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 Diana’s visit to the minefield and her subsequent advocacy helped galvanize public opinion against anti-personnel landmines.
In February 1997, BBC1 aired a special on Diana’s trip which is available in three parts on YouTube:
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 Diana could visit a minefield the next day. Recognizing the opportunity, the Trust made the necessary arrangements. Looking at the photos and the video, I am struck by how terrifying the experience must have been for Diana. The civil war in Angola had only ended a couple of years before (and would re-ignite soon enough) and despite wearing protective gear, you will notice that no one is walking with her in the recently cleared minefield and humanitarian demining was still in its infancy. Every step she took she could see the warning signs and the white stakes you see mark where a landmine had been laid and removed.
And yet, she managed a smile for the cameras.
Since 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, 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 personally witness the mine clearance work. The presence and interest of royalty in landmines helps keep the focus on the subject and ensures that public attention and support continues.
The 20th anniversary of Diana’s visit affords an opportunity to review what has been done over the last two decades. The results are astonishing. The below picture shows the comparison of what the minefield looked like during Diana’s visit and what it is now: a city street with no signs of its past as a minefield.
In addition to the progress on landmine clearance in Angola, the victim assistance situation in Angola and Bosnia which was a large focus of Diana’s advocacy can also be reviewed.
When the movie, Diana, came out a couple of years ago, the Daily Mail tracked down the survivor in the below photo and gave an update on her life since meeting Diana. The 20th anniversary is another opportunity to check in on Sandra and the other survivors Diana met.
In August of 1997, Diana made her last formal trip, visiting landmine survivors in Bosnia with the founders of Landmine Survivors Network. In the years following that trip, an annual sitting volleyball tournament was held in Diana’s honor, emphasizing her role in bringing attention to the issues in Bosnia. If the anniversary of Diana’s visit leads to a 20-year review of the progress in Bosnia, that would be a positive.
Michael P. Moore
January 4, 2017
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org