Home Royal News A poignant day in Angola for Prince Harry: retracing Diana’s footsteps with HALO

A poignant day in Angola for Prince Harry: retracing Diana’s footsteps with HALO

by Hayley Todd

Day five of the royal tour to Southern Africa saw The Duke of Sussex in Angola. Many of the engagements allowed Harry to witness and honour the legacy left behind by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales and her tireless efforts to rid Angola of landmines.

Yesterday morning, the Sussex Royal Instagram page wrote: “The Duke is humbled to be visiting a place and a community that was so special to his mother, and to recognise her tireless mission as an advocate for all those she felt needed her voice the most, even if the issue was not universally popular.”

After a night spent under the stars in the HALO Trust mine clearing camp, Harry’s day began early with a visit to Dirico – a town in the Cuando Cubango Province of Angola. The Prince visited a working de-mining field. The area was once an artillery base for anti-government forces during the civil war.

The three decades of civil war in Angola has left a devastating legacy of landmines and unexploded bombs. The war ended in 2002, but an unknown number of mines and bombs remain. These have injured and maimed tens of thousands of people since. The purpose of Harry’s visit to this area is to continue to raise awareness of the ongoing threat landmines still pose today.

It was a project he picked up from his mother, and made a commitment to last year: to rid the world of mines by 2025.

 

HALO – Hazardous Areas Life-Support Organisation – is working with Angola to help the country become mine-free by 2025, as part of this project. They state: “Our mission is to protect lives and restore the livelihoods of those affected by conflict. We clear landmines and the explosive debris of war so families, communities and countries can recover”.

Prince Harry, 35, wearing body armour and a protective visor, was given a safety briefing before poignantly walking across the partially cleared landmine field. The Duke then helped to carry out a controlled explosion on a mine that had been discovered earlier in the day. Harry also watched a mine clearance worker use a metal detector to search for hidden mines.

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The Duke gave an emotional and powerful speech about the importance of continuing de-mining and praising the efforts of the HALO Trust of which he is royal patron. He said: “Landmines are an unhealed scar of war. By clearing the landmines we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity.”

The regional manager of the HALO Trust, Jose Antonio, walked Harry through all the work already completed in the minefield. He expressed hope that it would be clear of mines by the end of October.

Next was an engagement to welcome the Luengue-Luiana National Park as the newest member of The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. This is The Queen’s campaign to protect forests and plant millions of trees around the world, and will act as her legacy.

Before the civil war, over 200,000 elephants called Angola their home. It is hoped that by creating elephant corridors and migration routes, elephants will return to the area.

Harry unveiled a three-country project for the Okavango Delta. This is designed to give additional protection to national parks in the Okavango Delta by creating safe, green spaces for wildlife and people.

Prince Harry was joined by representatives from Angola, Botswana and Namibia. The Duke is a firm believer that protecting and planting trees is of vital importance to  protect the earth’s eco-system.

Prince Harry launches a conservation project at Luengue-Luina National Park to encourage elephants to return to the region (THE ROYAL FAMILY)

After travelling to Huambo, Angola’s second largest city, the royal visitor poignantly walked in his mother’s footsteps. He visited the spot where Diana famously walked through an active landmine field during her visit to Angola in January 1997. Diana was both a benefactor and ardent supporter of HALO. She wanted to bring global attention to the landmine crisis and the people whose lives were being destroyed.

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Images of Diana, the most famous woman in the world, wearing protective clothing and equipment and walking through an active minefield, along with photos of her meeting landmine survivors, massively raised the profile of HALO.  Advocating against mines, and then for the removal of them, is one of Diana’s most important legacies.

The Princess’ visit ultimately led to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention – The Ottowa Treaty. This is a legally binding agreement that prohibits the using, stockpiling, production and transfer of land mines. There are 133 countries signed to the agreement.

Over two decades later, Harry walked the same route his mum had before him. However, the area has been transformed from desolate and uninhabitable to a busy, bustling, lively street. Princess Diana Street is filled with schools, colleges, shops and houses. Well-wishers and cheering crowds flocked to the area waiting to catch a glimpse of the new dad.

Harry spoke to members of the community, saying it had been an “emotional” experience and how “extremely proud” of his mum he was.

Prince Harry re-traces his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales footsteps in Huambo (The Royal Family)

Harry made an impassioned speech standing in front of a tree, known locally as the Diana Tree. He said: “It has been emotional retracing my mother’s steps along this street 22 years on, and to see the transformation that has taken place, from an unsafe and desolate place into a vibrant community of local businesses and colleges”.

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He went on to say: “Being here on this transformed street, the site where my mother once walked through a landmine field shows the tremendous impact that the clearing of landmines have on communities and their future. But let us not lose sight of the reality: 22 years ago my mother visited Angola, there are still more than 1000 mines in this beautiful country that needs to be cleared.”

After his speech, Harry took a few moments to sit alone in peace.

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Next on the agenda, saw the Duke pay a visit to Huambo Orthapaedic Centre. The hospital has recently undergone substantial renovation.  Prince Harry renamed the centre, the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Hospital, in honour of the late Princess who visited it in 1997. The hospital aims to become Angola’s national centre of excellence in orthopaedic care.

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The Royal met patients and staff at the hospital including the Minister for Health, the Director for Orthopaedic Care and a representative from BP who have donated equipment to the hospital.  Harry was given a tour of the centre, including the rehabilitation room and prosthetic workshop where he watched how prosthetic limbs were made. Two of the staff members in the workshop were working at the centre when The Princess of Wales visited.

Whilst at the centre, the Prince spent time at the paediatric unit, where he met Barnaby Jose Mar, 6, and Francisco Xavier who were practising walking, whilst carrying the Union Jack.

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Prince Harry meets patients in the rehabilitation department (The Royal Family)

Prince Harry had an emotional meeting with Justina Cesar who tragically lost her right leg to a landmine when she was 3 years old. When she was 15 she met Princess Diana. The Duke greeted her with a hug and asked her: “I think you were 15 at the time – do you remember meeting my mother?”

Ms Cesar, 38 reminisced about the meeting with Diana, saying: “People just said she was a princess. They asked us to come and meet her. But they did not say how important she was. She greeted us, and laid her hand on my brow. I was so happy about that. She was very special.”

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Speaking at the hospital, Harry said the visit was “deeply personal” and his mother would have been delighted to see how the hospital had developed since her visit. The royal visitor said: “It has been an honour to re-trace my mother’s steps today. I lost her 22 years ago but her memory is with me daily and her legacy lives on. Which is why I am so happy to name this centre the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre.”

To round of a day filled with engagements, Harry attended an evening reception at the British Ambassadors Residence in Luanda. The Duke met with business representatives and learnt about Angola’s economic transformation.

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