Prince Harry Returns to Same Street His Mom Princess Diana Walked in Africa 22 Years Ago: 'It Has Been Emotional'
Prince Harry retraced his mom's footsteps after she walked across a minefield in Angola in 1997.
On Thursday, the royal visited the exact site where his mother walked 22 years ago — now a vibrant community, with several colleges, schools and small businesses. A tree, dubbed The Diana Tree, marks the spot where she was photographed in 1997.
“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,” Harry said in a speech at the site. “This is a wonderful example of how the U.K. partnership with Angola can address the issue of landmines, bringing prosperity to an area, creating jobs, helping people access education and healthcare, and making communities safer. The work of de-mining is dangerous, expensive and laborious, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for all who do this hazardous work and risk their lives in service of their community.”
He continued, “I am incredibly proud as I know my mother would’ve been, of the role that the United Kingdom has played in this transformation through funding and the expertise brought by UK specialist organizations such as the HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group.”
Earlier in the day, Harry visited a HALO Trust mine site outside Dirico in Angola, where he remotely detonated a mine and met with members of the community to learn how the de-mining efforts are benefitting the local population. Harry also gave a speech about the important of clearing landmines in the context of conservation and for humanitarian reasons.
“Later today I will visit Huambo, to see the place where my mother walked through a minefield in 1997. Once heavily mined, the second city of Angola is now safe,” he said. “With the right international support, this land around us here can also be like Huambo – a landmine-free, diverse, dynamic, and thriving community, connected to and benefitting from all that it has to offer.”
Prince Harry’s visit is a stark reminder of when Princess Diana memorably walked through a landmine field filled with warning signs in Huambo, wearing protective clothing and a visor, and met with landmine survivors to raise awareness of the issue.
“Photographs of the late Princess Diana visiting a de-mining site and meeting mine victims became iconic and powerful images in support of her campaign to create a global mine ban — which came to fruition in the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention that same year. On arrival, His Royal Highness will be met by the Governor of Huambo, Joana Lina, who was also the official host for the late Princess Diana’s visit,” the couple’s private secretary Samantha Cohen told reporters ahead of their Africa tour.
At the height of Princess Diana’s work on behalf of the issue just before she died in 1997, she found herself in the firing line from some politicians who were angry at what they interpreted as her meddling in international political affairs.
Speaking at a major meeting on landmines in London in June, Harry said that his experience in the fight against landmines has “showed me the importance of landmine clearance within a humanitarian emergency because, let’s not forget, land mines are a humanitarian issue — not a political one.”
The presence of landmines and remnants of the civil war have left large areas of the country unsafe for both animals, and this holds back the chances to create sustainable growth in livelihoods from that natural environment.
The Halo Trust, which has been working in Angola since 1994, during which time it has destroyed more than 95,000 landmines and cleared 840 minefields, estimates that there is still more than one thousand minefields to be cleared.