17 January 2017

By Michael P. Moore from Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor
Based on an original post at Landmines in Africa

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's visit to Angola. During that visit she donned protective gear and walked through a recently cleared minefield, and met with landmine victims at the Red Cross's prosthetic clinic. At this time, negotiations on the Mine Ban Treaty were ongoing and Princess Diana's visit to the minefield and her subsequent advocacy helped galvanize public opinion against antipersonnel landmines.

The anniversary affords an opportunity to review what has been done over the last two decades. The results worldwide are astonishing. In Angola, the below picture shows the comparison of what the minefield Lady Di visited looked like 20 years ago and what it is now: a city street with no signs of its past.

Lady Di in Huambo Tweet

In February 1997, BBC1 aired a special on her trip, available in three parts on YouTube:

Part I -- Part II -- Part III

Princess Diana's visit was coordinated by the British Red Cross, and the minefield aspects were last-minute additions to the program. I have been told that the HALO Trust team received a call from the trip organizers one afternoon asking if Lady Di could visit a minefield the next day. Recognizing the opportunity, HALO made the necessary arrangements. Looking at the photos and the video, I am struck by how terrifying the experience must have been. Every step she took she could see the warning signs and the white stakes mark where a landmine had been laid and removed.

Since Princess Diana's death in August 1997, other members of royalty have stepped forward. Jordan's Prince Mired bin Raad serves as the special envoy for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and has traveled to multiple countries including China, the United States, Tonga and Peru to encourage accession to the treaty. Princess Astrid of Belgium serves in a similar role, promoting the Mine Ban Treaty and advocating for the rights of landmine survivors. Prince Harry, Lady Diana's younger son, has also carried on her mantle serving as the patron of the HALO Trust's 25th anniversary appeal and traveling to Mozambique and Angola to witness the mine clearance work. The presence and interest of royalty in landmines ensures that public attention and support continues.

HRH Harry Copyright HALO Trust

Gerhard Zank, HALO Programme manager in Angola; Maria Ilda, minefield supervisor; HRH Prince Harry - visiting minefields near Cuito Cuanavale, Angola in August 2013. ©HALO Trust

The situation of landmine victims in Angola and in Bosnia and Herzegovina was also a large focus of Diana's advocacy.

When the movie "Diana" came out a couple of years ago, the Daily Mail tracked down a landmine survivor who had met  with Lady Di in Angola, Ms Sandra Tigica, and gave an update on her life.

In August of 1997, Princess Diana made her last formal trip, visiting landmine survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the founders of Landmine Survivors Network.* In the years following that trip, an annual sitting volleyball tournament was held in her honor, emphasizing her role in bringing attention to the issues. If the anniversary of Diana's visit leads to a 20-year review of the progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that would be a positive.


*After many years of important work promoting the rights of landmine survivors, the Landmine Survivors Network (then called Survivor Corps) closed down in 2010.