Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House, on the landmines still left behind from the battle of Cuito Cuanavale 30 years agoIt is the 30th anniversary this week of the largest conventional armed battle in Africa since the second world war, between the Angola government and Cuban forces against the apartheid South African Defence Force and its rebel allies at Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. This was a watershed battle unlocking a political process that included the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola; the independence of Namibia; and a stimulus that quickened the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Yet, 30 years on, Cuito Cuanavale is one of the most landmine-contaminated locations in the world. This month a tender opened for mine action charities clearing Angola’s minefields to bid for funding from £100m committed by the Department for International Development for landmine clearance globally. This welcome re-engagement comes 15 years after the UK stopped funding mine action in Angola in 2002. It is now critical that sufficient resources are channelled towards these life-saving programmes – many of which are perilously close to ending within the next six months should funding cease.