even sniffer rats — for "the risks they took with their lives and bodies".
Gregory le Blanc, director of aid agency Handicap International, welcomed the announcement as "a sign of hope for all countries facing this scourge".