Landmines hamper reconstruction processBy Fred katerere
Ten years after the end of the civil war that destroyed most of the country's infrastructure on a large scale, Mozambique is trying to pick up the pieces and patch up the damage.
One of these projects is the Sena Railway lines. Running from the seaport of Beira to the north through the province of Sofala, the 600km- long railway line was destroyed at the height of the civil war in 1983 after the then rebel movement - the Resistencia Nacional de Mozambique(RENAMO)- littered the lines with land mines.
Before they were destroyed and rendered impassable the lines were an important link to the sea and overseas markets for the producers in the Zambezia and Sofala provinces of central Mozambique. Landlocked nations of Zambia and Malawi also benefited and the route was a cheaper alternative to the Nacala port, further north.
Now, as both export and import business is booming the government has decided to fast track the rehabilitation process to the Sena lines. In August 2002, the government released a report on the lines and concluded that it needed to raise more that US $ 350 million for the rehabilitation programme.
The actual work is slated for 2003, but the government is bogged down in the fight to remove landmines from the lines. The exercise is estimated to cost US $600 000.
One of the demining agencies working on the lines, Ronco, an American agency, noted the process to remove the mines from the Senal lines was a daunting task.
In a report it noted, The potential of the Sena will only remain a potential until the landmines are fully removed and the lines fully rehabilitated.
At the time when the government is busy to push forward the process, some agricultural experts are sceptical that the lines may be opened in the next five years. "A lot of damage was done to the lines as well as the farmlands by the mines. No one wants to venture near the line because they fear there might be mines lurking in the ground. So the fertile lands near the lines will not be cultivated for a long time", said Antonio Pedro, an Agricultural Extension worker in Sofala province.
His sentiments are however not expressed by some farmers like Faustino Manuel of Alto Moloque district in Zambezia province who is looking forward to a better economic year when the lines reopen. "We will be able to sell more when they reopen the lines", he said.
Agricultural produce that used to be processed through the Sena lines include copra, cashew nuts, maize, sugar, citrus fruits and cotton among others which are abundantly grown in the provinces.
Farmers from neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa who are in search on farmlands could also utilise this lifeline, which had turned out to be a white elephant.
The onus is on the government to commit itself to serious work to rebuild the lines and facilitate intensive demining.
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