Weapons maker awarded landmine contract in Angola


By Norm Dixon A lucrative UN contract to clear landmines in Angola has been given to Mechem — a subsidiary of the South African state-owned weapons manufacturer Denel. Angolan authorities, unhappy with the decision, have delayed unloading specialist equipment for more than a month according to a report in the South African Weekly Mail and Guardian. Members of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' MPLA government are indignant that parties formerly on the side of the terrorist UNITA rebel movement are involved in the country's reconstruction. Under the peace agreement signed between UNITA and the Angolan government last November, countries involved in the civil war were not to be active in the peace process. This is the reason why South Africa has not provided peacekeeping troops. International campaigners against landmines are concerned that companies which continue to manufacture mines are also profiting by tendering for their removal. They say that this practice — dubbed "double dipping" — is an added incentive to continue this deadly trade. Mechem was responsible for the manufacture of many of the millions of mines that litter Angola and Mozambique, a legacy of apartheid's war to destabilise those countries' support for the liberation struggle in South Africa. Some Mechem officials were members of the South African Defence Force and were involved in training UNITA fighters. Mechem was to start its multi-million-dollar contract with the UN in September. Angola, which still has as many as 20 million landmines, has one of the highest levels of mine casualties in the world. >n255D>

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