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Handicap International supports DR Congo in its struggle to become mine-free

Explosive weapons
Democratic Republic of Congo

Handicap International has started up mine clearance operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Starting in June 2016, the organisation and its local partner AFRILAM will clear a 50,000 metre squared plot of land, the equivalent of eight football pitches, located around 15 kilometres from Kinsagani, the main city in the province of Tshopo in the north-east of the country.
 

Handicap International deminers in action near Kisangani, DRC.

© AFRILAM / Handicap International

Twenty-nine people, including 14 deminers split into three teams, have been working as of mid-June on hard-going terrain in a dense and humid forest, near to the villages of Bangboka and Batiabombe. The mine clearance operation using metal detectors and probes is set to last until next autumn. It will make it possible to return agricultural land to 3,500 villagers who will then be able to resume their arable and livestock farming.

This intervention follows on from the surveys amongst the local inhabitants and authorities, conducted by Handicap International and AFRILAM over a period several weeks in order to locate the areas at risk of contamination from antipersonnel landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Mines and explosive remnants of war pose a constant threat to the local population who can fall victim to these weapons many years after a conflict has ended. They can hamper a country's economic development as their presence means there are entire swathes of land where it is impossible to build roads or houses or to farm.

Antipersonnel landmines were first used in DRC in 1960 after the country declared its independence. Since 1996, there has been widespread use of mines by the various armed groups fighting in the north and east of the country in a succession of conflicts. They still today pose a constant threat to the local population.

Handicap International has been working in DRC for the last 20 years. Having been heavily involved in demining operations previously up until 2014, the organisation has started new operations set to last until December 2017. The new project will be conducted with AFRILAM which has been its partner since 2008.

A State Party to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, the Democratic Republic of Congo has set itself the goal of becoming mine free by 2021.

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