Charity boss recalls Harry’s ’emotional’ visit to Diana minefield

The charity boss who arranged for the Duke of Sussex to visit the spot where his mother famously walked through a minefield has said how “emotional” the moment was for Harry.

Halo Trust chief executive James Cowan last month accompanied Harry in Huambo, Angola, to the area where Diana, Princess of Wales took the same 50-metre stroll 22 years earlier.

In 1997, Diana strode through a cleared path in a minefield and the images of her in body armour and a mask gave the anti-landmine campaign global recognition.

The site has since been transformed into a wide residential road called Avenida 28 de Maio – but is affectionately known amongst locals as Princess Diana Street.

Wearing body armour, Harry visited a mine clearance site nearby and set off a controlled explosion.

Prince Harry visit to HALO Angola minefield, Dirico. September 2019
Harry visited a landmine in Angola with Halo Trust boss James Cowan in September (Helen Broadbridge/Halo Trust/PA)

Former Black Watch commanding officer Mr Cowan, 55, said Harry was “hugely struck” by the transformation in Huambo.

He added: “It was clearly an emotional visit for Prince Harry to follow in his mother’s footsteps and see her legacy in Huambo first-hand.

“This visit mattered a great deal to him.

“He was hugely struck by the transformation in Huambo and is incredibly passionate about honouring the work started by his mother.

“He is committed to helping Halo emulate in Angola what we’ve achieved in Mozambique by making it mine free.”

Mr Cowan, who joined the Scottish-based landmine clearance charity in 2015, said Harry has a “great sense of what really matters in the world”.

He added: “I know Prince Harry a little bit from our time in the military and I’ve been delighted to work with him at Halo.

“He’s funny, he’s got charisma, and he’s also got a great sense of what really matters in this world.

“I think that is a very wonderful combination.”

In 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales visited Huambo, Angola, to bring global attention to the effect of landmines on people’s lives.

22 years on, The Duke walked along the bustling street which was once the minefield where his mother was pictured.

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 27, 2019

Diana never saw her work to help outlaw landmines come to fruition as she died later in the same year as her visit to Angola, a few months before the international treaty to ban the weapons was signed.

Halo is a non-political charity that helps communities across the world remove the deadly devices from their land.

The Angolan government has announced 60 million US dollars (£46 million) of funding to the charity to clear 153 minefields in the south-east of the country, Mr Cowan said.

He added: “This new project will take us five years and combines three things that are closest to Prince Harry’s heart – the humanitarian, his love of Africa, and his love of the wilderness.

“Prince Harry’s visit has really put a focus on demining in Angola.

“It will take us five years to clear these 153 minefields.

“But that’s only 153 of 1,200, so there’s a lot of work ahead and money to be raised before we can totally clear Angola of deadly devices.”

Harry was wearing a UK Aid Match logo to help support Halo’s new “Breaking Boundaries” campaign to raise funds to carry out its work in Zimbabwe.

UK Aid Match is a scheme run by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID).

Every pound pledged to Halo from now until December 22 will be doubled by DfID.

Father-of-three Mr Cowan, whose passing out parade was conducted by Diana, said the funding pledge will help the charity “clear twice as many minefields and help twice as many people”.

Diana, Princess of Wales, a life in pictures
Diana, Princess of Wales toured a minefield during a famous visit in 1997 (John Stillwell/PA)

He added: “We want to help Zimbabwe recover its reputation as the breadbasket of Africa and removing landmines will help unlock the country’s potential.

“Now the British public can donate to the Breaking Boundaries appeal knowing that every pound they give will be doubled by the UK Government.”

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Landmines are indiscriminate weapons of war that maim and kill innocent men, women and children, their devastation lasts long after conflict has ended.

“Halo Trust is a Scottish charity that is a world leader in demining, and I am proud that through UK Aid Match, we will double generous donations from the British public to help rid Zimbabwe of these deadly explosives.

“The UK Government is deeply committed to clearing landmines in Zimbabwe and across the world, so no one has to live in fear of one wrong step.”

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