With the local population living in rudimental homesteads with no electricity or running water, Kanenguerere is representative of many of the small communities found across Benguela Province. With few opportunities for employment, people here work the land and graze animals to feed their families and make ends meet. However, they do this with the knowledge that their village is almost entirely enclosed by known minefields, with additional suspect areas also in close proximity.
Seven families live in Kanenguerere, their children attending the local school situated in the centre of village. The area is also a common thoroughfare for large herds of livestock as herders search for fresh pastures and move animals to market. It is perhaps therefore unsurprising that the presence of landmines has already resulted in a number of accidents around the village, causing injuries to local people and the loss of valuable livestock in a part of Angola where the population already exists on the margins of survival. Parts of the minefields are regularly traversed by local people as they struggle with the confines created by the presence of explosive remnants of war, forcing them to risk their lives in the pursuit of firewood, food and other locally sourced items that are required to support their lives. Landmines are visible here, with people actively able to point out items that they have discovered on the land surrounding their community.
The minefields around Kenenguere are the legacy of Angola’s bitter civil war which ended in 2002. Minefields were laid here to protect the railway bridge running through the region from sabotage, whilst simultaneously providing security for soldiers deployed in the community and charged with the protection of the bridge and nearby road check-points. The minefields are comprised of anti-personnel blast mines designed to maim and kill those unfortunate enough to activate them, and bounding fragmentation mines which have the capacity to cause multiple fatalities by projecting shards of razor-sharp metal through a 360-degree radius. Other unexploded ordnance (UXOs) are also found here in the bushes and long grass, often difficult to identify and tempting to pick-up and touch, especially for curious children.
The clearance of the minefields around Kenenguere would enable a level of human security in the area which has been sadly absent for over 15 years. Removing landmines and other explosive items would eliminate the prospects of accidents caused when people gather scare local resources and seek to access new areas of land. It would enable livestock to be moved safely through the village and surrounding area and permit herders to utilize the abundant grazing lands with the knowledge that the assets which underpin their economic stability are safe. It would also allow secure access for maintenance teams working on the railway line and bridge which are situated on a route that provides an essential economic pipeline for goods to the interior of the country. Simultaneously, the line also provides a commonly used and direct route for people moving between communities, despite the fact that landmines are known to be present immediately next to the tracks.
Life in Kenengurere is always likely to be hard, but the successful clearance of those minefields which surround it will remove the shadow of a conflict that has hung over the village for nearly two decades, allowing people to work towards a better future for themselves and their families in a safe and secure environment. As the minefields around Kenegurere are cleared as part of the 100 Women In Demining In Angola initiative, HALO will continue to provide updates on the progress of the project and the impact on the lives of the people who live in the area.