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Princess Diana's anti-mine legacy


Hope remains that Angola visit may change landscape

September 10, 1997
Web posted at: 7:11 p.m. EDT (2311 GMT)

KUITO, Angola (CNN) -- The fighting in Angola's two-decade-long civil war may be almost over, but for civilians, the peace can still be perilous.

Millions of land mines, left behind as a stark reminder of the conflict, litter the landscape. People walking down a hill or going into the fields run the risk of stepping on a mine and losing a limb.

The minefields of Angola were the focus of worldwide attention when Princess Diana visited seven months ago, beginning her work for the cause of banning land mines.

Wearing protective clothing, Diana watched workers from a British-based de-mining organization, Halo Trust, clear some of the 5,000 mines found so far around Kuito, believed to be the most heavily mined city in the world.

vxtreme CNN's Peter Arnett reports.

She followed up her journey to Angola with a later visit to war-torn Bosnia, championing the anti-mine cause until her untimely death.

"Probably her greatest legacy has been the massive increase in interest she has generated in this subject, which will hopefully result in funding and adequate resources being devoted to the whole issue," says Halo Trust director Paul Heslop.

mine victim

The princess also visited the International Red Cross' prosthetic center at Huambo, Angola, where several hundred mining victims have been fitted with artificial limbs and taught how to use them.

"She had a really good touch with the patients," says Carl Hefti, a Red Cross orthopedic technician. "She was really involved with things. Some times, she was nearly crying. It was beautiful."

The Red Cross staff recall Princess Diana shooing away the photographers for some private moments with the victims. She even reached out to touch the stumps of their limbs in a rare gesture of compassion -- a gesture not lost on the victims.

"All my friends still ask me, 'You saw Princess Diana. What is she like?'" says Lissette Dominga, who lost a limb in a mine accident and expresses surprise that someone as famous as Diana would show interest in her. "I tell them she was so friendly, so down to earth."

Heslop feels Diana's death was a major blow to the ban-the-mines movement. But he expresses hope that her work will not be quickly forgotten -- that, by her visit here, she offered some hope that the landscape could literally be changed forever.

Correspondent Peter Arnett contributed to this report.


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