Mozambique is now free of land mines that have killed thousands of people over several decades of war and conflict, the government announcement Thursday.
"I have the honor of declaring Mozambique as a country free of the threat of land mines," Foreign Affairs Minister Oldemiro Baloi said at a ceremony in the capital Maputo.
Mozambique’s government said it did not know the exact figures, but suggested the total number of mines cleared was more than 214,000, Mozambique's state news agency AIM reported.
Mozambique was one of the world's five most mined countries, along with Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola and South Sudan.
The government said that in all, 17 square meters (183 square ft) of land was cleared and now hopes to put it in use for agriculture purposes.
"I am happy that nobody else will end up like me. I am happy because people can carry on their lives without fearing the menace of land mines," 29-year-old Jose Chiango told Reuters. Chiango's right leg was amputated from the knee down after he stepped on a mine in an eastern rural district.
RELATED: The Other Side of Africa
The mines go back to the time the country was battling for its independence from Portuguese colonial rule. Portugal forces were defeated and driven out of the nation in 1975 by the communist Mozambique Liberation Front Party (Frelimo), which was founded in 1962,
Shortly after independence, the Frelimo government, which is still in power today, entered into a decades-long conflict against the Renamo rebels, who were supported by the white rulers of South Africa and other pro-West governments in the region at the time, in what was seen as a Cold War proxy.
Most of the land mines that had been placed in the country were put there during the civil war. The conflict ended with a peace agreement in 1992.
The 1999 Ottawa Convention prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel land mines. While backed by most countries, the treaty has not been endorsed by the United States, Russia, China and India.
Minefields along the country's borders remain a concern. While the Mozambique side is cleared, the Zimbabwe’s border territory has not been de-mined, Alberto Augusto of Mozambique's Institute for Demining told AIM.