July 5, 2002: MAG Opens Main Road from Luena, Moxico Province, Angola, Allowing Aid to be Distributed to Thousands of Starving Families

The Lucusse Road between Luena and Lucusse in Moxico province in eastern Angola has been the scene of heavy fighting for decades. There was fighting many years ago between Cuban and South African forces and over much of the last decade between the government and forces of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The road is littered with the wrecks of trucks and armored vehicles destroyed in anti-tank mine blasts and ambushes. It is said that over 6,000 soldiers died here trying to get convoys of supplies in and out of Luena. The road itself serves thousands of people living in its vicinity. Opening it up can dramatically change the socio-economic situation in the province.

On July 3,2002, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) staff met with the Angolan Technical Unit for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UTCAH). Lucusse will be used as a quartering area for 4,000 UNITA soldiers being disarmed and demobilised under the new peace agreement. While the Lucusse Road has been closed, thousands of families have not received aid of any sort. It is reported that 38 percent of the children in the area are severely malnourished. The World Food Program (WFP), the Angolan Ministry of Social Assistance and Reintegration (MINARS) and the United Nations all agreed that the major demining priority in the province was this road.

Due to the grave humanitarian situation, MAG undertook an emergency survey of the road immediately following the request from UTCAH to see how much the situation had changed since 1997/98. Previously, during this brief period of peace, MAG had surveyed and cleared 92 kilometers of the 148-kilometer route. After re-survey on July 3, 2002, it was clear that there had been no new vehicle wrecks since that time; however, using the route still requires extreme care. The survey team was able to travel to Lucusse where they met with the Police Commandant and UNITA officials who explained they were desperate for food and other emergency aid.

MAG teams returned July 4th to clear and destroy several items of UXO seen on the road. Areas where vehicles will have to travel off the edge of the road to get around mine craters or vehicle wrecks will also be checked for mines. MAG has already identified several suspect mined areas on the roadsides that will be marked. Passing areas are being targeted for special clearance efforts to minimize the risk in the immediate future. MAG has made it clear that all drivers intending to use the route must first attend a mine safety briefing conducted by MAG. Although it can be safe to use the road, there is a very good chance that any deviation from tracks of the previous vehicle may lead to a fatal mine accident. It is hoped that funding can be raised to enable complete clearance of the verges and other suspect areas along the route.

On July 6th, MAG escorted Médecins sans Frontières—Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to Lucusse so that medical assistance would be made available to the UNITA quartering areas. MAG has also facilitated the access of Dom Bosco, a respected Angolan non-governmental organization (NGO) to the quartering area. Dom Bosco has already begun registration and identification of needs. It is hoped that WFP deliveries will be authorized within the next week. These are all vital elements in the peace and confidence-building, demobilization and normalization process. MAG is proud that mine action can play its role and is grateful to all those parties in Angola and to its donors for enabling such progressive and positive outcomes.

For additional information, visit www.magclearsmines.org

 

 
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