26 March 2010

South Africa, others urged to ratify cluster bomb ban; 15 African states yet to sign

South Africa, others urged to ratify cluster bomb ban; 15 African states yet to signAfrican countries discuss Convention on Cluster Munitions in Pretoria(Pretoria, 26 March 2010) – The 15 African states that have not yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions should do so urgently, thereby joining the rest of the continent in banning the weapon, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said at a regional conference in Pretoria. South Africa and 31 other African states that have signed the Convention but not yet ratified need to complete ratification procedures rapidly to become formal members of the Convention, said the CMC. “African countries played a crucial role during the negotiations of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the results show in the strong treaty that we have today,” said Kennedy Mabasa of the Ceasefire-South Africa Campaign, a CMC member organisation. “South Africa and other signatories to the Convention must keep their promise to ratify as soon as possible and urge other African states to get on board.”A total of 104 states have signed the Convention, including 38 from Africa. Thirty of these signatories have ratified, including six from Africa (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia). According to the terms of the Convention, the 30th ratification triggered an entry into force date of 1 August 2010, when the Convention becomes binding international law.The Convention comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated land and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes groundbreaking provisions for victim assistance. “Africa has already spoken loudly: ban cluster bombs and provide victims of the weapon with the help they need,” said Berihu Mesele Arefaine, who lost both of his legs after a school near his home in Mekele, Ethiopia was hit by a cluster bomb strike in June 1998. “States shouldn’t delay – now is the time to begin to implement the treaty’s lifesaving measures.”The 15 African states that have not yet signed are: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Libya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.  “Just as Africa is almost wholly unified in its ban on antipersonnel landmines, it should collectively outlaw cluster munitions,” said Margaret Arach Orech, director of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association, a CMC member. “Many of the non-signatories have already signalled their intention to join, and they should not wait a minute longer. A cluster munition-free Africa is within sight”The 32 African states that have signed but not yet ratified are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, DR Congo, Rep. Congo, Côte d’Ivoire,  Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé e Príncipe, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.Several states attending the Pretoria conference announced progress on internal processes to sign or ratify the Convention. The Seychelles committed to signing the Convention this year and other states, including Zimbabwe, are undergoing internal reviews to consider signature. Several signatory states announced they would complete internal processes shortly to allow them to ratify, including Ghana, Mali and Tanzania, which are expected to ratify in the next month.Cluster munitions have been used in at least 11 African countries: Angola, Chad, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia. Government forces from at least seven African countries are believed to have used the weapon: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan. French and United States forces have also used cluster munitions in Africa.  It has been reported that 15 African states stockpile cluster munitions.South Africa and Egypt – which is attending the Pretoria conference as an observer – are the only African countries that have produced cluster munitions. At the treaty-signing conference in Oslo in December 2008, South Africa’s Minister for Defence announced that its “relatively small stockpile” had been “earmarked for destruction.” Details on the precise size of the stockpile and the timeline for destruction are required, and all other stockpilers in the region should set deadlines to destroy their caches of cluster munitions, the CMC said.The CMC called on all states to get on board the Convention by signing and ratifying before it takes effect on August 1, and to attend the First Meeting of States Parties on 8-12 November in Lao PDR – the most heavily cluster-bombed country in the world.