Princess Diana Spencer (1961 - 1997)

In 1997 on an invitation from the International Red Cross Princess Diana Spencer visited Angola in an effort to create a international awareness of landmines, including the plight of Angolan children. With this in mind Princess Di spent four days in this war-torn country visiting war mutilated children. During her visit she was invited by HALO Trust, an English demining agency, to view and walk through an active minefield. At the end of the tour, in front of the world's Press, she was presented with a memento of her visit - a real (free-from-explosives) landmine.

The organisers were extremely amiss to allow this to be publicised. It was obvious at the time that she was taken by surprise, felt uncomfortable and did not know what to do with this device that had been thrust upon her. Unfortunately photographs and videos of her handling this potentially dangerous object were broadcast around the world. Although it may not be a huge issue if these pictures are only viewed in 'non-mined' countries, it could be potentially dangerous to show this unsafe behaviour to communities in mined areas. Children and impressionable adults who saw a respected and popular personality treating landmines as if they are everyday objects may be encouraged at a later date to touch a mine themselves. Because the tampering and mishandling of landmines has caused 9% of all reported injuries in Cambodia (for the period April 1998 - March 1999) this type of behaviour should not be encouraged in any form.

The visit by Diana, Princess of Wales, to Angola received extensive media coverage, and gave the ICBL campaign a welcome boost. Unbeknown to her several high profile UK politicians took offence to what she was saying publicly at the time and publicly distanced themselves from her. This caused more publicity and news items which ultimately benefited the campaign.

In travelling to Angola she helped to place the victims at the centre of the landmines issue, not just on the periphery of discussions about military utility. She was deeply committed to the campaign to ban landmines, appalled as she was by the human and social consequences of this inhumane weapon which strikes blindly at the innocent. Her tremendous humanity and compassion has encouraged many and given good support to the struggle against the use of landmines.